Royals Farm Report’s 2020 Preseason Prospect Rankings: 20-16

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.

You can check out or 2019 midseason top 75 here.

Without further ado, here are our 2020 preseason prospect rankings, 20-16.

#20: Josh Staumont, RHP

  • Age: 26 (December 21, 1993)
  • Birthplace: La Habra, CA
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 200
  • Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (OMA): 51.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 12.97 K/9, 6.49 BB/9, 0.70 HR/9

Josh Staumont doesn’t really need much of an introduction here. You know the story by now. Upper-90’s fastball capable of reaching triple digits. A curveball that would make Clayton Kershaw blush. Severe control issues.

In a Pacific Coast League (AAA) that saw record levels of offense last year thanks to the new (juiced) ball, Staumont actually kind of showed out. He posted the 11th best ERA in the league among pitchers with at least 50 IP, the 16th best FIP, and the 3rd best K/9. He also had the second worst BB/9, which is why he wasn’t in the big league bullpen before the end of July. His BB/9 actually dropped down to a career best 4.66 in his 19.1 IP in the big leagues last summer, but his K/9 took a significant dip as well. If this is a sign of concerted effort on Staumont’s part to quit walking nearly a batter per inning, then I’ll be intrigued to see how it translates to a full year in the big leagues coming up this season.

#19: Gabriel Cancel, 2B

  • Age: 23 (December 8, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Manati, Puerto Rico
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 1″ Wt: 185
  • Acquired: 2015 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (NWA): 513 PA, .246/.308/.427/.735, 18 HR, 48 XBH, 15 SB, 0.24 BB/K, 104 wRC+

Gabriel Cancel’s ability to pound baseballs has never really been in question. Since breaking out in Burlington back in 2016, Cancel has been a significant blip on my radar as an athletic second baseman that can hit for power. At the beginning of 2019, I could not have been more excited about Cancel’s future. Over his first 152 PA, Cancel hit 7 HR and 12 doubles and posted a .246 ISO and 129 wRC+. As a 22-year old in his first stint with AA, throw in the fact that not many other hitters in the Royals system were hitting at the time, Cancel was making huge strides through the system.

Cancel was okay through the All-Star Break, and then proceeded to post a .640 OPS for the rest of the season. To make things worse, the Royals began moving Cancel over to first base to see how they liked him there defensively. That would be very bad for Cancel’s prospect value moving forward. If Cancel plays average defense at second base and hits 20 HR with 10 SB every year, he’s got value. At first base, he’d probably be worth negative WAR. 2020 will be a critical year in his development.

#18: Kelvin Gutierrez, 3B

  • Age: 24 (August 28, 1994)
  • Birthplace: Pimentel, Dominican Republic
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 215
  • Acquired: Trade for Kelvin Herrera
  • 2019 stats (KC): 79 PA, .260/.304/.356/.660, 1 HR, 4 XBH, 1 SB, 0.21 BB/K, 72 wRC+

I just want to make a quick note that we don’t usually rank players that have big league experience. We decided to add Josh Staumont and Kelvin Gutierrez to our list because we feel it’s important that you know where we think of them in terms of stock in the organization. Richard Lovelady, while technically still prospect eligible, won’t be on our list. If you need to know what we think of him, just Google “Lovelady Royals Farm” and plenty of fanboy posts should pop up.

Kelvin Gutierrez is a really good athlete that I am really excited to watch develop. To be 100% transparent, we made these rankings before the Royals signed Maikel Franco, so I’m not entirely sure what that means for KG’s future. Even if KG spends all year in Omaha, don’t write him off. I think the Royals will continue to develop him to play 3B in 2021, or after they trade Franco in July. Gutierrez didn’t have the best 2019 in Omaha, but if he continues to improve his walk rate, and ever figures out how to stop hitting ground balls, he’s a legitimate option as an every day third baseman for KC.

#17: Brady McConnell, SS

  • Age: 21 (May 24, 1998)
  • Birthplace: Hanover, PA
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 195
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (IDF): 169 PA, .211/.286/.382/.667, 4 HR, 17 XBH, 5 SB, 0.21 BB/K, 76 wRC+

Brady McConnell had a pretty rough first go at professional baseball last year, but Royals fans should be extremely hesitant to write him off. The Royals didn’t give him over $2M as a draft-eligible sophomore last June for nothing. McConnell hit 15 HR in 59 games at the University of Florida last spring after missing most of the entire 2018 spring due to an injury. If he’d have gone back to school this year, he could potentially hit his way into a top 15 pick this coming June. The Royals gambled on him in the second round last year, and I think McConnell will reward them for that this summer.

I’m not entirely sure what McConnell’s position is long-term. With Bobby Witt Jr. and Adalberto Mondesi in the system, it may be best if the Royals move McConnell (who is athletic but an average defender at SS) to either 3B or CF. Scouts believe that McConnell is athletic enough for both positions, and this would provide KC with some interesting versatility. McConnell could very easily hit his way out of the top 25, or into the top 10 by midseason.

#16: Daniel Tillo, LHP

  • Age: 23 (June 13, 1996)
  • Birthplace: Sioux City, IA
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Ht: 6′ 5″ Wt: 215
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
  • 2019 stats (NWA): 23.1 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 8.10 K/9, 4.24 BB/9, 0.39 HR/9

Among 836 pitchers that threw at least 70 IP last year, only five posted a higher GB% than Daniel Tillo. Tillo creates some crazy downhill movement throwing turbo sinkers from his 6′ 5″ frame making it extremely hard to elevate the baseball. Tillo moved to the bullpen shortly after arriving to AA, and he showed out in a big way. I’ve long been a fan of Tillo moving to the bullpen, giving him something of a Scott Alexander/Zach Britton comp in shorter stints. After Tillo’s electric performance for Team USA, Royals fans should be really excited about what he can bring to the big league club in a relief role. I fully expect Tillo to make his big league debut in 2020, he may just have to wait until the dust settles in July.

You can check out or 2019 midseason top 75 here.

 

7 thoughts on “Royals Farm Report’s 2020 Preseason Prospect Rankings: 20-16

  1. Staumont and Tillo I can see in this group. The other 3 surprise me they are this high.
    Gutierrez might get another chance if Franco struggles bad enough. The fact Royals signed Franco over giving Gutierrez another shot at 3B should tell you something about their faith in Kelvin.
    Cancel has a huge hill to climb with Lopez and Whit above him. He needs a solid 2019 to prove he belongs. McConnell is so far away and really proved nothing last year at IDF. Plus like you said, Royals need to move him to 3B or outfield now so he has time to adjust.

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  2. Have to agree with DUF on McConnell in that he showed so little in an offensive league. Although he may progress, it will be a while to warrant this high a placement. I think at this point I am more of a Rivera fan than Gutierrez. I do agree that Cancel has enough past performance to garner the ranking here; although he regressed last season, hopefully it is not a sign that he has reached a plateau.

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