Before we get started, I have to say that Ryan’s article (that you can read here) inspired me to dive into finding a prospect that could break the Royals home run record. For those of you that might not know, the Royals single season home run record was set in 2017 by Mike Moustakas with 38 home runs, breaking the previous record of 36 home runs by Steve Balboni in 1985.
For this exercise I’ll only consider players that are prospects, so players like Hunter Dozier or Jorge Soler (who is on pace to break the record) will not be listed below. Should Soler break the record, it would obviously make it more difficult for anyone to break the record. Listed below are some of the Royals top prospects that I think may have a chance to break the record.
Seuly Matias, OF:
Matias is probably one of the first guys you think of when it comes to the power department, with future 60 grade power according to MLB Pipeline. Matias last year as a 19-year old at Low-A Lexington, began tapping into that majestic power, hitting 31 home runs in 94 games That broke the Lexington Legends home run record in a single season. Seuly does have a ton of swing and miss in his game, as he struck out 131 times in those 94 games. In 2019, Seuly Matias has struggled mightily at High-A Wilmington. Slashing .148/.259/.307 with only four home runs in 57 games, and his strikeout rates have gone up even higher this year. Now granted he is hitting in a pitcher friendly environment but he shouldn’t be struggling this bad. Matias definitely has a ton of pop in his bat and if he can figure it out and put it all together he could have monster home run seasons. Note: Seuly Matias is currently on the IL with a fracture in his left hand after being HBP.
Gabriel Cancel, 2B:
The twenty-two-year old, right-handed hitting second baseman, has been an extra-base machine in his minor league career, and this year with Northwest Arkansas has been no different. Cancel has hit 18 doubles to go along with 13 home runs and is slugging .492. Cancel probably doesn’t have the potential to break the record, but the kid has been impressive.
Bobby Witt Jr., SS:
The extremely talented shortstop had some of the best raw power in this years draft class according to Fangraphs. Fangraphs graded Witt a 30/60 present/future game power, and a 60/65 present/future raw power. Adding some muscle to his 6’1”, 190 lbs. frame could help Bobby Witt Jr. reach his power potential. He has yet to play a professional game after being drafted, and then signed on June 12. If Witt makes it to the show, he could make some runs at the Royals home run record.
Khalil Lee, OF:
Lee is an interesting player, he’s got good raw power and in 2017 he hit 17 home runs in 121 games as a 19 year old at Low-A Lexington. Everybody was excited for the future of Khalil Lee after that season, thinking if he could cut down on his strikeouts he would take a huge stride forward as a prospect. Well he cut down on his strikeouts but his power has disappeared. Hitting six home runs in 100 games in 2018 between High-A and AA. I will say that Lee has had a very solid year offensively, but this year hasn’t been much better for Lee in the power department as he has just five home runs in 68 games at AA Northwest Arkansas.
It could be an approach adjustment, sacrificing power for more contact so he could utilize his speed more often. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case, especially with the Royals history of wanting players to make contact and use their speed. Lee is still only 21 years old, so maybe it’s Lee being younger than the competition at his level. Maybe as he gets older his power will return. Khalil Lee has good raw power in his bat, and if he could start lifting and driving the ball like he did in 2017, he should find that power stroke in games again. If he does we could be looking at 20+ home runs a season at the major league level.
MJ Melendez, C:
MJ has some serious raw power in his bat, but he’s not always able to translate that into game power, especially this year. Last year at Lexington he hit 19 home runs, but has dropped off this year as he has just five home runs at Wilmington. As I said earlier, the Carolina League isn’t the most hitter friendly environment. We could say his lack of home runs is influenced by that, but it probably isn’t the only reason, as he has struggled across the board hitting. If/when Melendez makes it to the major leagues, I think he could potentially hit around 20 home runs a season. If he were to find a way to translate that raw power into game power more consistently, he may push 30 or more home runs a season.
Nick Pratto, 1B:
I don’t even know where to begin with Pratto, because just like Matias and Melendez, Pratto showed good power last year belting 14 home runs and 33 doubles at Lexington. But this year his hitting has disappeared, as he only has 13 extra base hits, three home runs and ten doubles in 71 games with Wilmington. If Pratto puts it together, he could potentially hit around 25 home runs a season.
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B:
I originally wasn’t planning on having Pasquantino in here, but I decided to add him after his hot start (plus his name is fun to say and type). Twenty-one year old Pasquantino, was drafted this year in the 11th round out of Old Dominion. The left-handed hitting first baseman showed good power this last year at Old Dominion. Hitting 15 home runs, and driving in 53 runs in 54 games. Pasquantino also showed good plate discipline walking more than he struck out. Pasquantino is a big guy standing 6’4”, 245 pounds. Vinnie was assigned to rookie league Burlington to start his pro career, and in 36 PA he has four home runs (two 2-home run games) and an OPS of 1.007. I honestly don’t know much about Pasquantino as I couldn’t find any scouting reports, but his hot start looks promising.
Seuly Matias would be the obvious pick to break the record based upon his pure power, but my concern is that his hit tool will never progress enough for him to even make the major leagues. Witt’s hit tool isn’t great either so that could potentially hinder him a bit. In conclusion, I don’t think there is a great option in the Royals farm system to break the home run record. If I had to pick one though, I’d say Bobby Witt Jr. has the best chance to break the Royals single season home run record.
Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)