In June of 2013, Amalani Fukofuka became the first player to ever be selected in the MLB Draft out of James Logan High School in California. Batting .390 with 15 stolen bases his senior year, Fukofuka showed promise as a future leadoff hitter for the Kansas City Royals.
In his first year of professional baseball with the Arizona League Royals, Fukofuka slashed .244/.359/.346 with 10 stolen bases and 12 extra-base hits including a home run in 42 games as a 17-year old. A .359 OBP is exactly what you want to see out of a player that you’d like to see in a leadoff role
In 2014 Amalani was promoted to the Royals’ rookie team in Burlington, North Carolina. He did not perform anywhere near as well as he did in 2013 in Arizona. Slashing .183/.266/.289 with only 7 SB in 51 games, Amalani Fukofuka performed about how you would expect an 18-year old to perform playing a full season of professional baseball. While you would have hoped for a little more success from your fifth round pick, not all was lost, given how young Fukofuka is.
Fukofuka was promoted again in 2015, despite his struggles in Burlington, to the Advanced Rookie League team in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Playing CF for the Chukars, Amalani slashed .339/.401/.500 with 10 SB and 30 XBH including 3 HR in 67 games. Still only 19 years old, Fukofuka was named the Most Improved Player in the Royals’ minor league system. To be honest with you, after his 2015 campaign I began to consider Fukofuka a top prospect in the Royals’ system because of his speed and ability to get on base.
Then the roller coaster did that thing where it goes down again.
In 2016 Fukofuka got another promotion to the Royals Low-A affiliate Lexington Legends. He struggled to get on base again, but when he did he ran wild. Slashing only .200/.262/.272, Fukofuka stole an impressive 27 bases in 110 games. For reference, Raul Mondesi only stole 24 bases in 125 games while in Lexington in 2013, and he got on base at a .311 clip. We all know about the kind of speed that Mondesi possesses, so the 27 stolen bases from Fukofuka ought to speak to the speed that the Royals saw when they drafted him.
Fukofuka started out 2017 in Lexington again playing for the Legends.
Things did not go as planned, as Amalani continued to hit around the Mendoza Line and still wasn’t getting on base. His strikeout rate also continued to climb, as he struck out 41 times in merely 106 at-bats. That’s a K% rate of 38.7% which is not something you’d expect from a leadoff hitter.
The Royals sent Amalani back to Idaho Falls in an attempt to get him some more at-bats, and confidence, on June 17.
Since then, all he’s done is slash .365/.406/.635 in 63 at-bats with 4 HR. He’s also added in 3 SB and cut his K% to 22.2%.
Amalani Fukofuka won’t be found on many prospect lists, most people don’t even have him in their Top 30 Royals Prospects, but he may be very soon.
The Royals value guys who can run, defend, and put the ball in play. Amalani Fukofuka has shown flashes of insane ability to do all three in his brief professional career. Making the transition to full-time baseball can be tough on kids. At the age of 21, Fukofuka is learning the ropes of advanced levels and has shown why the Royals thought so highly of him during the 2013 MLB Draft.
I don’t expect that Fukofuka will spend too much more time in rookie ball. Once he gets things figured out in Idaho, expect him back in A ball sometime this season. If he can continue this success through 2017, you can bet that he’ll begin to appear on some of these top prospect lists sooner rather than later.