The fall season has come to a close for the Surprise Saguaros, which means that our Royals prospects in Arizona have finished up play for the year. Khalil Lee, Nick Heath, Meibrys Viloria, Grant Gavin, Arnaldo Hernandez, Scott Blewett, and Walker Sheller represented the Royals system well. Now that they have finished prospect finishing school, let’s take a final look at how our boys in blue performed.
Lee finished the AZFL with a slash line of .157/.239/.229/.468, including 1 HR, 3 doubles, and 3 SB. What may be worse, is that Lee struck out 27 times in 83 at-bats. Not great for a guy that many consider to be the Royals top prospect. Here’s the thing, the Arizona Fall League is more of a place to get excited about young prospects, not get down on them. I was really hoping for Lee to show out in Arizona and put his name on the national radar, but I’m not going to get too down because he didn’t do that. With that being said, all eyes will certainly be on Lee this springs when he reports to Spring Training, but don’t be too down on the kid for a 21-game sample size.
Speaking of getting excited about some breakout prospects…how about Nick Heath? Heath put up an impressive .338/.427/.442/.869 slash line with 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 13 stolen bases in just 77 at-bats this fall. This, after a breakout season in which Heath posted a 125 wRC+ with High-A Wilmington, Nick Heath has gotten me really excited about his future value. The kid can absolutely fly, plays a fantastic center field, and has a knack for getting on base, evidenced by his double digit walk-rate across two levels in 2018. Sign me up for the Nick Heath fan club. I’m excited to watch him get a bigger sample of PA’s in AA this year.
Viloria didn’t get a ton of at-bats in Arizona this fall, but he did post something of an impressive .225/.415/.325/.740 OPS in 40 at-bats. He added 2 doubles and a triple to his ledger, and by some accounts, looked pretty good behind the plate. We got a brief glimpse of Meibrys in Kansas City this past season when the Royals were desperate for a catcher, but I expect he’ll start the 2019 campaign in AA Northwest Arkansas with most of our other AZFL prospects.
SPEAKING OF GETTING EXCITED…Scott Blewett had one hell of an Arizona Fall League. After really struggling this season as a 22-year old at AA (raise your hand if you forgot he was that young), Blewett went down to Arizona and showed out. He posted a 2.49 ERA in 6 starts and struck out 21 in 25.1 IP. Pretty good, kid. Blewett and Arnaldo Hernandez (another AZFL participant) are the Royals best chances at producing a starting pitcher from the upper-minor league ranks, and this is a fantastic turn in the right direction for one Scott Blewett. Expect him to start in AAA in 2019.
Another dominant performance by a Royals prospect in the AZFL, Hernandez posted an ERA of 1.10 in 9 relief appearances spanning 16.1 IP, in which he struck out 9 hitters. Hernandez’ future role still doesn’t appear to be defined, as I think he could have some value both out of the bullpen and in a starting rotation. In any case, Hernandez’ outstanding performance in prospect finishing school may point to an appearance on the Opening Day roster if he has a good showing in Spring Training.
The former leading rebounder at St. Pius X High School in Kansas City, MO, has done nothing but deal since being drafted by Kansas City back in 2016. He continued his stretch of dominance in the Arizona Fall League where he posted an ERA of 1.50 in 12 IP. Gavin is purely a reliever, but reminds me a bit of Jake Newberry in that, he could fly under the prospect-radar and find his way to Kansas City in 2019 if he continues to pitch like this. The more likely outcome is that we see Grant on Opening Day in 2020 (think Lovelady/Staumont) but it wouldn’t surprise me if the homegrown product makes an appearance next season.
Sheller had his fall cut short after 4.2 IP, but he’s an intriguing relief option for KC that should start off in AA and work his way up to AAA Omaha by the end of 2019 if he stays healthy.