Happy New Year and welcome back! We have now been writing about the Royals farm system for 18 months and it’s only going to get better from here. We started off our original prospect rankings with 30, expanded to 100, and now we’re coming back to earth a bit. Are there 100 worthy names in the Kansas City Royals system? Absolutely. Are there always 100 names worthy of being on the list…well…
So here we go. The Kansas City Royals top 75 prospects as brought to you by six members of your Royals Farm Report staff. Joel, Drake, Drew, Josh, Pat, and I voted on our top 75 Royals prospects and then ran a collective ranking. We will release five prospects a day, starting with 75, working our way down to #5 where our top 5 prospects will all get their own article. So, without further ado, here we go!
20. Josh Staumont, RHP
DOB: 12/21/1993 (25 YO)
Ht/Wt: 6’3″ 200′
Levels Played, 2018: AAA
Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft
2018 Stats: 74.1 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 12.47 K/9, 6.3 BB/9, 0.48 HR/9, 43.8% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: MLB
Josh Staumont has become something of Royals folklore than an actual prospect. Almost everyone has heard of him, and yet almost no one has seen him throw. Staumont turned 25 yeas old in December and the right-handed flame thrower, who was once the Royals top prospect, is still yet to make his debut. Luckily for Royals fans, I’m here to tell you that everything changes in 2019.
Among pitchers to record at least 70 IP in the PCL (AAA) in 2018, here is how Josh Staumont ranked in certain categories:
- 2nd in K/9
- 2nd to last in BB/9
- 4th in BAA (batting average against)
- 9th in HR/9
- 8th in SwStr%
- 5th in LD%
The kid’s stuff is absolutely filthy. There’s no one that would deny him of that. But you can’t walk 6.3 batters per 9 innings pitched either. The control is the only thing stopping Staumont from reaching the big leagues.
We finally got to see Staumont take on more of a long-term bullpen role in 2018, which is probably where is future lies in the big leagues. This is great news for Royals fans. Staumont is a now former starter who is used to throwing multiple innings at a time. He could serve as a lethal weapon in the 7th and 8th innings in Kansas City, or as an opener.
The opener is something of a new revelation in big league baseball, brought on strong by the Tampa Bay Rays. Josh Staumont is the perfect candidate to be an opener in Kansas City. Ryne Stanek, one of the Rays openers in 2018, had tons of success 1-2 innings at a time “opening” games. I don’t have the time or space to explain all of that right now, but stay tuned to the site. I’ll have something out in the next week or so detailing why I think Josh Staumont could have one hell of a career as an opener for Kansas City.
19. Sam McWilliams, RHP
DOB: 9/4/1995 (23 YO)
Ht/Wt: 6’7″ 190′
Levels Played, 2018: A+, AA
Acquired: 2015 Rule 5 Draft
2018 Stats (AA): 100.1 IP, 5.02 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 8.43 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9, 39.1% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: MLB
Christmas came early for the guys at Royals Farm Report when the Royals selected Sam McWilliams with the #2 overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft. McWilliams, our number one target, is a 6′ 7″ 23-year old that throws in the mid-90’s. He ranked 8th in SwStr% in the Southern League (AA) among pitchers that recorded at least 80 IP in 2018, as his pitches appear to be coming from the sky. Need I tell you anything else?
McWilliams has been really good for most of his career in the control department, and struggled for the first time upon reaching AA. However, if you cherry pick 5 of his last 6 starts that he made in 2018 (he walked five batters in his final outing), the BB/9 drop down to 2.12. This is a bad way to judge McWilliams, but it could give us some insight on the fact that his command was improving a bit as he closed out the 2018 season.
McWilliams is still developing as a starter and probably won’t receive any starts in the first half of 2019. The Royals have some guys they need to look at and McWilliams will certainly benefit from the Brad Keller route of 2018. Start in the bullpen, learn to be aggressive with your pitches, and then end the year as a starter. McWilliams did a lot of moving around in 2018 (was traded and promoted) and could also benefit from some organizational stability. I have no doubts about this pick working out for Kansas City, and I expect McWilliams to be on the big league roster at year’s end.
18. Brewer Hicklen, OF
DOB: 2/9/1996 (22 YO)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″ 208′
Levels Played, 2018: A, A+
Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
2018 Stats (A): 347 PA, .307/.378/.552/.930, 17 HR, 18 2B, 29 SB, 6.9% BB%, 28% K%, 162 wRC+
Projected level to begin 2019: A+
The tools are loud and they are impressive. Let’s just jump right into it, here is how Hicklen ranked in the SALLY last summer in a few categories (min. 250 PA):
- 2nd in wRC+
- 2nd in OPS
- 4th in ISO
- 10th in HR
- 5th in SB
The kid is uber talented. He played football at UAB and didn’t start focusing on baseball until the 2017 season, so we haven’t even begun to realize his potential yet. The reason that Hicklen, arguably the Lexington Legends best player in 2018, doesn’t find himself higher on this list is mostly due to his peripheral statistics. His BABIP was unworldly high, he swings and misses a little too often, hits too many ground balls, and is a bit too old for the level.
But the tools are just overwhelming. Hicklen was promoted to High-A Wilmington in the middle of July because he was abusing Low-A pitchers, but returned in August after Seuly Matias went on the DL to end the season to help Lexington win the South Atlantic League Championship. He will almost certainly start the year with Wilmington again, where the outfield of Hicklen, Isbel, and Matias should wreak havoc among Carolina League pitchers. Should Hicklen get off to another hot start, I would not be surprised at all to see him in AA by July (much like Lee’s promotion in 2018), and in the Royals top prospects by mid-season.
17. Gabriel Cancel, 2B
DOB: 12/8/1996 (22 YO)
Ht/Wt: 6’1″ 185′
Levels Played, 2018: A+
Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft
2018 Stats: 507 PA, .259/.316/.385/.701, 8 HR, 31 2B, 6.9% BB%, 17.9% K%, 97 wRC+
Projected level to begin 2019: AA
I am so excited to watch Gabriel Cancel in 2019. Anyone who isn’t needs to see the following thread:
So there ya go. Using a bit of historical data, Royals fans should expect Cancel to hit something in the neighborhood of 25 doubles and 13-15 HR if he’s given a full season’s worth of PA at AA in 2019. (I have a fear that he won’t be given the opportunity, so this may be a big IF, but hey.)
Cancel isn’t exactly the Royals prototypical prospect. While he has played multiple positions on the infield in the minor leagues, much of that is due to need. Cancel is capable of playing 2B long-term, but there are some that think a move to third may be necessary, which obviously wouldn’t help his stock. He runs well, but he doesn’t have that top-notch speed that the Royals love either.
The one thing that Cancel can do is hit, and he hits a lot. He doesn’t walk much, but he did improve his BB% by a percent and a half in 2018, and he cut down on his K% by 5%!!! He lead the Carolina League in doubles and his 10.1% SwStr% is impressive for a guy that put up 40 XBH in his age-21 season.
Like I mentioned in the tweet above, if Gabriel Cancel were to hit ~15 HR and ~25 doubles in the Texas League in 2019, while continuing to improve his K/BB ratio, he’s a top 10 (5-6 may have been generous) talent in the system. I do worry that he won’t get the opportunity, for a multitude of reasons, but he’s a guy that should be getting top priority at 2B in 2019.
16. Kris Bubic, LHP
DOB: 8/19/1997 (21 YO)
Ht/Wt: 6’3″ 220′
Levels Played, 2018: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
2018 Stats: 38 IP, 4.03 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 12.55 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9, 44.1% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: A
Ignore the ERA. Kris Bubic didn’t leave the Pioneer League in 2018 which can be downright mean to pitchers. In fact, Bubic’s 3.97 FIP was good for 13th in the Pioneer League among pitchers with at least 30 IP in 2018. It’s a tough place to pitch, and Bubic handled it well for his first go at professional baseball.
Due to a bit of a roster crunch, Bubic didn’t see Lexington in 2018. He’ll almost certainly start his 2019 campaign in Lexington though, where he ought to get a pretty quick promotion to High-A when ever one of Lynch/Kowar/Singer get the bump to AA (similarly to Charlie Neuweiler). Bubic showed steady improvement in his strikeout rate at Stanford, and that continued with the Chukars. He’s an advanced arm that should move quickly through the system and give the Royals a formidable rotation of Lynch/Singer/Kowar/Bubic really soon. This should be a fun development to watch.