RFR’s 2021 Mid-Season Royals Prospect Rankings: 36-45

Ah, yes, it is that time again. Thank you all very much for following us along the last four years. It was just over a month ago in 2017 when our Founding Father, Patrick Brennan, released our very first top 30 prospects list. And now, in July of 2021, we will have the fifth edition of our mid-season rankings here at Royals Farm Report. Here are the links to the previous years’ mid-season rankings and the first piece of our 2021 rankings:

Here are the next 10 players on our 2021 list:

#45: Christian Chamberlain, LHP

  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft (4th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Age: 22
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 3.2 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.33 FIP, 14.73 K/9, 2.45 BB/9

I’m a big fan of Christian Chamberlain’s. I kind of thought they might give him a shot to start for a while, but he got off to a slow start to the season due to some soreness and is now on the IL after throwing fewer than 4 innings. He looked fantastic in his brief time with Quad Cities, but we’re going to need to see him healthy before moving him up any higher. The stuff alone is deserving of a spot in the rankings, but more innings is going to be the key to moving up.

#44: Zach Haake, RHP

  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft (6th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 24
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 42.1 IP, 3.83 ERA, 6.01 FIP, 9.78 K/9, 4.68 BB/9

Similar story to Chamberlain here. Haake’s stuff is fantastic. The Royals have actually tried to let him start for a while but it’s time for a bullpen as his body hasn’t allowed him to handle a starter’s workload and he’s 24 still in A-ball. I don’t want to put a Josh Staumont ceiling on the kid, but I think it’s close. He might legitimately be able to dominate in the back end of a big league bullpen with just two pitches. Haake was part of a no-hitter earlier this year and is nearly unhittable semi-frequently. I imagine we’ll see him in the bullpen for good next year.

#43: Yohanse Morel, RHP

  • Acquired: 2017 International Free Agent (DR)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 20
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 33 IP, 6.27 ERA, 6.67 FIP, 7.91 K/9, 6.00 BB/9

Some guys benefitted immensely from the off year. I’m not entirely sure what happened to Yohanse Morel but the COVID year seems to have made him forget how to pitch. We probably dropped him down too low BUT he was also starting before this year and now he is purely a reliever. He’s still 20 years old and has fantastic stuff, but a 20-year old being sent to the bullpen makes things difficult to evaluate and he can’t throw strikes to save his life at the moment. He’s still got plenty of opportunity to be an effective big league reliever, but I’m curious as to what has happened in the past year that’s got him struggling 1-2 innings at a time. Plenty of stuff, need to keep an eye on him for the rest of the year.

#42: Carter Jensen, C

  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft (3rd Round)
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Age: 18

I had the pleasure of watching Jensen play twice this spring and I just could not be more impressed with the bat. If Carter had more natural loft to his swing, he’d have been a top 2 round pick. He hits the ball on a frozen rope most of the time and I watched him hit the piss out of the ball a few times that would’ve gone 400 feet if he would’ve hit them a little higher. I think he’s a fine catcher but I would not let him put the gear on again if I was Kansas City. I get it, they probably will, but I’d move him to 3B or LF for the time being and see if he can handle it. You can always move him to 1B if not. I would just let him focus on mashing baseballs and see if you can get Kyle Schwarber out of him. I know folks will look at the Royals draft class and wish they took more advanced bats, but I really think Jensen’s bat has a chance to be a huge get for KC if they can get him to hit more balls in the air.

#41: Daniel Vazquez, SS

  • Acquired: 2020 International Free Agent (DR)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 17
  • 2021 Level: DSL

Vazquez has a chance to be the best international free agent the Royals have signed in a while. Even better than Erick Pena if he keeps hitting. I’m as excited as anyone about the potential of Erick Pena, but Vazquez is legit. Pena is currently in Arizona after not getting a chance to play professional baseball last year, and Vazquez is currently playing in the DSL as a 17-year old. The kid is a phenomenal athlete with a swing that creates some natural loft and some good raw power for a kid. Definitely going to need to keep watching this kid.

#40: Tyler Gentry, OF

  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft (3rd Round)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 22
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 186, .259/.395/.449/.844, 6 HR, 16 XBH, 55 K : 29 BB, 134 wRC+

Moving Tyler Gentry up our list because he has shown a ton of patience at the plate and some good pop to go with it. He doesn’t actually swing and miss as much as his K% would suggest, as he gets into a lot of 2-strike counts from being *too* patient sometimes, but he’s got a plan at the plate and I like the profile. I still question whether he’s as good defensively as some said during the draft last year, but he’s not a negative for sure. He’s probably a RF long-term, which means he’s going to have to hit a bit, but I don’t mind holding onto him for a while to see if the bat keeps developing.

#39: Wilmin Candelario, SS

  • Acquired: 2018 International Free Agent (DR)
  • Bats/Throws: S/R
  • Age: 19
  • 2021 Stats (AZ): 56 PA, .140/.214/.300/.514, 2 HR, 3 XBH, 29 K : 4 BB, 26 wRC+

It’s been a rough go in Arizona for Candelario. I’m keeping him here on the list for now because I believe in the tools and think he’s fantastic at SS. The kid has a chance to hit for some legitimate pop if he can refine his approach at the plate. I’m still not able to watch him take a full game’s worth of at-bats, so it’s hard to pinpoint his struggles at the moment, but I think the tools will carry and I know the Royals were impressed with the shape he showed up to camp in. The kid works hard and the talent should show up here after a while. There were perhaps no bigger victim of the COVID year than the guys who both missed their 2020 seasons and an opportunity to work out with teams all year.

#38: John McMillon, RHP

  • Acquired: 2020 UDFA
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Age: 23
  • 2021 Stats (AZ): 6.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 14.85 K/9, 5.40 BB/9

We’ve moved McMillon up on our list because reports on the raw stuff are so good that it’s hard not to dream about him being in the big leagues next year. I’m not entirely sure why he’s still in Arizona, but he could legitimately be in the big league bullpen by the end of next summer the stuff is so good. Some may think this is a reach putting him this high on the list, but we appear to be the low men on McMillon based on other rankings I’ve seen. He’s always had some control issues but the stuff is so good it may not matter. Just need to see him in full-season ball before we move him any higher.

#37: Kale Emshoff, C

  • Acquired: 2020 UDFA
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 23
  • 2021 Stats (A-): 161 PA, .216/.342/.418/.760, 5 HR, 16 XBH, 56 K : 21 BB, 111 wRC+

I have enjoyed the hell out of watching Emshoff handling the pitching staff at Columbia this summer. Emshoff is a great receiver with a big arm behind home plate, and hits the ball a long way when he gets ahold of it. The hit tool is not quite what I thought it was, as Emshoff sacrifices some swinging strikes for the occasional monster blast. A 34.8% K% as a 23-year old in Low-A is a bit concerning, and I think there will have to be some approach adjustments made if he’s going to move back up our rankings, but luckily there’s plenty of time for him to work on that. I truly think Emshoff’s power and defensive prowess will carry him to at least the role of a third catcher on a 40-man roster. He could be a very serviceable backup catcher on a big league team if he cuts down on the strikeouts. It’s his first go at professional baseball, and Emshoff has already cut down on his K% in the last month, but it’ll take even more adjusting to keep moving up.

#36: Brewer Hicklen, OF

  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft (7th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 25
  • 2021 Stats (AA): 225 PA, .203/.293/.330/.623, 5 HR, 14 XBH, 77 K : 21 BB, 72 wRC+

Hicklen and Emshoff are back-to-back on this list because I think they have very similar prospect values at the moment. Big time tools with good power and good defensive prowess with some strikeout issues while being a little old for the level. Hicklen has destroyed LHP but he’s even struggled with them this season for the Naturals. I still think there’s room for Hicklen on a 40-man roster as a 4th OF platoon type, but he’s Rule 5 eligible this offseason and I’m not sure he’ll be a priority with the other guys that are also eligible this offseason. Maybe Hicklen figures some things out that allow him to be a LHP platoon bat in the big leagues, but his current lack of production makes that a question mark at the moment. If he can figure it out, he’s a great defender in the corners, serviceable in CF in a pinch, and can really run on the base paths and in the outfield.

Photo of Kale Emshoff: Columbia Fireflies

7 thoughts on “RFR’s 2021 Mid-Season Royals Prospect Rankings: 36-45

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