The Royals have started off 2018 with a few good weeks. Not the MLB team, they are still terrible despite the Escobar/Moustakas reunion tour.
Elsewhere however, the next Blue Wave of your 2021 team is coming into focus. The good news is that the Royals Top 4 prospects are all building upon their 2017 seasons. All are yet to turn 20.
Khalil Lee on the surface is doing okay at High-A Wilmington. He is slashing .256/.412/.383 while cutting his K% to a totally acceptable 25%. A teenager with a 131 wRC+ at High-A has the makings of a star. Dig a little deeper and it gets better. Wilmington has a reputation as a severe pitcher’s park, and sure enough on the road Lee is hitting 319/462/500.
Khalil Lee’s swing 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/ue7DN9m34v
— Prospect Gifs (@prospectgifs) May 2, 2018
Get excited. If he can stick in CF for a few years that will help keep a clear path to Kauffman Stadium RF for…
Seuly Matias is putting up Nintendo numbers at Low-A Lexington. The hit tool remains a concern but a .254/.328/.640 line is eye-popping – a 386 ISO by a teenager in full season ball? Who does that? The K% remains a concern as well, at 34% Perhaps the new MLB bouncy-balls have made it down to the Sally League.
If so, MJ Melendez is also taking advantage. His .271/.326/.627 is as absurd as Matias, and he is doing it while catching at a high level. He also has a 30% K%. With no further adjustments, that is Mike Zunino-ish.
My pre-season #4 is Nick Pratto is hitting .272/.321/.444, with a concerning 30 K% as well. That is good for a 115 wRC+, again as a teenager at Low-A.
Those four remain the cream of the crop, but there are other hitters making some noise so far:
Nicky Lopez is holding his own in the Texas League, putting up great glove work with a 116 wRC+, walking more than he strikes out.
Former Jays standout Nicky Lopez, the No. 7 prospect in the Royals farm system, has been tearing up the minors lately. It’s only a matter of time before he is back in Omaha, this time with the Storm Chasers: https://t.co/ErGCPl8RNc pic.twitter.com/jaArzDkCnx
— World-Herald Jays (@OWHjays) May 22, 2018
Xavier Fernandez is back at catcher for Wilmington, carrying a 115 wRC+.
Sebastian Rivero is part of the 19-year-old brigade at Lexington, and also crushing the ball
Brewer Hicklen is a 7th rounder from last year, and is making a splash in Lexington.
Brewer Hicklen is an off the radar name gaining steam in Low A Ball for KC. 7th Round Pick (210th Overall) out of UAB in 2017 draft. WR for the Football team before it was disbanded. Has done nothing but rake at every stop so far.
.318/.375/.561 8 XBH 4 HR 6 SB in just 66 AB’s pic.twitter.com/ypmhr9HIEC
— JKuhn (@h8rproof82) May 22, 2018
Also notable for the Royals is that these are all hitters. The complete list of pitchers performing at or above expectations is…. none. There are no pitchers in the system that could realistically be expected to start a MLB playoff game. There have been some solid relief arms: Jason Adam is already in the Kauffman pen. Richard Lovelady could be up this summer. Bryan Brickhouse is a terrific story in Wilmington, back after missing two full years. Josh Staumont has been shifted to the pen and his walk rate…. increased to 9/9IP.
Trevor Oaks. Eric Skoglund. Foster Griffin. Scott Blewett. None of these guys project to be more than a backend starter/long reliever.
As we turn towards the 2018 draft, the Royals have four picks from #18 to #40 next month. That is a range that gives them a chance to grab four college SPs hoping to time their rise with the budding future at Wilmington and Lexington.
That said, looking back the last 5 drafts notable names from that range include:
So that is the range, and I only listed ‘successes’. If the Royals can ‘hit’ on a couple names next month the 2021 team is beginning to be interesting.
Featured image of MJ Melendez – via MLB Pipeline on Twitter
KC Shankland lives in Maple Valley, Washington. His Royals fandom runs from the Royals/Yankees blood feud of the ‘70s to Hosmer’s mad dash home.
‘People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. Obsess over prospects.’
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