The Kansas City Royals have, by most national accounts, the worst farm system in all of baseball. This may be fair, to some extent. The Royals farm system lacks proven starting pitching depth now that Jake Junis and Eric Skoglund appear to be with the big league team full time. There may legitimately be only one prospect above High-A that possesses something of an impact bat.
Yet, despite all of that, the Royals have a young core of prospects that has a chance to be a part of the next great wave of Kansas City Royals. Nick Pratto, Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, Gabriel Cancel, and Emmanuel Rivera are widely regarded as the key position players in the next wave of Royals prospects, and they came out of the gates this past weekend ready to make a statement. Let’s look at some of the stellar performances of KC’s top prospects this weekend:
#1 Nick Pratto, 1B:
Nick Pratto opened up the season by going 1-3 with a BB and a 2B last Thursday. He blew by that performance on Friday night, going 3-5 with a pair of runs scored. Pratto went hitless in two games on Sunday, but his slash line currently sits at a very pretty .286/.375/.357 in 14 at-bats. Expect the power to come around after Pratto gets comfortable in full-season ball.
#2 Khalil Lee, OF:
Khalil Lee got off to one of the hottest starts in Minor League Baseball last weekend, and wasn’t even the Royals hottest prospect. After four games, Lee is slashing a monstrous .429/.556/.857/1.413 with 4 walks, a 2B, a 3B, and a HR in 14 at-bats. Oh, Lee has also already stolen a base, and hasn’t been caught yet. If it wasn’t for the next guy, Lee would be knocking on the door of the Royals top prospect to begin 2018.
#3 Seuly Matias, OF:
Seuly Matias got off to the hottest start that I can remember for a Royals prospect this weekend. After 4 games, Matias is slashing .400/.400/1.333 with FOUR HOME RUNS, a 3B, and 8 RBI in 15 at-bats. The man is absolutely on fire, and is proving to everyone that he belongs on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list, much like the top 101 list that he made for Baseball Prospectus this offseason. This is (obviously) unsustainable, and you’d like to see Matias’ K:BB rate get a little healthier, but this is one of the most encouraging signs I’ve seen from a Royals prospect in years. After injuries hampered Matias in 2017, it’s good to see flashes of what the young outfielder is capable of when healthy.
#4 Hunter Dozier, 3B:
Hunter Dozier has supplied some of the only offense that the Omaha Storm Chasers have received so far. His current slash line is relatively unimpressive at just .250/.308/.583, but Dozier has already homered, doubled, and walked once in 4 miserably cold games in Omaha. If he keeps slugging like this, I expect he’ll be the Royals third baseman as soon as they find a new home for Moose.
#5 MJ Melendez, C:
Being a catcher, Melendez has only played in two games so far this season. This will be pretty standard for Melendez as he goes forward, not catching every game his team plays. I imagine the Royals will work him into his innings with the end goal of catching 140 games/year by 2021. Melendez got off to a hot start in his first game, hitting a double and walking in his full-season debut. He went for a hat trick in his second game, but that’s something that Melendez and Royals fans will have to get used to. Melendez as a good bat for a catcher, but it’s going to take some time for him to adjust to professional pitching, along with the daily grind that is being a professional catcher.
#9 Richard Lovelady, LHP:
Kansas City’s favorite prospect is already flying high to begin the 2018 season. In two appearances out of Omaha’s bullpen, Lovelady has thrown 2.1 innings, struck out 2, and not allowed a hit. He will be Kansas City’s closer come August.
#11 Brad Keller, RHP:
MLB Pipeline confuses me sometimes. They tell us that the Royals have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. They tell us that Brad Keller was Arizona’s #9 overall prospect as recently as 2016. Yet, after Brad Keller posts a 3.58 FIP in his first go at AA as a 22-year old last season, MLB Pipeline didn’t have Brad Keller in KC’s top 30 prospects list to begin the 2018 season. Well, Keller has been fantastic all spring for KC, and has thrown 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the big league club. Either MLB Pipeline has underrated KC’s system even by their own standards, or they were wrongly sleeping on Brad Keller. I don’t expect Keller to be in the bullpen all year, hopefully the Royals will begin to lengthen him out if they can find a new home for one of Duffy/Hammel/Kennedy.
#12 Gabriel Cancel, 2B:
Gabriel Cancel came out of the gates swinging, homering and doubling in his first game of the season. The 21-year old slugging second baseman is one of my favorite prospects in the system, and I think he’s got a chance to make some noise in the top 7 by the season’s end.
#20 Samir Duenez, 1B:
I love Samir Duenez. I hope the guy is starting at 1B for Omaha before too long. I just don’t know where the Royals see him on the 1B totem pole. Hopefully he’ll get his shot, because the kid can absolutely swing it.
#23 Emmanuel Rivera, 3B:
Emmanuel Rivera is probably well on his way to making us regret having him ranked so low. The 21-year old third baseman has already gone deep and doubled three times in 4 games. I’ve got a good feeling about this kid. He and Cancel will be so much fun to watch this season in Wilmington.
#25 Daniel Tillo, LHP:
#27 Gerson Garabito, RHP:
#37 Erick Mejia, MIF:
He won’t be in AA for long.
#51 Rudy Martin, OF:
#54 Marten Gasparini, OF:
In one of the most promising developments to begin 2018, Gasparini is slashing .455/.455/.727 with a 2B, a 3B, and 2 SB’s in 3 games.
Hot starts by some key prospects have Royals fans clamoring in excitement. I’m certainly one of them, as I couldn’t be happier with the way the 2018 season has begun for the Royals farm system.