Welcome back. This is now the third edition of our preseason prospect rankings here at Royals Farm Report. Before we get into the rankings, there is a lot that has changed here at the site that I want to catch you up on.
First of all, our founding father and fearless leader, Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner), is now working on the analytics team for Kansas State Baseball. One of our writers, Joel Penfield (@jtpenfield), was picked up by 2080 Baseball doing scouting in the Texas League. Another writer and editor, Joshua Payton (@josh_payton), was hired by Excelsior Leader Sports as their new Director of Baseball Operations.
We’re all busy people, but with the turnover we’ve had recently things are going to be a little different around here. You’ll still see a lot of familiar names writing here, it may just be in different capacities. In any case, we’d like to like to sincerely thank all of you for reading along. As you can tell from above, this website has given our writers access to opportunities bigger and better than we ever could have imagined. We love sharing our love of Minor League Baseball, and of the Royals, with you, and we thank you for allowing us to do so.
Without further ado, here are our 2020 preseason prospect rankings, 45-41.
#45: DJ Burt, UTIL
- Age: 24 (October 13, 1995)
- Birthplace: Fuquay-Varina, NC
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 5′ 9″ Wt: 160
- Acquired: 2014 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (NWA): 296 PA, .226/.303/.304/.607, 3 HR, 12 XBH, 26 SB, 0.44 BB/K, 74 wRC+
DJ Burt is among a long line of Royals prospects that can absolutely fly. He’s stolen 129 bases over his last five seasons and wreaks all kinds of havoc on the bases in the minors. He plays multiple positions well, both on the infield and in the outfield, and fits the bill for guys that the Royals like to have in their system. He’s had a knack for getting on base in his career, but strikes out too much for a guy that has never hit five home runs in a season. This is a theme among some of the prospects we’ve written up on this part of our Royals prospects list, but Burt is going to have a big “prove it” year in 2020. If he can prove that he can handle AA pitching, he’ll have a legitimate chance to compete for a spot on the big league roster in September. If not, he may get left behind heading into 2021.
#44: Foster Griffin, LHP
- Age: 24 (July 27, 1995)
- Birthplace: Orlando, FL
- Bats/Throws: R/L
- Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 220
- Acquired: 2014 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (OMA): 130.2 IP, 5.23 ERA, 5.74 FIP, 7.65 K/9, 4.41 BB/9, 1.38 HR/9
Griffin’s 5.23 ERA may not look like much on the surface, but it was actually average compared to the rest of the PCL last year. Among 20 qualified pitchers in the PCL, Griffin’s ERA ranked 10th and his FIP was 11th. Lower the innings requirement to 70 IP and his ERA ranked 33rd out of 74 and his FIP 39th. Griffin will never be a high strikeout guy, and he walked way too many hitters win 2019 to survive in the big leagues, but it’s still too early to write him off. Griffin doesn’t throw very hard, but he has a very good curveball and, while his changeup has never been super effective, I think the pitch has good shape and at least potential to be an average third offering in the big leagues. I don’t think Griffin’s future in the big leagues is in the rotation, but he could potentially serve as a Brian Flynn-like swing-man between spot starts and the bullpen…as soon as he adjusts to the new ball.
#43: Grant Gambrell, RHP
- Age: 22 (November 21, 1997)
- Birthplace: Clovis, CA
- Bats/Throws: L/R
- Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 225
- Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (IDF): 27 IP, 6.67 ERA, 5.83 FIP, 9.33 K/9, 3.67 BB/9, 1.67 HR/9
Grant Gambrell is my candidate for “Jonathan Bowlan of 2020” in the Royals system. Kind of an afterthought after a couple of high-profile prospects were drafted in front of him, didn’t exactly have a stellar professional debut in 2019, wasn’t exactly dominant in college, but I like the frame and profile enough to be excited for his sophomore season in the minors. Gambrell’s curveball is definitely his best pitch, registering a well above average spin rate, but he can run his fastball into the mid-90’s too. He profiles more as a reliever for me than as a starter long-term, but I think his fastball/curveball combo will help him fly through the lower minors in 2020.
#42: Omar Florentino, SS
- Age: 18 (October 26, 2001)
- Birthplace: San Juan De La Maguana, Dominican Republic
- Bats/Throws: S/R
- Ht: 5′ 9″ Wt: 145
- Acquired: International Free Agent
- 2019 stats (DSL): 219 PA, .227/.344/.335/.679, 2 HR, 13 XBH, 14 SB, 0.76 BB/K, 96 wRC+
Omar Florentino got off to a really slow start to his 2019 season after being one of the two most exciting prospects that Kansas City had heading into the DSL season. Over the last month of the season though, Florentino hit .301/.381/.441/.822 with a 0.73 BB/K ratio and 128 wRC+ over his final 105 PA. Florentino makes great movements in the field for a (now) 18-year old and he profiles as more of a power hitter than his future teammate Wilmin Candelario. Florentino is super young and super high risk still, but he’s got an extremely high ceiling as well and will be a ton of fun to watch the next couple of seasons.
#41: Travis Jones, UTIL
- Age: 24 (September 29, 1995)
- Birthplace: Humble, TX
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 210
- Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (NWA): 227 PA, .262/.354/.359/.713, 3 HR, 12 XBH, 16 SB, 0.36 BB/K, 106 wRC+
I’m starting to buy stock into Travis Jones. He strikes out too much (26%), doesn’t quite walk enough (9.3%), and hits too many ground balls (50%), but he hits the ball really hard and he is really athletic. He can play the corner outfield spots as well as first base, and runs well for a bigger guy. He’s going to have to continue making adjustments at the plate, but I am really intrigued by the profile. He has crushed the baseball at every level of professional baseball so far and had it not been for an injury in 2019, he’d started to look adjust to the AA level as well. Fans have every reason to be a bit skeptical, but I’m excited to see what he can do under new hitting coordinator Drew Saylor in 2020.
Photo Credits: Alex Trautwig – Getty Images