Revisiting the Royals top prospects: OF

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.

We’ve gone through the entire infield and the guys we think make best as relievers long-term, now we’re going to spend some time talking about the Royals outfield depth. These are guys that we strictly see as outfielders, so guys like Lucius Fox who was on our SS list won’t be here, even though we think he can handle the outfield in the big leagues.

#1: Erick Pena

  • ETA: 2023
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #5
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #2
  • 2019 stats: N/A

Erick Pena is so damn exciting. We’ve never seen him play an official professional baseball game but I think there’s a chance that this kid is an absolute star in the making. I absolutely expect him to be a unanimous top 100 prospect in baseball by this time next year. I’ve never seen a 17-year old (!!) swing a bat like that. He legitimately reminds me of Juan Soto in how advanced he is for his age (not similar players at all, just in terms of being advanced at the age). His swing is a hands first swing that you see from a lot of lower K%, lower HR type of guys, but he packs a heavy punch as well. He’s athletic enough to play CF but I don’t know if he’ll grow out of the position at all. If he sticks in CF long-term he’s got a legitimate chance to be as good or better than someone like Bobby Witt Jr. If this kid hits in A-ball this year, the Royals are going to have two of the most talented young position prospects in baseball on the same team in about 3 years. I probably shouldn’t be hyping up a kid that’s never played a game of professional baseball before like this, but I can’t help it. I am so excited to see this kid play. Let’s pray he reaches his ceiling.

#2: Kyle Isbel

  • ETA: 2021
  • Begin 2021: AAA Omaha
  • Current ranking: #6
  • Projected ranking in 2022: Graduated
  • 2019 stats (Arizona Fall League): 91 PA, .315/.429/.438/.867, 1 HR, 6 XBH, .123 ISO, .7 BB/K, 6 SB

I decided to put Kyle Isbel’s Fall League stats in there instead of his High-A numbers because he was hurt pretty much all year in 2019. Then he went down to “Prospect Finishing School” and performed almost exactly like I think he’ll perform as a big leaguer. I mean…a .7 BB/K and a .123 ISO with a .315 BA and a handful of SB thrown in there is almost exactly what I think Isbel can be. I don’t expect him to have OBP’s over .400 on a regular basis (this was inflated by 14 walks in the AZFL), but I don’t expect him to strike out a ton either. I mentioned on our podcast recently that I don’t expect Isbel to be a perennial All-Star, but I do think he’ll provide consistent value in a big league lineup, similarly to David DeJesus. In a sense, Isbel is the polar opposite in terms of prospect value as Erick Pena. Pena has a ceiling that is sky high, but also a pretty low floor because of all we don’t know about him. Isbel’s tools present a very safe floor, I just don’t know that his ceiling is that of a guy who makes 3-4 All-Star appearances in his career. Regardless, I am pumped to see the soon-to-be 24-year old get a crack at the big leagues. He’s going to help this team in a ton of different ways.

#3: Seuly Matias

  • ETA: 2022
  • Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
  • Current ranking: #10
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #5-7
  • 2019 stats (High-A): 221 PA, .148/.259/.307/.566, 4 HR, 18 XBH, .159 ISO, .26 BB/K, 67 wRC+, 2 SB

Something about the talent of Seuly Matias won’t let me get over him. The kid is so damn talented, man. No matter how bad his swing and miss issues are, I can’t get over the raw ability of the kid. There’s a legitimate chance that we’re sitting here next March talking about Matias being out of the Royals top 30 prospects. There’s a chance we’re talking about him being a unanimous top 100 prospect as well. I just think there’s enough in there to be excited about the latter. He also seems to have made an adjustment to his swing to keep his head a bit more centered and balanced. This may not seem like much, but if it allows him to track the ball better, it could lead to an improvement on his swing and miss issues. Seuly’s always going to strike out a lot, but you can live with a 30% K% if he’s hitting 40 HR and driving in 110 runs every year. I’m not entirely sure how this ranking will look this time next year, but I really think there’s a chance we’re raving about the still 22-year old next March.

Just by the way…before getting hit in the hand on April 15th in 2019, Seuly Matias was hitting .278/.341/.750/1.091, with 7 XBH and a 200 wRC+ in 41 PA.

#4: Darryl Collins

  • ETA: 2023
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #18
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #7-12
  • 2019 stats (Rookie): 208 PA, .320/.401/.436/.837, 14 XBH, .116 ISO, .73 BB/K, 132 wRC+, 1 SB

Talk about stepping into pro ball and making a name for yourself. Collins was really, really impressive as a 17-year old playing baseball in the States. He strikes me more as a Kyle Isbel type of prospect than Matias or Pena, meaning I think he’s got a really nice floor but I’m still unsure of what his ceiling looks like. He didn’t strike out much in his pro debut, walked a fair bit, hit the ball hard, but didn’t hit for much power. Collins has a chance to really fly up this list with a good showing in full-season ball this summer.

Consider this information for what it’s worth, even if it isn’t worth much. Collins had the 9th best OPS (.981) in the Dutch Major League in 2020, a league that is mostly men aged 24 and older. Collins is still 18. He stole 5 bases but was never caught stealing. Walked 8 times and only struck out 5. Hit 4 doubles and 3 triples but no HR. The kid is just solid. I’m not entirely sure how many Royals fans can readily identify Collins’ name on a prospect list at present, but he is going to be a household name among die-hard Royals fans by the end of 2021.

#5: Nick Heath

  • ETA: 2020
  • Begin 2021: MLB
  • Current ranking: #21
  • Projected ranking in 2022: Graduated
  • 2019 stats (AAA): 97 PA, .256/.392/.410/.802, 2 HR, 7 XBH, .154 ISO, .63 BB/K, 104 wRC+, 10 SB

I really, really, really hope the Royals give Heath a chance to start 2-3 times a week this year. I know Michael A. Taylor is going to get the lion’s share of AB in CF, but Heath should absolutely get a chance against tough RHP to start the year. He’s more than capable defensively and we know what kind of threat he is on the bases. Imagine getting him on base in the 9-hole with Whit, Benintendi, and Santana following. Hoo boy. I don’t think Heath is going to be a consistent starter vs RHP and LHP at this point, but like I said, he’s a guy that ought to be starting at LEAST twice a week versus tough righties to start the year. At least let him prove he can’t handle it if nothing else. He’s a phenomenal talent and a better dude capable of being a sparkplug for this offense at the bottom of the order.

#6: Brewer Hicklen

  • ETA: 2023
  • Begin 2021: AA Northwest Arkansas
  • Current ranking: #24
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #20-25
  • 2019 stats (High-A): 494 PA, .263/.363/.427/.790, 14 HR, 34 XBH, .165 ISO, .39 BB/K, 131 wRC+, 39 SB

Brewer Hicklen reminds me a bit of the type of value that a right-handed Nick Heath could provide. Excellent defense off of the bench, a lot of SB, and just enough offensive value to warrant 2-3 starts a week in a platoon role. Hicklen’s OPS vs LHP in 2019 was .962. He’s not a phenomenal hitter overall, mostly due to a less advanced approach and a questionable hit tool, but there’s a lot of raw power in there. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we see Hicklen in the big leagues as soon as next year if he can prove that he can handle AA and AAA (specifically LHP) during the 2021 MiLB season. Again, like Heath, I’m not sold on Hicklen as a big league regular, but he could be a really effective weapon off the bench if he keeps hitting LHP like that.

#7: Tucker Bradley

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #31
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #20-40
  • 2020 stats (Georgia): 61 AB, .393/.525/.738/1.263, 6 HR, 9 XBH, .345 ISO, 5.00 BB/K, 8 SB

It’s really hard to explain how good Bradley was to begin 2020. I mean, those are first round pick numbers and the kid went undrafted. Bradley represents our second big wild card on this list, after Matias. Like Matias, I can see scenarios where Bradley is a top 20 prospect in this system by next year, and I can see him fizzling out all together. Bradley was just okay at Georgia as a freshman and sophomore, then missed almost his entire junior year to injury. He was coming out in a big way as a junior before the world went to hell. I have no idea how to gauge Bradley, but if he keeps hitting like he did last spring the kid is gonna find himself in AA before the year is over. I think the more likely best case scenario is that Bradley shows he can handle Low-A early on and spends the year hitting in High-A, but I just don’t know. In any case, an outfield of Bradley, Collins, and Pena at Low-A Columbia could make for one exciting lineup.

#8: Tyler Gentry

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: Low-A Columbia
  • Current ranking: #49
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #20-40
  • 2020 stats (Alabama): 56 AB, .429/.554/.750/1.304, 4 HR, 10 XBH, .321 ISO, 1.00 BB/K, 2 SB

Tyler Gentry is another 2020 guy that’s just hard to peg because of the shortened season. On one hand, he had a .930 OPS with 13 HR as a sophomore and was hitting like a first round pick as a junior. On the other hand, it’s not a very deep track record. Kyle Isbel was also a 3rd round pick for KC, so there’s some real reason for optimism here, I just don’t know. The swing is kind of interesting, but Gentry is a very good athlete that should provide good defense in the outfield and hit for a sneaky amount of power. He should get some run in the Columbia outfield that looks pretty crowded at the moment. Like Bradley, I can see scenarios for Gentry being a top 20 guy in the system next year, or totally unranked all together.

#9: John Rave

  • ETA: 2024
  • Begin 2021: High-A Quad Cities
  • Current ranking: HR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: #40-UR
  • 2019 stats (Low-A): 196 PA, .253/.321/.339/.660, 2 HR, 10 XBH, .086 ISO, .26 BB/K, 97 wRC+, 6 SB

I was actually a little higher on Rave than I am now before seeing him at Lexington in 2019. I still think the tools are there to be a big league CF in some capacity, I just don’t know how much I like the bat at present. It will definitely be a good year for Rave to prove himself in an organization with plenty of talent in the outfield. Good runner, good defender.

#10: Anderson Miller

  • ETA: 2021
  • Begin 2021: AAA Omaha
  • Current ranking: UR
  • Projected ranking in 2022: UR
  • 2019 stats (AA): 330 PA, .248/.295/.342/.637, 5 HR, 16 XBH, .094 ISO, .22 BB/K, 78 wRC+, 10 SB

There were several directions I could’ve gone here for the final spot on this list. Isaiah Henry is a tooled up freaky athlete. Tyler Tolbert and Dairon Blanco can really run. Blake Perkins might be the best defender of the bunch. I just can’t get myself to get past the potential I see in Miller’s bat as a LHH off the bench. I promise, if Miller doesn’t hit this spring in Omaha, you won’t hear us mention him again. But he is in big league camp and the kid works his tail off. His BP looks different. He’s just intriguing. 2021 is his last chance to make any kind of impression though, seeing as he’s going to be 27 soon and there are dudes passing him up.

Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)

2 thoughts on “Revisiting the Royals top prospects: OF

  1. Great recap of the OF prospects. Really interested to see full seasons for Pena, Collins, Gentry and Bradley. I could see them all being on the Columbia roster. Pena has superstar potential – high ceiling guy! I expect to see Isbel in KC soon if all goes well in minors this year

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Kyle Isbel makes Royals Opening Day roster | Royals Farm Report

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