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.
20. Emmanuel Rivera, 3B
Levels Played, 2017: Low-A
Acquired: 19th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft
2017 Stats: .310/.364/.468/.832, 12 HR, 72 RBI, 27 2B, 17.1% K%, 6.1% BB%, 464 AB
Finally bursting onto the prospect scene in 2017, Rivera made huge strides at the plate with the Lexington Legends. Getting progressively better each year, Rivera has improved his OPS by at least 142 points in each of the last two seasons. In addition, after hitting only 2 HR in his first 2 seasons, Rivera hit 12 this year in what was his breakout campaign.
Rivera, still only 21 years old from Puerto Rico, showed a ton of promise and progress at the plate in 2017. A decent-enough defender as well, Rivera has all the tools it will take to get him to the big leagues so long as he continues to progress.
The one concern that I have for Rivera is that his offensive success may have been propped up by favorable peripherals in 2017. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .359, up from an unfavorable .299 in 2016. He’s also begun walking less and less as his career goes on, but he’s struck out less and less as well. He still hits a ton of ground balls (52.4%), and I’d like to see him get the ball in the air more in 2018. If Rivera can do that, you may see him in the Royals top 15 at the end of next season.
19. Miguel Almonte, RHP
Levels Played, 2017: AA, AAA, MLB
Acquired: International Free Agent
2017 Stats (minors combined): 1.72 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 52 K, 13 BB, 47 IP, 16 appearances, 9 starts
One of KC’s former tippy top prospects, Miguel Almonte still finds himself on the Royals prospect rankings after making his MLB debut in 2015 because he can’t string together a full season of both health and production.
It’s really not about performance anymore for Almonte. The Royals are by now familiar with what Almonte is and is not capable of and it’s really just a matter of keeping him healthy at this point. The development stages in the minor leagues have come and gone. There’s still things he can learn at the big-league level to be certain, but, in my opinion, his 1.72 minor league ERA in 2017 proves that Almonte is ready for a role in a big-league bullpen to start 2018. If the Royals should decide to let him continue starting, then Almonte will almost certainly begin the 2018 season with AAA Omaha.
18. Chase Vallot, C
Levels Played, 2017: High-A
Acquired: CBA Pick in the 2014 MLB Draft (40th overall)
2017 Stats: .231/.380/.438/.818, 12 HR, 37 RBI, 22 2B, 127 K, 64 BB, 35.8% K%, 18% BB%, 281 AB
The very first thing you ought to notice about Chase Vallot is his absolutely ludicrous walk rate. I mean, my goodness. To put his OBP, into reference, Eric Hosmer had a .385 OBP in 2017 but hit .318 to achieve that. Vallot’s batting average was nearly 100 points lower than Hosmer’s and he almost got on base at the same clip. The incredible ability to control the strike zone, and a growing power stroke, the 21-year old catcher has an incredibly bright future at the plate.
If Chase Vallot can stick as a catcher, he has one of the brighter futures of any prospect in the Royals system. Admittedly, looking at the rankings right now, you could make a really strong argument that deserves to be higher on this list. The problem is, and the concern that I think is fair to have with Vallot, is whether or not he can stick behind the plate. Not many catchers can hit like Vallot can, but the problem is that Vallot may be better suited as a 1B/DH in the big leagues, and there are lots of 1B/DH that can hit like him, thus decreasing his value significantly.
There’s no question about Vallot’s offensive prowess. He missed most of the 2017 season with an injury, but he also just turned 21 in August. Still really young, Vallot may be given the chance to play the entire season at AA next season as a 21-year old. Given the current pace that he’s climbing through the system, I full expect him to be in KC by the end of 2020, regardless of what position he may be playing. Staying healthy next year will be huge in the development of the Royals young catcher.
17. Samir Duenez, 1B
Levels Played, 2017: AA
Acquired: International Free Agent
2017 Stats: .252/.304/.402/.705, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 23 2B, 20.5% K%, 6.5% BB%, 523 AB
Samir Duenez is one of my favorite prospects in this organization, despite a bit of a rough 2017 at AA. The 21-year old has been among the youngest players at every level he’s played in since he debuted as a professional back in 2013. Here’s a little bit from our very own Patrick Brennan:
- At age 17 in the Rookie League, where the average age is 19.4, Duenez posted a 103 wRC+.
- At age 20 in Low-A, where the average age is 21.2, Duenez posted a 108 wRC+.
- At age 20 in High-A, where the average age is 22.4, Duenez posted a 132 wRC+.
- At age 21 in AA, where the average age is 23.8, Duenez posted a 95 wRC+.
Despite his slight dip in 2017, the most encouraging thing I saw from Duenez this past season was the continued development of his power stroke. In his five professional seasons, Duenez has tallied 0 HR, 1 HR, 1 HR, 13 HR, and 17 HR. As he gets older and more mature, Duenez gets more and more powerful with the bat, which will be important if he wants to stick at 1B.
Another encouraging number to point to for Duenez is his BABIP. Duenez’ BABIP in 2017 was .293, a slightly unfavorable number that I would expect to improve just a tick moving forward. His walk rate was also down a bit from 2016, and if he can walk a little more in 2018 than he did in 2017, Duenez could be set for a really nice 2018. I expect him to start the year in AA again, but with a touch more success in 2018, he should end the year with AAA Omaha, putting him one step away from Kansas City.
16. Michael Gigliotti, OF
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie, Low-A
Acquired: 4th Round of the 2017 MLB Draft
2017 Stats (combined): .320/.420/.456/.877, 4 HR, 38 RBI, 13 2B, 4 3B, 22 SB, 22.7% K%, 5.4% BB%, 241 AB
One of the most important pieces of the Royals highly regarded 2017 draft class, Michael Gigliotti made a mockery of professional pitching in his first professional season. Having crushed the ball with rookie league Burlington, Gigliotti wasn’t quite as amazing with Low-A Lexington, but his performance was still plenty encouraging in 2017.
Gigliotti is everything that the Royals look for in an outfielder. Super athletic, plenty of range in the outfield, makes good contact, and runs like hell. Gigliotti, the former Cape Cod League MVP, struggled a bit at Lipscomb last spring, but the Royals grabbed him in the 4th round anyways because of his freakishly gifted tools.
I fully expect Gigliotti to begin the 2018 season with the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, and I think there’s a decent chance that he winds up in AA before the season ends. Gigliotti’s ability to command the strike zone and make solid contact when the ball is in the strike zone are both advanced. I fully expect him to be the Royals CF in the not-so-distant future. Gigliotti could very well be in the top 10 of our next rankings.
Photo Credits: Andy Shupe—NWA Democrat-Gazette