2019 Royals Farm Report Mid-Season Prospect Rankings: 25-16

Welcome back. This version of our prospect rankings will look eerily similar to the rankings we released in our E-Book right before the MLB Draft at the very beginning of June. We made some minor tweaks to the rankings themselves, but most of the changes will simply reflect the prospects that Kansas City added through the draft.

Please remember that these rankings mean absolutely nothing outside of a few peoples’ opinions. If we leave your favorite player off of our rankings, that doesn’t mean they won’t become a successful big leaguer. Please enjoy these rankings for what they are, our  opinions. As always, thank you for reading, and do enjoy the release of our newest Royals prospect ranking!

#25: Zach Haake, RHP

  • Age: 22 (October 8, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Belleville, IL
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 186
  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (Lexington): 34.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 46 K, 18 BB

Haake opened his 2019 campaign on absolute fire. Through his first five starts of the season (through April 27th), Haake had an ERA of 1.73 with 36 K and just 9 BB in 26 IP. When Haake was drafted last June, he came to KC having struggled mightily at Kentucky that spring. In 34 innings at Kentucky in 2018, Haake walked 22 batters in 34 IP and posted an 8.47 ERA. Haake’s stuff has always been intriguing. His fastball can run up into the mid to upper 90’s, and when his slider and changeup are on, they are absolutely filthy. Haake missed a lot of time this season (on the IL after his start on April 27th through a rehab start on June 17th), but he’s back now and hasn’t quite looked like his early 2019 self since returning. That’ll be worth keeping an eye on, but if Haake can get back to his early season self, he’s a really intriguing arm.

#24: Evan Steele, LHP

  • Age: 22 (November 14, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Marietta, GA
  • Bats/Throws: R/L
  • Ht: 6′ 5″ Wt: 210
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (Lexington): 36 IP, 1.50 ERA, 35 K, 9 BB

Evan Steele is one of my favorite pitching prospects in this system. His pure stuff is absolutely filthy. Steele is a tall, lanky lefty that can bring some funk from the left side along with a 95 mph fastball.

When Evan Steele is healthy, he’s one of the nastiest pitchers in this entire system. Part of it is the stuff itself, part of it is the fact that Steele is 6′ 5″ and left-handed, and part of it is the funky hitch in his delivery. I mentioned in the most recent episode of our podcast, but I think a healthy Evan Steele’s floor is Richard Lovelady. A nasty left-handed reliever with funk and a chance to work in super high leverage situations. His ceiling is Danny Duffy. A #3 or #4 on a playoff team with flashes of brilliance. If we can keep Evan Steele healthy, he’s legitimately one of the best prospects in this system.

#23: Carlos Hernandez, RHP

  • Age: 22 (March 11, 1997)
  • Birthplace: Guayana, Venezuela
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 175
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2019 stats (AZL): 7 IP, 10.29 ERA, 6 K, 2 BB

You can pretty much insert Evan Steele’s entire write up here. Carlos Hernandez is a big dude with nasty stuff and, now, a history of shoulder problems. When healthy, the dude is a top 20 prospect in this system. Until he gets healthy, though, it’s tough to know what we’re going to get from Hernandez. Hopefully he’ll be out of the AZL and back to Lexington or Wilmington soon.

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#22: Austin Cox, LHP

  • Age: 22 (March 28, 1997)
  • Birthplace: Macon, GA
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 185
  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (Lexington): 75.1 IP, 2.75 ERA, 77 K, 22 BB

The biggest concern I had with Austin Cox heading into 2019 was whether or not he could command the ball enough to remain a starter through his minor league career. Cox still doesn’t command the ball any kind of great. He’s around the strike zone enough to generate swings, but he doesn’t spot up like Kris Bubic or Brady Singer. He relies on his stuff to get hitters to chase the ball out of the zone more than he does his own command.

I tend to hold reservations on pitchers like that. I give pitchers a huge bump in my rankings when they get a ton of outs inside the strike zone. Pitchers that rely on swings and misses to get their outs are great, but if hitters begin to lay off, they run into trouble. Not that I think it will inherently be a problem for Cox, I’d just like to see him develop a little bit better command as he moves through the system. If he does that, he’s a big league starter in my eyes. The kid’s stuff, like the three pitchers listed just before him on this list, is nasty. The ability to command the ball is what will carry Cox to the big leagues.

#21: Jonathan Bowlan, RHP

  • Age: 22 (December 1, 1996)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 6″ Wt: 262
  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (Lexington): 69.2 IP, 3.36 ERA, 74 K, 10 BB

Jonathan Bowlan is pretty much the opposite of the four pitchers listed before him here. Bowlan’s stuff is good, but not great. Bowlan has a relatively clean bill of health and plus command, but he is a monster of a human being like the other four (to recap, the average height of the five pitchers listed here so far is 6′ 4.5″). Bowlan has walked a total of 11 batters in 81.2 IP in 2019 and is currently running up a GB% of 44.8%. He wasn’t my favorite pick when the Royals drafted him last year, but he’s really come into his own since turning pro. He continues at this pace, and there’s no reason he can’t continue starting through his minor league career.

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#20: Emmanuel Rivera, 3B

  • Age: 23 (June 29, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 195
  • Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (NWA): 308 PA, .264/.310/.393/.703, 7 HR, 11 2B, 2 3B, 38 K, 17 BB

Finally, a position player! Emmanuel Rivera has been pretty up and down so far in 2019. He’s a great defensive third baseman, and he’s exhibited more power than I’ve seen from him recently. Rivera has always done a great job of putting the bat on the ball, but the power was always kind of the big question. There were some that wondered if Rivera would hit for enough power to be able to play third base at the highest level. He’s flashed more raw pop this year, but the overall numbers still aren’t where you’d like them to be. If Rivera keeps improving, I think his defensive abilities, combined with his ability to make great contact, will carry him to the big leagues.

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#19: Meibrys Viloria, C

  • Age: 22 (February 15, 1997)
  • Birthplace: Cartagena, Colombia
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Ht: 5′ 11″ Wt: 220
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2019 stats (NWA): 216 PA, .263/.349/.326/.675, 1 HR, 9 2B, 52 K, 22 BB

Another position player! Meibrys Viloria posted a .378 OPS for the MONTH OF APRIL. Then in May, he got better, but his OPS was just .652 for the month. His OPS on the season is now .675, so I’m sure you can start running some quick math on your own, but I’ll tell you anyway. Viloria’s OPS for the month of June was 1.056 (granted he was injured for a bit), and has started July with a 1.111 OPS in 9 AB. We got to see a glimpse of what Viloria can do last September with KC, and even though the power hasn’t quite come around full blown just yet, Viloria has gotten on base at an incredible clip so far in 2019. I think there’s a chance we’ll see Viloria in Kansas City again later this summer, which means this could be, in theory, the last time you see Viloria on our prospect rankings.

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#18: Yohanse Morel, RHP

  • Age: 18 (August 23, 2000)
  • Birthplace: Samana, Dominican Republic
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 0″ Wt: 170
  • Acquired: Trade for Kelvin Herrera
  • 2019 stats (Lexington): 21.2 IP, 7.06 ERA, 21 K, 9 BB

Between Yohanse Morel and Yefri Del Rosario, the Royals have a pair of wild card teenagers that have tremendous upside. Morel’s changeup is one of the nastier offerings that I’ve seen in the Royals system. Right up there with Josh Staumont’s curveball, Jackson Kowar’s changeup, and Daniel Lynch’s slider. Morel isn’t very tall, but he’s definitely gained weight to the point where he weighs plenty more than his listed 170′. Morel is still just 18 years old, so his future is no certainty, but man, if he ever puts it all together, this kid is going to be special.

#17: Brewer Hicklen, OF

  • Age: 23 (February 9, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Huntsville, AL
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 208
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (Wilmington): 288 PA, .275/.412/.393/.805, 3 HR, 8 2B, 5 3B, 28 SB, 82 K, 45 BB

Brewer Hicklen needs a promotion, pronto. This kid has been on absolute fire since the calendar turned to May. After posting an OPS of just .561 in April, Hicklen posted an .836 OPS in May and an .871 OPS in June. Hicklen’s speed/power combo is impressive, to say the least, but we may not even be fully tapped into Hicklen’s ability yet. Hicklen was a two-sport athlete at UAB, and has only been focused on baseball for two years now. Hicklen still strikes out a bit too much, 28.5% of his PA as a 23-year old in A-ball, but he’s started walking more than he has at any point in his professional career, and the power has come around of late as well. Hicklen is going to be a slow burn development, but the kid is wildly talented.

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#16: Erick Pena, OF

  • Age: 16 (February 20, 2003)
  • Birthplace: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 180
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2019 stats: N/A

The #5 overall international prospect in the 2019 class according to MLB Pipeline, Erick Pena brings a much needed boost to this KC system. Here’s what MLB Pipeline has to say about the 16-year old outfielder:

Think of Carlos Beltran. Now think of what Beltran might have looked like at 15 or 16 and you understand why evaluators love Pena’s skill set and potential.

It’s too early to guess what type of pro career Pena will have, but we do know the young athletic outfielder can hit and play defense. The offensive-oriented outfielder can run enough to make the organization that signs him think about keeping him in center field as he makes his way through the Minor Leagues.

Pena’s bat and power are his best tools at the moment, but the other parts of his game are not far behind. The left-handed hitter has a sound hitting approach with a slight uppercut swing and hard contact to all fields. He has shown strength and quickness through the strike zone and the ball jumps off of his bat. He projects to have plus power and does not have a lot of swing and miss.

To be 100% transparent here, this is mostly a good-faith projection here. I’ve seen the videos of Erick Pena on Twitter, but we have nothing else to go off of him here. The athleticism, the swing, the profile, that’s what we’ve got. FanGraphs currently has Pena ranked as the Royals #11 overall prospect, wedged between Kyle Isbel and Richard Lovelady. Neither MLB Pipeline nor Baseball America have reranked their lists yet, but I trust FanGraphs, to an extent (they don’t have Gabriel Cancel on their top 38 so, ya know). If Pena is everything he’s been advertised as, he might be this organization’s #2 prospect. Until we get to see more of him though, we’ll keep him outside the top 15.


Photo Credits: Ben Badler (@BenBadler)

7 thoughts on “2019 Royals Farm Report Mid-Season Prospect Rankings: 25-16

  1. Evan at 24 is way too low. I think by the end of the year he will be Top 5 his stuff is filthy. Every time I see him I get more excited.

    Brewer at 17 is probably too low but he needs to be in AA due to age. I saw him in April and didn’t think much but the more I’ve seen him the more I appreciate his skill set. I hate to say this but he’s probably the best position player in Wilmington due to huge concerns with swing and miss for the big guys there (I’m going to say before seeing your rankings that MJ and Pratto are too high)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to see all these pitchers toward the top of the list. If they keep developing (some are bound to stall), DM can trade for the position players we are lacking. Pitching, baseball currency, and all that.

    Why they keep drafting these highly athletic guys without much of a hit tool is beyond me. Sure, take a flier on a couple each draft, but the cupboard is looking rather bare for position players hitting their way to the bigs because of this stategy.

    Liked by 1 person

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