Our method for determining our top 100 Royals prospects came from an aggregate of three separate top 100 lists. These lists were compiled by three members of our writing staff: Patrick Brennan, Alex Duvall, and Drew Osborne.
30. Tyler Zuber, RHP
DOB: June 16, 1995
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie, Low-A
Acquired: 6th Round of the 2017 MLB Draft
2017 Stats (Rookie only): 2.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 38 K, 7 BB, 0 HRA, 25 IP, 16 appearances
One of the better pure relievers in the system, Tyler Zuber could be a guy to keep an eye on next year after he dominated in pro debut (2.16 ERA, 1.82 FIP, 13.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9). The righty out of Arkansas State showed off some potential in his 27.1 innings this year, getting a surplus of ground balls and strikeouts.
Zuber strikes me as a guy who just knows how to pitch. Going further on that broad statement, he knows how to utilize his arsenal very well and he rarely makes mistakes. Highlighting his arsenal is a power fastball (mid-upper 90s) and a changeup that draws great reviews. The velocity is impressive given his 5-11, 175 lbs frame. The changeup is phenomenal and is probably one of the top pitches in the Royals organization.
He’s got a pretty effortless delivery, repeating it well and rarely making mistakes. He’s got above-average movement on his pitches, suggesting he’ll always be a strikeout arm out of the bullpen.
29. Grant Gavin, RHP
DOB: July 10, 1995
Levels Played, 2017: Low-A, High-A
Acquired: 29th round of the 2016 MLB Draft
2017 Stats (combined): 1.65 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 77 K, 25 BB, 2 HRA, 65.1 IP, 36 appearances
One of the two or three best high school hitters I ever played with or against, Gavin is having a ton of success in the Royals organization as a dominant right-handed reliever. The leading rebounder on his high school basketball team, Gavin has put his athleticism to good use on the mound for the Royals.
Yes, by now you ought to know that Gavin has dominated minor league hitters over the last two seasons between the AZL and High-A. A 29th round pick out of the University of Central Missouri, Gavin took a chance by leaving school a year early to start his pro career. The decision has paid off well for him, as he has been named an All-Star in both of his first two seasons in the minor leagues.
Gavin is a power reliever who does a fantastic job of getting on top of the baseball. He uses a mid-90’s fastball to get good downhill movement on his fastball, and uses that same arm slot to throw his power curve. The curve may be Gavin’s best pitch, as it is absolutely lethal to right and left handed hitters alike. He also features a nice changeup that could be the difference between Gavin’s ability to be just an effective reliever, to being absolutely dominant.
I fully expect Gavin to start out 2018 with AA Northwest Arkansas, and there’s a decent chance that he finishes the season with AAA Omaha.
28. Garrett Davila, LHP
DOB: January 17, 1997
Levels Played, 2017: Low-A
Acquired: 4th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft
2017 Stats: 5.08 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 4.56 FIP, 92 K, 52 BB, 8 HRA, 125.2 IP, 27 appearances, 21 starts
Garrett Davila is a bit of an interesting case. Not much of a power pitcher, the young lefty managed to have a ton of success in 2016 with rookie league Burlington. His 2.77 ERA in 2016 landed him on Royals top 30 prospect lists on most major publications. Deserving, to sure, but also curious.
I was excited to get to watch Davila this season. After the month of July, a month in which Davila posted an ERA over 7 in 5 appearances, I was starting to get worried about the young lefty. The ERA was starting to swell and there’d be only one month of baseball left.
All Davila did with that last month of baseball was post an ERA of 1.64 (August only) in 22 IP. Hopefully this will give Davila some confidence heading into 2018, where I think he can benefit from playing with High-A Wilmington in the Carolina League. The Carolina League is known to be a pitchers’ paradise and Wilmington specifically can be very good to pitchers.
In my opinion, if Davila can have a solid year at High-A in 2018, and stay healthy, he’s got a shot to jump into the Royals top 20 at the end of the season. The Royals system is not exactly full of talented starting pitching prospects, and Davila has a chance to be a bright spot in an otherwise empty system.
27. Sal Biasi, RHP
DOB: September 30, 1995
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie
Acquired: 11th Round of the 2017 MLB Draft
2017 Stats (combined): 2.41 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 54 K, 23 BB, 4 HRA, 56 IP, 13 appearances, 8 starts
Sal Biasi is one of my favorite picks that the Royals have made in recent years. I loved their 2017 class overall, but Biasi strikes me as a high-floor guy with a real chance to be a big-league starter.
Biasi posted an ERA of 3.48 with 88 K in 72.1 IP with Penn State last spring, and has been described by people who have been around him for a while as a bulldog on the mound that doesn’t back down from a challenge. When I think of bulldogs I think of Tim Hudson, Greg Maddux. Pitchers who go right at hitters and challenge them with their best stuff.
The tough mentality combined with the stuff ought to pave a bright future for Biasi. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Biasi was sent to High-A Wilmington to begin 2018. I expect to see him in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
26. Sebastian Rivero, C
DOB: November 16, 1998
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie
Acquired: International Free Agent Signing
2017 Stats: .265/.288/.381/.669, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 8 2B, 189 AB
As a former pitcher, I am always a little higher on good catching prospects than most people probably are. If you read our site at all, you know how much I loved the MJ Melendez pick in this year’s draft. As I excited as I was for Melendez this year, I was almost equally as excited for the Rivera signing back in 2015.
I love it when teams invest in young catchers. Salvador Perez, Gary Sanchez, Buster Posey, and Willson Contreras have all either led their teams to World Series championships in recent years, or are helping lead the way in the case of Gary Sanchez. In my opinion, the catching position is one of the most underrated positions on the field in terms of overall importance. So when teams make it a priority to invest in catchers, I get giddy.
That is exactly what the Royals did when they signed Sebastian Rivero. They made a point to invest in the most important position on the field. Rivero was signed as a 17-year old for $450,000 out of Venezuela back in 2015. They signed a kid who was somewhat of a wizard with the glove and hoped that his bat would come around.
Two years later and much of this still holds true for Rivero. His .662 OPS and 4 career HR in 2 seasons leave much to be desired. The defense is the reason that you find Rivero so high on our rankings despite the less than ideal offensive numbers. Rivero threw out 29% of would be base stealers in 2017, up a tick from his 27.78% caught stealing in 2016, impressive given his movement up in the organization.
Sebastian Rivero, assuming he continues to grow as a defensive minded catcher, has a very high floor as a prospect. In my opinion, he’s Drew Butera at worst: a backup catcher with a long career in the MLB. He also has a chance to be JT Realmuto: a stout defensive catcher with a knack for getting on base. Realmuto didn’t hit much early on in his minor league career either. Rivero still has plenty of time to come around as a good-enough hitter to start in the big leagues.
Photo Credits: Mary Lay