Recency bias is a real thing. Recency bias often makes it difficult to place value on certain things based on the time in which we experience them. Talk about the current Kansas City Royals farm system often centers around the group of college arms taken in the 2018 draft. Those guys were just recently added to the system and just recently made their impressions on Royals fans. Nicky Lopez, Josh Staumont, and Richard Lovelady are other frequently mentioned names because they ought to be in Kansas City very soon.
The group of teenage bats, Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, and Seuly Matias also get their fair share of love for spectacular 2018 seasons. Kelvin Gutierrez, Yohanse Morel, and Blake Perkins, the return in the Kelvin Herrera deal, get their share of attention from prospect sites as shiny new toys in a used-to-be depleted Royals system. All of these guys have a lot in common: almost all of them were added to the system over the last 18 months, and all of them had really good seasons in 2018.
Had Michael Gigliotti not been forced to miss almost the entire 2018 season due to a torn ACL, we very well may be talking about him as the top prospect in this organization. I wholeheartedly believe that. After destroying the Appalachian League to begin his professional career in 2017, Gigliotti was moved to the South Atlantic League (A) where he posted a .797 OPS and 133 wRC+ in 100 PA.
Pretty impressive stuff for a then-21-year old in his first bout in pro ball. “Gigs” didn’t stop there, though. He began his 2019 campaign by posting a .906 OPS, a 165 wRC+ with a HR, a double, and a SB in just 24 PA. That’s a sample size so small that it’s not even worth mentioning in a way, but what’s impressive is just how much Gigs was able to contribute in just six games. He will almost certainly never be a 15-20 HR hitter in the big leagues, but the kid possess a little pop that shouldn’t go completely under the radar.
In addition to his stellar approach at the plate, Michael Gigliotti embodies the “Royal Way” defensively and on the base paths as well. MLB Pipeline currently gives Gigliotti a 65 speed rating and a future 60 grade defensively in CF. He’s not Terrance Gore, but the kid can absolutely fly around the bases and covers CF with the best of ’em (Blake Perkins, for example, is known as one of the organization’s best overall defenders in CF and MLB Pipeline gives him a 60 defensive grade as well).
To get a sense of why I believe that Michael Gigliotti ought to be considered as an option for the Royals top prospect, I want to take a look at Leonys Martin.
Leonys Martin never hit double digit home runs until the age of 28 in 2016, and has a career wRC+ of 83. However, Leonys Martin is averaging 2.5 fWAR per 162 games in his career because he plays stellar defense in CF. In 2018, Leonys Martin raised his wRC+ to 103 (12 points higher than his previous career high) and wound up being worth 2.5 fWAR in just 84 games! Give Leonys Martin a full season’s worth of PA and he’s almost worth 5 wins as a league average hitter. Now imagine if he was just 10% better than league average!
My point is that Michael Gigliotti doesn’t have to be Mike Trout in order to provide tremendous value to the Kansas City Royals. All he has to do is be a slightly above average hitter, and his defense and base running will carry him. Any extra offense you get is just gravy.
That’s not to say he’s a weak hitter, by any stretch of the imagination. After posting an impressive .830 OPS in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2016, Gigs posted a career high .388 wOBA as a junior at Lipscomb. His power numbers dipped a bit in 2017, causing him to fall to the Royals in the 4th round, but Gigliotti was seen as a potential first round talent after his showing in the Cape Cod League.
Center field is one of the easiest positions to gain positive value. Brett Phillips and his 49 wRC+ (meaning he was 51% worse than league average) were worth 0.5 fWAR in 2018. Ender Inciarte, another decent comp for Michael Gigliotti, was worth 2.9 fWAR in 2018 and his wRC+ was only 90.
Michael Gigliotti should not be forgotten in this Royals system. His defense in CF and base running ability will carry him a long way in his professional career. His argument to be a top 3 prospect in this system will return with a vengeance should he prove to be healthy in 2019.
Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)