Comparing the Royals’ farm system with the AL Central, Part 1: Cleveland

At the time of writing this, Cleveland had edged out Chicago by 2%, so Cleveland it shall be. For this experiment, we’re going to use our own top 30 Royals prospects and compare it to the other four farm systems in the AL Central. For the other four teams, we’ll use Baseball America’s top 30 prospects list, because I simply don’t have the time to break down 50 prospects in every other farm system and rank them. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the Royals top 30 prospects compared with the Cleveland Indians.

Royals Farm Top 30 Cleveland Indians
1. MJ Melendez 1. Triston McKenzie
2. Brady Singer 2. Nolan Jones
3. Daniel Lynch 3. Tyler Freeman
4. Khalil Lee 4. Bo Naylor
5. Nicky Lopez 5. George Valera
6. Jackson Kowar 6. Sam Hentges
7. Seuly Matias 7. Bobby Bradley
8. Nick Pratto 8. Louis Oviedo
9. Michael Gigliotti 9. Brayan Rocchio
10. Yefri Del Rosario 10. Ethan Hankins
11. Kyle Isbel 11. Yu Chang
12. Richard Lovelady 12. Gabriel Rodriguez
13. Arnaldo Hernandez 13. Carlos Vargas
14. Austin Cox 14. Daniel Johnson
15. Carlos Hernandez 15. Aaron Civale
16. Kris Bubic 16. Oscar Mercado
17. Gabriel Cancel 17. Jean Carlos Mejia
18. Brewer Hicklen 18. Ernie Clement
19. Sam McWilliams 19. Aaron Brocho
20. Josh Staumont 20. Lenny Torres
21. Yohanse Morel 21. Will Benson
22. Meibrys Viloria 22. Oscar Gonzalez
23. Blake Perkins 23. Raynel Delgado
24. Charlie Neuweiler 24. Nick Sandlin
25. Kelvin Gutierrez 25. Eric Haase
26. Scott Blewett 26. Junior Sanquintin
27. Daniel Tillo 27. Quentin Holmes
28. Jeison Guzman 28. Richard Palacios
29. Nick Heath 29. Johnathan Rodriguez
30. Emmanuel Rivera 30. Kirk McCarty

Comparing top 3s:

This is truly a tough comparison. Do you prefer floor, or ceiling? Do you care about proximity to the big leagues? McKenzie and Jones have both appeared in AA, and Nolan Jones may have the safest floor of all six prospects we’re comparing here. McKenzie is a bonafide top 100 prospect, but so is Brady Singer. Here’s how this breaks down for me:

  • Triston McKenzie > Brady Singer
  • MJ Melendez > Nolan Jones
  • Daniel Lynch >> Tyler Freeman

To go further with that, Triston McKenzie is a bit of a better prospect than Brady Singer. MJ Melendez is a bit better than Nolan Jones, and I’d much rather have Daniel Lynch at this point that Tyler Freeman. Freeman, a 2B prospect for Cleveland, will be 20 years old this season and is yet to debut in full season ball. He destroyed short-season A-ball in 2018, but his BABIP was an unsustainable .372 and he walked at a rate of 2.7%. He doesn’t project as an elite defender at 2B and Daniel Lynch looks like a budding star from the left side of the mound. I was pretty even on the two systems for the top two, but Daniel Lynch sets KC above Cleveland for me.

Edge for the top 3 prospects: Kansas City

Comparing the top 10s:

I really like Bo Naylor and Nolan Jones for Cleveland. Louis Oviedo dominated short-season A-ball as a 19-year old, but he’s no Yefri Del Rosario. Ethan Hankins is probably rated a little too low on Cleveland’s list, but I think the Royals have 3-4 pitchers I’d take over him at this point. Brayan Rocchio just burst onto the scene in 2018, and as much as I like what he did in his first professional season, he’s not yet played in A-ball. Nicky Lopez, Khalil Lee, and the Royals crop of 2018 college pitchers give the Royals a really nice touch of high floor with a flash of ceiling, and the Royals are simply deeper than Cleveland in the top 10.

Edge for the top 10: Kansas City

Comparing the pitchers:

Triston McKenzie is the best pitching prospect between the two systems, and Sam Hentges is a good arm from the left side as well, but the Royals farm system is all of a sudden loaded with arms. In fact, 14 of the Royals top 30 prospects are pitchers, according to our rankings here at Royals Farm. Only 10 of Cleveland’s top 30 prospects are pitchers according to Baseball America. The Indians have pitching prospect #1 between the two teams, but the Royals probably have #2-4 and #6-10. The depth and top-end talent feel pretty clear here, especially if the Royals were to get Elvis Luciano back from Toronto.

Edge for the pitchers: Kansas City

Comparing the position players:

This one is trickier. The Royals and Indians are actually kind of similar in the position player core, as both systems are fairly young with more ceiling than floor present. I’m going to give the Royals the edge in floor because they do a great job developing great defensive players and base runners. Almost all of the Royals top position prospects project to be plus defenders. Seuly Matias is the exception and he’s even got a cannon for an arm.

The Indians though have Nolan Jones and some really intriguing ceilings in the lower minors. They’re also a bit deeper in the position player crop overall which is the foundation of what you want your farm to be built on. Position players are far easier to predict than pitchers, and the Indians have some intriguing batters following the footsteps of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. The Royals tippy top hitting prospects make this close, and this could look a lot different after the MLB Draft in June, but for now I’ll give the nod to Cleveland based on the depth and potential ceilings of some top prospects.

Edge for position players: Cleveland

Baseball America had Cleveland’s system ranked 16th in baseball and Kansas City 27th. I’m here to tell you that that is a joke. Call me a homer or what ever else you want, I really don’t care. Pitcher heavy be damned, the Royals don’t have the 4th worst farm system in baseball. Only time can prove me right, but once the Royals add the #2 and #42 picks in this year’s draft to the system, they’ll be really close to the top 12-13 systems in baseball in my opinion.

I gave Kansas City the edge over Cleveland in the top 3 comparison, the top 10 comparison, and in the pitcher comparison, but it was close in all 3. I think the Royals have a better farm system than Cleveland, but it’s close. Taking vague looks at all 30 farm systems, I’d currently have the Royals somewhere between 19-15 and Cleveland in the same range, just behind KC. With the recent injury news to Triston McKenzie in Indians camp, the Royals are closing the gap at the top of the lists and I think the Royals are certainly deeper overall when it comes to known commodities. I really like Cleveland’s system, and I think there’s some helium there that could propel them into the top 15 if their young guys play well this year, but I’m too high on this Royals group to put Cleveland ahead of them right now.

Winner: Kansas City

Photo Credits: PLPhoto2015 (@PPhoto2015)

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