Revisiting the Royals top prospects: 3B

It has been a long time since we’ve had real, actual MiLB to watch. When we released our top 50 Royals prospects list last week, I briefly recapped some of the players on our list, but I wanted to go a little further in-depth and remind everyone how our boys were doing on the farm last time there was MiLB: in the fall of 2019. For the next couple of weeks we’ll take a deeper look at the top prospects at each position for KC, including ETA’s, where we project them to start in 2021, where they are currently ranked on our top 50, where we project them to be ranked before the 2022 season, and their stats from the last season in which they played professional baseball.

On Monday, we released our article revisiting the top 8 SS in the Royals system. Tuesday we talked catchers. Today we’re going to talk about the Royals 3B prospects.

So, when we talked SS and C, this is where we started the list. If you’ve already read about our top 50 list, or if you saw my tweets on Tuesday night, you’ll know that the Royals only had one 3B prospect in our top 50 overall Royals prospects. That prospect is 24-year old Emmanuel Rivera, who debuted professionally for the Royals back in 2015. Here is the trick with this list we’re about to give you: it won’t be the same traditional list as the other positions. Instead of just listing out a ranking of the 3B prospects in the system, we are going to rank out a list of the best prospects that we think could handle 3B in the big leagues. This probably won’t be the only time we have to do this, as 2B is lookin’ a little light as well, but we did have 8 SS on our list so, there’s a lot of spreading out that we can do.

So, let’s talk about the guys in KC’s system that we think are most qualified to handle 3B if they reach the big leagues.

#1: Bobby Witt Jr.

If you want all Witt’s info you can click on that link for our SS list. Witt is a 60-grade defender at SS and will stick there all the way through the big leagues unless one thing happens: Adalberto Mondesi proves that he can stay healthy AND hit on a regular basis. If Mondesi turns out to be the SS of the future like the Royals seem to think, then Bobby Witt Jr. seems very likely to shift over to the hot corner so they can both play on the same team. Witt Jr. made a couple of spectacular plays at 3B this past summer in that scrimmage against the Astros, and can certainly handle the position if needed, but it’s important to remember that Witt moving to 3B would be in a perfect situation, not because he can’t handle SS.

#2: Nick Loftin

Loftin is a totally different story from Witt in that I actually expect him to move off of SS before he reaches the big leagues. He’s incredibly sound fundamentally, but I think he probably lacks the overall athleticism necessary to handle the position at the big leagues. I could be wrong about that, he may have a little JJ Hardy in him where the technique and fundamentals are able to carry him, but I really think 3B or a corner OF spot would suit him better long-term.

#3: Brady McConnell

Another SS you can click on the link above to read about. McConnell is still a pretty raw athlete that I think could transition to either 3B or even CF long-term. He’s going to have to hit to make it anywhere, but assuming there is a problem finding time for him at SS moving forward, I think McConnell’s athleticism should allow him to move around the diamond a bit, including 3B.

#4: Jeison Guzman

Another SS that’s going to have to hit to make it anywhere, but he certainly has the range and arm to play 3B at any level.

#5: Emmanuel Rivera

  • ETA: 2022
  • Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
  • Current ranking: #50
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
  • 2019 stats (AA): 534 PA, .258/.297/.345/.642, 7 HR, 27 XBH, .087 ISO, .32 BB/K, 79 wRC+, 6 SB

Here we go, a third baseman. Emmanuel Rivera has been around for a while and just has not made the strides necessary to make me believe he can be a big league regular at 3B. I’d have him a little higher on this list because he’s got a good glove around the bag, but he’s got some serious issues ahead of him if he’s going to play 3B for the Kansas City Royals. Hunter Dozier, Kelvin Gutierrez, Lucius Fox, Jeison Guzman, Bobby Witt Jr…he doesn’t do anything good enough to launch himself above one of those guys at present and I just don’t think the opportunity comes for him long-term.

Now, with that being said, Rivera has posted a .231 ISO in the Puerto Rican Winter League this winter and appears to have made some tweaks to his swing that should allow him to access more power in games. It’s not like he’s a smaller, weaker prospect like a Lucius Fox type. Rivera has decent-to-good raw power if he can get to it. The Royals also love his glove and arm so you know they’ll give him an opportunity if he comes close to earning it. At this point in his career, I think Rivera “is what he is” so-to-speak, but there’s still time for him to carve out a role in the big leagues of some sort. His time is just running out if he doesn’t do it in 2021.

#6: Lucius Fox

Another SS you can click over to read more about. Fox is a great athlete with a really good arm despite a smaller frame. Fox may actually be the second best defensive option for KC on this list behind Bobby Witt Jr. I question whether or not he ever hits enough for it to matter, but if he does, he’s certainly an option to fill in while the Royals wait for their future to arrive.

#7: Nathan Eaton

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: High-A Quad Cities
  • Current ranking: #UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
  • 2019 stats (Low-A): 557 PA, .233/.305/.336/.641, 5 HR, 39 XBH, .103 ISO, .4 BB/K, 89 wRC+, 18 SB

Nathan Eaton is a tooled up dude. He’s got a good bit of raw power, he can run well, he’s a decent defender that can play multiple positions on the field, and he’s got probably the best arm of any infielder in the system. He didn’t hit very well as a 22-year old in Low-A, and he is now 24 facing a lot of the same issues as Emmanuel Rivera in terms of players that are currently ahead of him on the depth chart, but like I said, he is tooled up and could provide some versatility later on in his career if he keeps making the right strides offensively. Think about a Whit Merrifield type with a little more raw athleticism. Again, he’s going to have to make strides offensively to ever come close to the big leagues, but the tools are there if he can put it all together.

#8: Jake Means

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
  • 2019 stats (Rookie): 266 PA, .267/.410/.400/.810, 5 HR, 17 XBH, .133 ISO, .71 BB/K, 133 wRC+, 2 SB

Jake Means had a great professional debut in 2019 and plays 3B so I felt obliged to include him on this list in some capacity. Decent defender, good athlete, almost 25 years old.

#9: Jimmy Govern

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
  • 2019 stats (Rookie): 199 PA, .365/.492/.628/1.121, 6 HR, 26 XBH, .263 ISO, 1.70 BB/K, 196 wRC+, 6 SB

Jimmy Govern could not physically have been much better than he was in 2019. He was drafted in the 30th round of the June draft and then proceeded to make a mockery of the AZL. He’s already 24 years old and still hasn’t had any real experience with full season baseball, but he plays 3B and murdered so many baseballs in 2019 that it felt worthy of including him on this list in some capacity. I don’t have the highest of expectations for him but if he hits, the Royals will find somewhere for him to play.

Photo Credits: Ryan Griffith (@ryanrgriffith)

6 thoughts on “Revisiting the Royals top prospects: 3B

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