The Next Blue Wave of Royals

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.

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.

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.

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:


Marco Gonzalez

Chi Chi Gonzalez

Sean Manaea

Michael Lorenzen

Corey Knebel


Erick Fedde

Luke Weaver


Walker Buehler


Justin Dunn

T.J. Zeuch

Eric Lauer

Dane Dunning

Anthony Kay

Dakota Hudson

Jordan Sheffield


Alex Faedo

David Peterson

Tanner Houck

Alex Lange

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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