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, 6-3.
#6: Kris Bubic, LHP
- Age: 22 (August 19, 1997)
- Birthplace: Cupertino, CA
- Bats/Throws: L/L
- Ht: 6′ 3″ Wt: 220
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (WIL): 101.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 9.74 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 0.27 HR/9
Kris Bubic really couldn’t have been much better than he was in 2019. He lead all of Minor League Baseball in strikeouts with 185 and was 7th among 478 qualified pitchers in FIP at 2.44. Bubic proved to be far too dominant for hitters at the lower levels of MiLB, helping pitch the Wilmington Blue Rocks to a Carolina League championship. Bubic doesn’t over power hitters with an upper-90’s fastball, but he makes such good use of his offspeed pitches that his 94 mph fastball plays more like 96. That was on full display yesterday against Milwaukee.
Bubic is likely to begin his 2020 season in AA Northwest Arkansas with Daniel Lynch, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him work his way to the big leagues at some point this season. He’s too smart for most MiLB hitters and his stuff is way too good for the lower levels. The Royals won’t rush the “Core 4” to the big leagues, but if there is anyone advanced enough to make that climb this season, it’s Kris Bubic.
#5: Erick Pena, OF
- Age: 17 (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
This is what I wrote about Erick Pena last year in our midseason rankings:
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.
And that’s still all we have to go off of as it pertains to one Erick Pena. Pena was too young to participate in games last summer, so we’ll have to wait until later this year for him to make his professional debut. 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.
But for now, we wait. Outside of Bobby Witt Jr. there is not a single prospect in this system with more upside than Pena. The kid is still 17, so there’s plenty of time for him flame out, but if the kid hits, he looks like a potential super star.
#4: Brady Singer, RHP
- Age: 23 (August 4, 1996)
- Birthplace: Leesburg, FL
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Ht: 6′ 5″ Wt: 210
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (NWA): 90.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 8.44 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9
Brady Singer has been outright filthy so far in his Spring Training outings, and the possibility of him actually grabbing a big league rotation spot on Opening Day has never been higher. On Wednesday, Singer went out against the Chicago Cubs and fired a perfect first inning against Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Anthony Rizzo. His fastball has life to it, his slider looks filthy, and he’s yet to walk a batter. Singer was the first of the “Core 4” to be drafted back in 2018, and he looks like he’s going to be the first one in a big league uniform as well. Singer doesn’t have the same upside as guys like Lynch and Kowar, both of whom have registered fastballs at 99 mph in the last year, but his floor is as high as anyone in Minor League Baseball and he appears ready for an opportunity. Time will tell when that opportunity comes for Singer, but he definitely appears to be big league ready.
#3: Daniel Lynch, LHP
- Age: 23 (November 17, 1996)
- Birthplace: Richmond, VA
- Bats/Throws: L/L
- Ht: 6′ 6″ Wt: 190
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
- 2019 stats (WIL): 78.1 IP, 3.10 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 8.85 K/9, 2.64 BB/9, 0.46 HR/9
At this point, you could probably sell me on all of Kowar, Lynch, and Singer as the Royals best pitching prospect. I think Lynch and Kowar have a step on Singer, but it’s really, really close. Daniel Lynch certainly has the best mix of pitches of the three. His fastball hit 99 mph in an outing in the Arizona Fall League last fall, his slider and curveball work together to flash plus potential, and his changeup is a serviceable fourth offering. Folks may read about the velo and see a Danny Duffy comp, but Lynch works more 92-95 during starts and is miles ahead of where Danny Duffy was as a pitcher at this point in his career.
Had it not been for an injury that held Lynch out of game action for a good chunk of the 2019 season, he’d probably be in competition for a big league rotation spot with Kowar and Singer. Lynch will almost certainly begin his 2020 campaign in NWA with Bubic, but probably won’t be far away from a big league call up if he pitches well.
Photo Credits: Ryan Griffith (@ryanrgriffith)