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, 15-11.
#15: Yohanse Morel, RHP
- Age: 19 (August 23, 2000)
- Birthplace: Samana, Dominican Republic
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 0″ Wt: 170
- Acquired: Trade for Kelvin Herrera
- 2019 stats (LEX): 52.1 IP, 6.02 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 9.80 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 1.20 HR/9
Much like Yefri Del Rosario back in 2018, Yohanse Morel was one of only three pitchers aged 18 or younger to throw 50 innings in the South Atlantic League (A) last year. The ERA may not suggest this, but the young right hander more than held his own against much more advanced competition. If you look more closely at Morel’s peripheral statistics (3.93 xFIP, 13.2% SwStr%, 23% K%), there is a lot to like from a kid who didn’t turn 19 until the end of his first go round at Low-A.
At the onset of the Kelvin Herrera trade, it looked as if Kansas City had received a couple of defense first prospects in Blake Perkins and Kelvin Gutierrez and a wild card teenager that had just started pitching. It appears now that the Royals received one of the higher upside prospects in their system in Yohanse Morel.
Morel works with a fastball that can consistently run into the mid-90’s with great life to it, and a wipeout slider/changeup combo that still need developing, but both flash ++ potential. The command wasn’t quite as refined as Del Rosario while he was in Lexington in 2018, but once Morel refines the finer points of pitching, he could legitimately be a top 5 prospect in this system. At worst, he’s got the stuff to be an explosive reliever in the back end of a bullpen.
I expect he’ll start his 2020 campaign back in a Legends uniform, as there’s something of a logjam of good pitching prospects in front of him, but he could certainly be knocking down the doors of AA by season’s end. If he shows out in Wilmington, watch for him to be approaching top 100 lists at midseason.
#14: Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
- Age: 20 (September 23, 1999)
- Birthplace: Miches, Dominican Republic
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 2″ Wt: 180
- Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
- 2019 stats: N/A
Yefri Del Rosario is so good that he found a way to move up our rankings without even throwing a pitch in 2019. I don’t say this lightly, but if he and Morel continue to develop and can both stay healthy, both of them have a legitimate chance to be better than all of the college pitchers that KC drafted back in 2018.
It would probably be smart of us to back off of Del Rosario after missing all of 2019 with an undisclosed arm injury, but he’s just too talented to not be in love with. Del Rosario’s fastball will consistently sit 93-94 with great life to it, and can reach upwards of 96-97 when he needs it. His curveball is his best off-speed offering at this point in his career, and its nearly perfect 12-6 break gives both righties and lefties fits. As an 18-year old in the SALLY back in 2018, Del Rosario posted a 3.19 ERA in 79 IP for the eventual league champs. His peripheral statistics weren’t quite as good as Morel’s, but he was also pitching in something of a more offensive friendly league at the time too.
I’m not quite sure what Del Rosario’s exact status is, so I’m not sure where to think he begins the year. He’s still super young, so keeping him in Arizona to begin 2020 and letting him slowly work his way from Lexington to Wilmington doesn’t seem totally out of the question, especially after missing all of last year. With that said, he’s definitely advanced enough as a pitcher to start his season out in Wilmington if the Royals decide to take that route for him, which is something Baseball America hinted at in their Royals top 30 rankings recently. In any case, if Del Rosario can stay healthy this year, look for him to show out in a big way.
#13: 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 (LEX): 36 IP, 3.50 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 10.75 K/9, 2.25 BB/9
Carlos Hernandez missed most of the 2019 season due to a couple of different injuries, but he returned in a big way to close out the year. He reportedly hit triple digits with his fastball on multiple occasions and looked good enough that the Royals went ahead and added him to their 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
When healthy, Hernandez has legitimately some of the best stuff in the entire system. His fastball reaches 100 mph, his changeup is absolutely filthy when he commands it right, and his breaking ball is a wipeout offering that also needs to be commanded well. If Hernandez were to reach his absolute ceiling, he’d be the best pitching prospect in this system without much competition. The problem there is that his health and command are a couple of big obstacles he’ll have to climb in order to get there.
Hernandez will turn 23 in a couple weeks, but if he pitches well at Wilmington to begin 2020, he could find himself at AA by season’s end, meaning he’s one good year away from the big leagues. As long as he’s healthy, Hernandez has plenty good stuff to be a really effective big league reliever, but like Del Rosario, he’s got to prove that he can stay healthy.
#12: Michael Gigliotti, CF
- Age: 24 (February 14, 1996)
- Birthplace: Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Bats/Throws: L/L
- Ht: 6′ 1″ Wt: 180
- Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (LEX): 279 PA, .309/.394/.411/.805, 1 HR, 21 XBH, 29 SB, 0.55 BB/K, 138 wRC+
“Gigs” might be the most under talked about position prospect in the Royals system. He missed effectively all of 2018 with an ACL injury and he’s now a 24-year old that will probably head back to A+ Wilmington, so his development path isn’t exactly traditional, but Gigs has all the tools to be a top 10 prospect in this system. He plays a phenomenal CF, he can really run well, he has a great eye at the plate, and his hit tool is well above average. He doesn’t hit for much power, but if he plays a 70-grade CF like I think he can, he doesn’t need to hit for much power.
Gigs didn’t have a great first go at the Carolina League to close out 2019. He’ll probably head back to Wilmington to begin 2020 which means he probably doesn’t get out of AA this year. His appearance at #12 in our rankings ought to tell you a lot about what we think of Gigs’ future. Kyle Isbel and Khalil Lee are both going to find their way into our top 10, and Hunter Dozier appears to have an outfield spot locked down for the foreseeable future, but I think there’s still a spot for Gigs to defend his way to an every day role in CF. He’s that good defensively. The only question left is going to be how the bat translates to the upper minors, and we should get a good look at that in 2020.
#11: Jonathan Bowlan, RHP
- Age: 23 (December 1, 1996)
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 6″ Wt: 262
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (WIL): 76.1 IP, 2.95 ERA, 2.75 FIP, 8.96 K/9, 1.53 BB/9, 0.59 HR/9
Jonathan Bowlan may wind up being the steal of the 2018 draft. A lot of people will point to Daniel Lynch in that regard, but he was still a first round pick that received millions of dollars in signing bonuses. Jonathan Bowlan, while still a second round pick, was the fifth college pitcher that KC selected in 2018 and signed for half a million dollars under his slot value. I don’t want to make it out like the Royals drafted Bowlan to save some money, but it certainly played a role in his second round selection.
All Bowlan has done since being drafted in 2018 is pitch like a top 10 prospect in this system. He probably would be, too, if every other pitcher that KC drafted that year hadn’t also pitched like a top 10 prospect in the system. Bowlan commands the strike zone better than any pitcher in the organization and seems to have added a tick or two to his fastball. He won’t “wow” you with his pure stuff, but Bowlan’s command of the strike zone and mix of three above average pitches make him a force to be reckoned with at 6′ 6″ 262′. He will more than likely get his 2020 season started at AA Northwest Arkansas, and while there’s probably too many guys in front of him to make his big league debut this season, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bowlan was big league ready by season’s end.
Photo Credits: PLPhoto2015 (@PPhoto2015)