YEP. ALL CAPS. IT’S OPENING DAY. WHAT ON EARTH COULD BE MORE EXCITING THAN OPENING DAY?!
Alrighty. Now that we got that out of our system. I want to sincerely wish you all a happy Opening Day from Royals Farm Report. As a former baseball player and current coach, I never get to attend Opening Day because I’ve always had games or practices of my own going on. I did get to attend Opening Night in 2016 against the Mets, which was AWESOME, but a little bit of a different atmosphere I can imagine.
Opening Day is a special time for baseball. It’s not very often that all eyes in this country are on the baseball world. Even during the World Series, football has finally come around and people are locked in. That’s okay, though, because it allows the true baseball fans to enjoy the game’s best to duke it out for the crown in October (or November).
But Opening Day is for everyone. I know people who don’t go to a single baseball game all year except for Opening Day. It allows the entire country (in addition to several other countries as well) to enjoy the game of baseball together as teams embark on a 162 game journey to the Fall Classic.
With that being said, kick back and relax this afternoon. Salvy is out, the Royals are “reloading,” and the beer ought to be cold. While you’re preparing for the first Royals game of the year today, take a look at what some of our staff here at Royals Farm Report expect to see from some of our minor leaguers this year, including bold predictions about some of the Royals top prospects.
Prospects to watch in 2018:
The first few names I’m going to give to you on this list of prospects to watch are going to be grouped together because they’re a little obvious. The entire Royals organization (currently) hinges on the development of a few specific prospects: Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, Foster Griffin, Scott Blewett, Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, Michael Gigliotti, and Richard Lovelady. This is the core, in my opinion. This is the core of prospects that will decide the future of the organization. No pressure, kids. These are the ten prospects I’ll be watching the most this season, quite frankly because the Royals desperately need all ten of them to hit (succeed, not with a bat). You’ll probably be getting daily updates on these guys from us.
Okay, now the lesser known guys:
- Gabriel Cancel. Gabriel Cancel is a stud. I absolutely love second baseman that can hit and Cancel fits the bill. Cancel has posted a wRC+ of 129 and 125 respectively over the last two seasons. In his first full professional season in 2017 with Low-A Lexington, Cancel hit .277/.324/.466 with 14 HR in 433 PA. Cancel will spend the 2018 season as a 21-year old, and figures to spend a good portion of time between High-A Wilmington and AA Northwest Arkansas.
- LHP Cristian Castillo. Castillo doesn’t appear to be as well known by Royals fans as he should be. In three professional seasons with Kansas City, Castillo has posted ERA’s of 2.67, 3.13, and 4.13. Last season in 141.2 IP with High-A Wilmington, Castillo posted the highest ERA of his career in his first full season. Here’s what I liked about Castillo’s 2017 season: he posted an ERA of 1.93 in May and 2.76 in June, suggesting that he was comfortable with the competition. Then the wheels fell off in July in August. Castillo nearly doubled the number of innings he threw in 2017 from 2016. My best guess is that he’d never thrown that many competitive innings before, and just needs some time to get used to the workload. Chase Vallot told us in an interview that Castillo was his most underrated teammate, and I expect big things from him this season. He’ll start the year back in Wilmington, but I don’t expect him to be there for long.
- Drake Downing wants you to keep an eye on Donnie Dewees Jr. Most people know of Dewees by now, the center fielder acquired from Chicago in the Alec Mills trade. A lot would have to go right in order for Dewees to make and stay on the big league roster in 2018, but Donnie Dewees is closer to big league action than some may think.
- RHP Grant Gavin. Dayton Moore has done a pretty good job of keeping the Royals bullpen stocked with talent, and that starts with the minor leagues. Gavin is a power righty with a nasty curveball who has dominated in the minor leagues since being drafted out of the DII power house University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO. In two professional seasons, Gavin’s highest posted ERA came in his first run at pro-ball in 2016, when he posted a 2.01 ERA in the Arizona Rookie League. If Gavin can continue to dominate the way he has been in 2018, he and Richard Lovelady could be a really dynamic duo in Kansas City’s bullpen in the not-so-distant future. He’ll start the season with High-A Wilmington, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends the year with AAA Omaha.
- Anderson Miller may be the most underrated prospect in the entire organization. Rudy Martin gives him a run for his money, but Miller has a chance to be really good. We currently have him rated as the 45th best prospect in the Royals organization, but he could legitimately jump into the top 15 by the end of 2018 with a good season. After being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft, check out this pattern for Miller at each level he’s been in:
- In 10 games with rookie league Burlington, Miller posted a wRC+ of 156
- In 43 games with Low-A Lexington (heck of a jump), Miller posted a wRC+ of 94
- In 43 games in his second round with Lexington, Miller posted a wRC+ of 136
- In 38 games with High-A Wilmington, wRC+ of 71
- In 70 games in his second round with Wilmington, wRC+ of 132
- In 58 games with AA Northwest Arkansas, wRC+ of 54
As you can see, Miller struggles a bit his first try at a new level, comes back, rakes, and advances. If this trend were to continue, you ought to expect Miller to destroy AA pitching to start 2018, move to AAA Omaha, and struggle. Miller will still just be 24 years old for this season, and has a real chance to be starting in a major league outfield before his age 25 season comes to an end in 2019. Plus there’s this:
- I am predicting that Nick Pratto will slash at least .285/.375/.480 with 18 home runs this season across which ever levels he may be playing at. I think he’s in for a monster year, and will show why he is considered by some to be the Royals top prospect.
- Patrick predicts that Khalil Lee gets off to a monster start this year and jumps into the MLB top 50 by the end of the 2018 season.
- Drew predicts that Scott Blewett will be the top pitching prospect in the organization by August 1.
- Travis predicts that Ryan O’Hearn will be the every day first baseman as soon as Lucas Duda is traded this summer.
- Travis also predicts that Ned Yost will actually sit Alcides Escobar for at least one game this year (whaaaaaaaaat?).
- I am predicting that MJ Melendez gets on base at least 35% of the time this season and locks in his place as a top 3 prospect in this organization.
- Drake predicts that at least two of the pitchers taken by KC in the 2017 draft will be top 10 prospects for the Royals be the end of 2018.