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.
25. Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Levels Played, 2017: AA (Northwest Arkansas), AAA (Omaha)
Acquired: 2012 MLB Draft, 1st Round
2017 Stats: 20 G, 5.79 ERA, 4.79 FIP, 32.2 IP, 35 H, 21 R, 21 ER, 16 BB, 34 SO (Omaha), 1 G, 2.25 ERA, 0.32 FIP, 4 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO (Northwest Arkansas)
You know. I know it. There has been one thing that has hovered over Kyle Zimmer for his professional career. Injuries. Six seasons into his career, he has amassed a mere 259 innings pitched, an average of 43 per year. It has probably been super frustrating for the organization and especially Zimmer to see all this talent start to slip away. A consistently healthy Zimmer is easily the Royals top prospect and probably a top 100 prospect.
Every year is a start of new hope for Zimmer though. He looks to be ready for Spring Training where he can showcase his mid-90s fastball, plus-plus curveball, and above-average changeup that has beautiful drop. His starting days are likely over, so expect him to start the year in the Omaha bullpen with a chance to be promoted soon.
24. Meibrys Viloria, C
Levels Played, 2017: A (Lexington)
Acquired: Free Agent, Colombia
2017 Stats: 101 G, .259/.313/.394, 94 H, 25 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 42 R, 52 RBI, 4 SB (Lexington)
A recent addition to the 40-man roster, Meibrys Viloria might be one of the higher ceiling prospects in the organization. I love catchers that can hit and oh boy does Viloria fit that profile.
Viloria busted onto the scene as a prospect when he shredded his way to Pioneer League MVP in 2016, slashing .376/.436/.606 in 58 games for the Idaho Falls Chukars. Viloria saw his numbers dip moving up to full-season ball this year, but he still managed to put up a 105 wRC+.
Viloria’s power is still developing. He may not be putting up big home run numbers yet, but with his quick swing and strength, it isn’t hard to see him end up being a 15-20 home run bat.
I have yet to see any reasons why Viloria can’t stay behind home plate. His size and above-average athleticism make him a serviceable receiver. I saw great improvement from the throwing side of things too, as Viloria posted an impressive CS% of 40%. Obviously, he needs to stay at catcher to keep his prospect status healthy.
23. Gerson Garabito, RHP
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie (AZL), A (Lexington)
Acquired: Free Agent, Dominican Republic
2017 Stats: 15 G, 2.81 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 77 IP, 52 H, 36 R, 24 ER, 19 BB, 72 SO (Lexington), 2 G, 6.00 ERA, 8.20 FIP, 3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO (AZL)
Gerson Garabito put up some nice numbers in 15 starts for the Lexington Legends this year, working his way to a 2.81 ERA and 3.94 FIP. There was major improvement in his second year in Low-A.
- K/9- 6.8 in 2016, 8.4 in 2017
- BB/9- 3.9 in 2016, 2.2 in 2017
- Strike%- 60.1% in 2016, 64.3% in 2017
The righty has an interesting arsenal. His go-to pitch is his curveball. It has terrific movement and it might be one of the better pitches in all of the organization. The fastball is nothing to rave about, showing average velocity. Maybe if he ever builds on his 6’0″ 160 lbs frame, he could add a couple MPH. The changeup is inconsistent, sometimes looking terrific. I peg Garabito as a future 4/5 in a big-league rotation.
22. Daniel Tillo, LHP
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie (AZL), Rookie (Burlington)
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, 3rd Round
2017 Stats: 7 G, 3.48 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 31 IP, 35 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 6 BB, 25 SO (Burlington), 3 G, 9.53 ERA, 2.26 FIP, 5.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO (AZL)
After struggling in limited appearances at the University of Kentucky in his freshman season, Daniel Tillo ended up at Iowa Western CC where he simply overmatched opposing hitters. In 44 innings pitched, Tillo struck out 11.7 batters per nine, walked 3.1 per nine, and allowed 6.6 H/9. The Royals were able to snatch him up in the third round this past summer.
I absolutely loved the early results I saw from him. Tillo pitched with authority in Burlington, owning a 3.48 ERA and 3.57 FIP in 31 innings. The stat I drooled over was his 68.8% GB%
He usually works in the low-90s with his fastball, but I think it might have some room to grow with his 6’5″ 215 lbs frame. His slider looked good this year, working in the low-80s. The changeup might need some work.
21. Elier Hernandez, OF
Levels Played, 2017: A+ (Wilmington), AA (Northwest Arkansas)
Acquired: Free Agent, Dominican Republic
2017 Stats: 30 G, .306/.336/.508, 38 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 15 R, 27 RBI, 1 SB (Wilmington), 16 G, .339/.391/.452, 16 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 8 R, 10 RBI, 0 SB (Northwest Arkansas)
Elier Hernandez looked like a lost cause as a prospect after struggling in back-to-back seasons, including a season in which he posted a 64 wRC+ for a repeat year in Wilmington. His 2017 season put him back on the radar though, slashing .317/.355/.489 in 46 games between A+ and AA.
Hernandez has always been pinned as a toolsy player, receiving $3 million from the Royals in 2011. The biggest issue for him in his career has been pitch recognition. His plate discipline has always been bad, striking out in 23% of his plate appearances during his minor league career and only walking in a mere 4.8% of them. What scares me though is he took numerous steps back in that department, increasing his SwStr%, K%, and Strike%, and decreasing his BB%.
Maybe you could theorize that his decline in plate discipline was the product of a change in approach, as Hernandez increased his LD% from 19.9% to 25.0% the past year. The results showed up too, posting a BABIP of .403 this year, way above his career mark of .328, raising his overall offensive production. Could just be a benefactor of small sample size too. Time well tell. But the heat maps sure look different.
Hernandez still possesses a pretty swing, spraying the ball to all fields and crushing his home runs to the pull side.
I am not particularly high on Hernandez, but I’m keeping my eyes on him, mainly because he just finished his age-22 season. If he can improve his plate discipline without losing any offensive production, he can put up a nice looking slashline. I figure he starts next season in AA.
Photo Credits: MLB.com