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, 25-21.
#25: Zach Haake, RHP
- Age: 23 (October 8, 1996)
- Birthplace: Belleville, IL
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 4″ Wt: 186
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (LEX): 75.2 IP, 2.85 ERA, 2.96 FIP, 10.7 K/9, 4.28 BB/9, 0.24 HR/9
After a stellar beginning to his professional career, Haake finds himself at the exact same spot on this list that he found himself at midseason in 2019. When Haake was drafted back in 2018, the numbers during his tenure at Kentucky were quite dreadful. It was made clear though, by both scouts and media, that the numbers were meaningless. Haake possesses a 60-grade fastball that flashes into the upper-90’s and a wipe out changeup that is simply too good for the lower levels of MiLB. He did miss some time on the IL last year, which will be something to watch for as he moves up the organizational ladder. When healthy, Haake possesses really good swing-and-miss stuff that gives him a really good shot at reaching the big leagues in a couple years.
#24: Seuly Matias, OF
- Age: 21 (September 4, 1998)
- Birthplace: La Isabela, Dominican Republic
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 198
- Acquired: International Free Agent
- 2019 stats (WIL): 221 PA, .148/.259/.307/.566, 4 HR, 10 2B, 4 3B, 2 SB, 98 K, 25 BB
I have no problem admitting that I look forward to regretting having Seuly this low on our rankings by May. With that said, he didn’t take a single PA after our last write up at midseason last year, and he was pretty awful in his time with Wilmington.
The good news is that it looks like Seuly tried to play through a broken hand before he was finally shelved for the year in 2019. If the broken hand was the issue here, then Seuly could very well bounce back in a big way in 2020. You know the rest of the story. 80-grade raw power. Cannon for an arm. Hit 31 HR in 94 games back in 2018. Top 100 prospect if he strikes out in less than 30% of his PA. Now we just wait and see.
#23: Evan Steele, LHP
- Age: 23 (November 14, 1996)
- Birthplace: Marietta, GA
- Bats/Throws: R/L
- Ht: 6′ 5″ Wt: 210
- Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (LEX): 49 IP, 2.39 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 10.29 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 0.37 HR/9
He’s going to have to stay healthy for it to matter, but Evan Steele is really freaking good when he’s healthy. Like, he’s probably got better “stuff” than Brady Singer. Steele missed all of 2018 due to a shoulder injury, and then missed a portion of 2019 with an injury as well. While he was healthy he showed flashes of brilliance, though, working his fastball into the mid-90’s and showing off his wipe out slider. If he can just stay healthy enough, I think he can easily be a Richard Lovelady caliber prospect as a reliever. Best case scenario, Steele is fully capable of filling out the back end of a big league rotation one day. I’m just not sure if he’ll be healthy enough to do so.
#22: Brewer Hicklen, OF
- Age: 24 (February 9, 1996)
- Birthplace: Huntsville, AL
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 208
- Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (WIL): 494 PA, .263/.363/.427/.790, 14 HR, 34 XBH, 39 SB, 0.39 BB/K, 131 wRC+
Brewer Hicklen has quite the skill set. Above average arm in the outfield, solid defender, runs well, strong enough to hit for good power. He’s a former college football player at UAB, and has shown off that athleticism in his short professional baseball career so far, amassing 36 HR and 90 SB since being drafted back in 2017. Hicklen had a couple of interesting splits in 2019 that I want to make note of:
- OPS in April: .561
- OPS in May: .836
- OPS in June: .871
- OPS in July: .667
- OPS in August: .943
- OPS against RHP: .728
- OPS against LHP: .962
I don’t think this should be looked into too much, but I do think it’s a good sign that Hicklen was making adjustments as the season went along. Throw out a dreadful start and he had a crazy good rest of the season in 2019. I also don’t think the L/R splits are necessarily a bad thing. He held his own against RHP and dominant splits like that against LHP could help him reach the big leagues in a platoon role if nothing else. I am really, really excited to see how Hicklen handles the jump to AA this year.
#21: Nick Heath, OF
- Age: 26 (November 27, 1993)
- Birthplace: Junction City, KS
- Bats/Throws: L/L
- Ht: 6′ 1″ Wt: 187
- Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (NWA): 375 PA, .255/.332/.382/.714, 6 HR, 23 XBH, 50 SB, 0.34 BB/K, 102 wRC+
Before we talk about Nick Heath the baseball player, I want to take a minute to remind you how good of a dude he is. Nick has been one of, if not the kindest person to our staff here at RFR. He’s never turned down an interview, and even jumped on our podcast earlier this offseason. You won’t find an easier guy to root for in baseball, and Nick’s play on the field just keeps getting better as he moves through the org.
Heath was finally added to the Royals 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and we’re probably not more than a couple of months away now from seeing his big league debut. Heath stole 60 bases last year in just 105 games, and added over 40 points to his ISO upon reaching AA. Heath has a case for the title of best defender in the Royals system, and takes a bunch of walks at the plate, creating value for himself at the plate as well as defensively. Heath won’t have to do much more than he’s already done to reach the big leagues this year. His legs and defense alone create a ton of value, especially for a rebuilding KC team.
Photo Credits: Chase d’Arnaud
Photo Rights: Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33)