Donnie Dewees Jr. was acquired by the Kansas City Royals in a trade for RHP Alec Mills before the beginning of the 2017 season. Although he only had 149 career at bats at High-A before the season started, the Royals were comfortable enough with Dewees’ bat to start him off with the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals in 2017.
Dewees struggled to begin the 2017 campaign, which you would expect from a kid who’d only ever played in 35 games of High-A ball. After hitting .211 in April, and .222 in May, I was honestly a little worried about the Royals’ decision to move Dewees to AA to start the year.
Dewees put all of that concern to rest with a monster month of June in which he hit .354 in 99 at bats. He went on to hit .282 in July and .274 in August, finishing the 2017 campaign with a batting average of .272 in 464 at bats. Along with an impressive line of .272/.340/.407/.748, Dewees hit a career high 9 HRs and stole 20 bases in 2017 with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
One thing that really encourages me about Donnie Dewees is that his stats don’t appear to be inflated on the periphery. For example, his BABIP is only .309, which isn’t too ridiculously high. I’d honestly expect that number to go up a tad next year given his speed and relative pop.
His strikeout rate is also higher than I think it will be. He struck out 15.5% of the time this season, which was an improvement from his 21.6% K rate at High-A last season (albeit a small sample size). In addition, his BB% was a career high 8.8% with the Naturals in 2017, his highest rate at any level. Given that he’d never had an at bat against AA pitching before this season, that’s a very encouraging sign that Dewees will be able to command the strike zone as he advances through the organization.
Dewees is a very toolsy prospect. He can absolutely fly in the outfield. He flashes the ability to hit for average and get on base at an advanced level. His 24 doubles suggest that he either has some pop in his bat or is at least fast enough to turn some singles into doubles. His arm is cause for concern, but he had an injury in college that may still be a lingering issue.
All together, Dewees is a good looking prospect who reminds me a ton of Brett Gardner. Considering the relatively small price they gave up to acquire Dewees, I think the Royals would be thrilled if Dewees turned in to a Brett Gardner type player. Gardner was a 3.8 WAR player in 2017 according to FanGraphs (although he was aided by the short porch in Yankee Stadium and hit 21 HRs) and, similar to Dewees, didn’t play a full major league season until he was 26 years old (Dewees is will start the 2018 campaign as a 24-year old).
Fans ought to be excited about Donnie Dewees. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he started out the year with AAA Omaha, and is pressing to make his MLB debut as a September call-up next season. More likely, though, look for Dewees to stay in Omaha until mid-way through the 2019 season. He’ll still be 25 years old for almost all of the 2019 season, which is when I expect Dewees to really start getting some action in Kansas City.
Photo Credits: Northwest Arkansas Naturals