As we welcome in the new year, we here at Royals Farm Report would like to give Royals fans a more in-depth look of the Royals farm system. We are looking at all eight affiliates of the Royals to find who the best prospects are and who stood out to us in 2017. The following are the Royals affiliates; Omaha (AAA), NW Arkansas (AA), Wilmington (A+), Lexington (A), Idaho Falls (Rookie league), Burlington (Rookie League), Surprise Royals (Arizona League), and the Dominican Royals of the Dominican Summer League (young international signees).
I have broken this down by league. So the first league will be AAA, then AA, so on and so forth. At each league, I will choose three players. One will be the standout. This is the guy who performed very well in 2017. Two is the disappointment. This will be a guy the Royals (or us) had high hopes for but did not succeed to those levels. Three will be the sleeper. Whether he is blocked at the MLB level, or someone easily forgot about, I will guide you to enlightenment. Let’s do this.
These stats came from an excel spreadsheet I made that you can find below and the stats were from milb.com.
AB = At-Bats
BA = Batting-Average
XBH = Extra-base-hits
2B = Doubles
HR = Home-runs
BABIP = Batting Average On Balls in Play – Does not include home runs. Can sometimes point to luck for/against a hitter or pitcher.
RBI – Runs Batted In
Disclaimer: There are hyperlinks in this article I encourage you to read to get some more in-depth findings of these players.
The standout for this level was a no doubt pick in my mind, he absolutely killed it at Omaha last year, but was downright awful in Kansas City. I had the privilege to watch him hit a ball 418 feet for a homerun against the Twins this year and I was sold on his power ability. Jorge Soler is my standout. Forgetting his last year MLB stats, in Omaha he had a slash-line of .267/.388/.564/.952 with 9 doubles, 24 HRs, and 59 RBIs over 273 ABs. That is a crazy high OPS with a BABIP of only .293. He drove the ball in the air 45% of the time with most of his hits coming when he pulls the ball. Certainly everyone wants to forget 2017 MLB Soler, but he might not let us forget his 2018 MLB year; for good reasons as well. Still only 25-years-old, he could be a big part of the next wave of contention in Kansas City.
This is a guy I love mainly because he is a native of KC and his defense pars with Lorenzo Cain. Bubba Starling doesn’t deserve to be here, but he is here because he was injured from August on. This effectively ruined his career year where he started off the year batting .133 and then May came and after that he hit a solid .290 on until his injury in August ended his season. Dayton Moore has already stated Bubba will be in Omaha to start 2018, but he might finish the year in Kansas City. Like Soler, he is still 25 so there is time for him to make good on being the number 5 pick in the 2011 draft.
The sleeper is definitely looked over on this roster. Blocked by the likes of Soler, Bonifacio, Gordon, et al. He will have to crush his way to Kansas City in 2018. His name is Logan Moon, who coincidentally also is 25-years-old. His slash-line in Omaha this year was .336/.368/.542/.910, he had 8 doubles and 1 triple to go along with his 4 HRs over 107 ABs. What might scare one away would be his crazy high BABIP of .432, but he struck out only 28% of the time while driving the ball in the air 40% of the time. Logan will almost certainly start the year in Omaha and if he can sustain these numbers next season over a larger sample size, he might force Dayton’s hand into a 2018 call-up.
NW Arkansas (AA)
This guy was a top international signing for the Royals in 2011, but has not panned out well since. He has been in the organization for six years and is just now at NW Arkansas. Elier Hernandez hit very well at Wilmington and continued that trend at NW Arkansas, where he batted .339/.391/.452/.843. Albeit over a small sample size (62 ABs), this is a very encouraging sign from the 23-year-old right handed batter. After being injured most of the year, Kansas City sent him to the Arizona Fall League (AZFL) to get some more at bats under his belt. He couldn’t sustain his awesome year, and had a slash-line in the AZFL of .206/.286/.309/.595. Hopefully in 2018 he’ll be able to sustain his early 2017 season success and translate it to a 2018 call up to Omaha.
Anderson Miller was not so much of a disappointment as he was learning to transition to a new level. At Wilmington in 2017, Miller slashed .290/.378/.439/.817 over 269 at bats. He hit 7 HRs to go along with 11 doubles and 4 tries. Miller also stole fifteen bases while only getting caught twice. In NW Arkansas, he did not fare nearly as well at the plate. His slash line was .230/.263/.296/.559 over 213 ABs for AA NW Arkansas. His strikeouts between the levels stayed relatively the same (56 in AA and 60 in A+) but his walks fell considerably (9 in AA and 36 in A+). Still only 23-years-old, I would bet that he bounces back after another year at AA.
I am a big fan of this guy here. Traded from the Cubs and has done well ever since. Donnie Dewees is a 24-year-old center fielder. In AA this year, he batted .272/.340/.407/.747 along with 24 doubles, 6 triples, and 9 HRs. He was also active on the base-paths with 20 SBs and caught 8 times. Outside of Michael Gigilotti (of whom I will get to soon) and Bubba Starling, he is one of the favorites in the system to be patrolling center for the Royals in 2021.
Anderson Miller is my choice for this level. As stated earlier, he struggled at AA but at A+ he shined. He hit .290/.378/.439/.817 with 11 doubles, 4 triples, 7 HRs, and 15 SBs while getting caught only twice. Like I said earlier, I’m excited to see his progression next year.
Not so much of a disappointment either, but Brandon Downes is too old for his level. At 25, he should be hitting in Omaha, but unfortunately he was in A+ last year where he hit very well. He slashed .245/.334/.471/.817 with 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 13 HRs. It will be interesting if he can keep his walk rate going forward of 11%. With tougher competition at the higher levels, he will be an interesting case to watch moving forward.
No sleeper for this level,
but Kort Peterson should be someone to look out for next year. He had a .763 OPS in Lexington but when moved to A+ he had an OPS of .956. His sample size was small in Wilmington (11 games), but he is an interesting case moving forward.
This level and the rookie leagues moving forward I will handle much differently. Considering players at these levels are either hit-or-miss, I won’t make a disappointment or a sleeper case; I will just simply state those to look out for.
Those to watch closely
Michael Gigilotti – (Rok) .329/.442/.447/.889 with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 3 HR, and 15 SBs, (A) .302/.378/.419/.797 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, and 7 SBs. Should be at A+ to start the year, might be the steal of the 2017 draft (4th rounder), still only 21.
Khalil Lee – (A) .237/.344/.430/.774 with 24 doubles, 6 triples, 17 HRs, and 20 SBs. Walked a crazy 14% but also struck out 171 times in 2017. Raw power and a big arm, could be an all-star in the making if he cuts down on the strikeouts (38% K rate). He is only 19, so these numbers are quite impressive from a kid where the average league age is 21.
Marten Gasparini – (A) .227/.274/.355/.629 with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 9 HRs, and 18 SBs. Recently moved from Shortstop to Centerfield helped his slash line. Excellent defense, but struggles with switch-hitting, particularly when batting from the left side of the plate (.180 BA).
Seuly Matias – (Rok) .243/.297/.423/.720 with 13 doubles, 3 triples, and 7 HRs. Raw power and a big arm. A lot like Khalil Lee but strikes out a little less (32% K rate) and doesn’t steal many bases (only 2 SBs in 2017). Would like to see him walk more (7% walk rate), but he could be the future of Kansas City as he is only 19-years-old.
Brewer Hicklen and Travis Jones are two other guys to watch out for. Both had a combined OPS of over .900 across rookie levels.
Certainly our farm system is lacking, but if you dig deep enough you will find the talent in the lower levels. Don’t be fooled by outside rankings, our lower levels have talent and might surprise people in the coming years.