Revisiting the Royals top prospects: C

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. Today we’re going to talk catchers.

#1: MJ Melendez

  • ETA: 2023
  • Begin 2021: High-A Quad Cities
  • Current ranking: #17
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #13
  • 2019 stats (High-A): 419 PA, .163/.260/.311/.571, 9 HR, 34 XBH, .149 ISO, .27 BB/K, 67 wRC+, 7 SB

I don’t really know what to make of MJ Melendez at present. It would be infinitely easier to peg him if he would have had a 2020 season to play between High-A and AA. The last time we saw Melendez in game action he was striking out in almost 40% of his PA. That won’t play at any level for any reason. Melendez has always had something of a strikeout problem in professional baseball that he just can’t quite seem to overcome. The catch of it is, I really don’t think it’s plate discipline issues. I actually tend to subscribe to the idea that Melendez sees the zone really well, he just has a really hard time putting the bat on the ball at the moment. We know Melendez is an elite defender behind home plate. He has as close to an 80-grade arm as you can get without actually having an 80-grade arm. I just don’t know how confident I am that he can return to that 2018 form that got him to the #1 spot on our list that preseason. I desperately hope I’m wrong. Even if he’s just okay in 2021 his defense will hold him tight on our list for a while, but another year like 2019 could also see him drop out of the top 30.

#2: Kale Emshoff

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: High-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #20
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #17
  • 2020 stats (UALR): 60 AB, .417/.527/.800/1.327, 7 HR, 9 XBH, .383 ISO, 1.27 BB/K

Okay, so there was no way that Kale Emshoff could’ve continued a full college baseball season at THAT pace, but oh man, if he could’ve come even close, there’s no way the Royals get him undrafted after the 2020 draft had concluded. Emshoff was though of to be one of two or three gems of the undrafted free agent class last year and the Royals were able to add him to their ranks. Emshoff contains ++ power at the plate and, even though much of it is dead pull, he doesn’t carry the same concerns with his hit tool that most ++ pull power catchers carry. He’s never had a major strikeout issue and sees the ball well enough at the plate that any concerns about his hit tool should be relatively minimal. His defense behind home plate is very good and before having Tommy John Surgery in 2019, he had a + arm behind home plate as well. There is a very real chance that Emshoff is at #1 on this list this time next year if he can prove himself in professional baseball. I don’t think he has the ceiling to climb into our top 10 overall, but his floor is certainly high enough to top this list next season.

#3: Sebastian Rivero

  • ETA: 2022
  • Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
  • Current ranking: #28
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #25-30
  • 2019 stats (High-A): 326 PA, .212/.270/.278/.548, 1 HR, 16 XBH, .066 ISO, .25 BB/K, 60 wRC+, 2 SB

Sebastian Rivero has never been a GOOD hitter, but I am not of the belief that he is as bad as his 2019 would suggest either. While he doesn’t quite have the same strikeout concerns as Melendez, he still strikes out way too often for a guy that hits for little to no power. Simply put, Rivero might be the best defender of any player in the Royals system, but it won’t matter if he can’t hit a little bit. At present I’m not even sure he’s hitting enough to be an adequate backup, though his Gold Glove-caliber defense behind home plate should give him every opportunity along the way. The good news out of Royals camp is that it appears they’ve adjusted Rivero’s swing in a way that should allow him to get the ball into the gap more often moving forward. He’s a strong kid, and there’s power enough in there, he just needs to get to it for it to matter.

#4: Omar Hernandez

  • ETA: 2025
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #20-30
  • 2019 stats (AZL): 147 PA, .290/.345/.359/.704, 8 XBH, .069 ISO, .4 BB/K, 97 wRC+, 2 SB

If we would’ve had a 2020 season, I really think Omar Hernandez might already be in our top 30. I just couldn’t justify putting him on our top 50 when I’ve seen limited video and, quite frankly, can’t get much on him from the powers that be. Teenage catchers are always difficult to gauge anyway, but Hernandez’ limited action really makes things difficult. Hernandez appears to be a good defender behind home plate and has the chance to hit for average despite a frame that probably won’t allow him to hit for a ton of power at the upper levels of MiLB. He’s a guy we’re going to have to keep our eye on, but he could have a ton of helium on our midseason list with a good performance early on this spring.

#5: Freddy Fermin

  • ETA: 2023
  • Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
  • Current ranking: UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: UR
  • 2019 stats (AA): 112 PA, .252/.270/.364/.635, 3 HR, 6 XBH, .112 ISO, .13 BB/K, 74 wRC+

Freddy Fermin will be 26 years old soon and his days of being a prospect are all but over, but it felt worth mentioning him here because he has been a warrior for the organization. He could certainly debut in the big leagues at some point for defensive help in the case of a COVID outbreak or injury situation. Probably just organizational depth at this point, but you need that at the catching position.

#6: Michael Emodi

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: UR
  • 2019 stats (Rookie): 200 PA, .331/.410/.663/1.073, 12 HR, 32 XBH, .331 ISO, .3 BB/K, 173 wRC+, 3 SB

Michael Emodi has a great arm behind the dish and he’s got mammoth power at the plate, but he is almost 25 and has yet to debut in full season ball. There’s always a chance with a guy like him, but, like Fermin, is probably also that all-important organizational depth behind the plate at this point.

Projected depth chart for the Royals at catcher to start 2021:

  • Kansas City: Perez, Gallagher
  • AAA Omaha: Dini, Viloria
  • AA Northwest Arkansas: Rivero, Fermin
  • High-A Quad Cities: Melendez, Emshoff
  • Low-A Columbia: Hernandez, Emodi

6 thoughts on “Revisiting the Royals top prospects: C

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