RFR’s 2021 Mid-Season Royals Prospect Rankings: 11-20

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:

#20: Jon Heasley, RHP

  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft (13th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 24
  • 2021 Stats (AA): 64.1 IP, 4.20 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 9.23 K/9, 3.50 BB/9

Jon Heasley is going to be a big league arm in some capacity. I think he’s probably a reliever, but I think he can be incredibly valuable as a multi-inning reliever and I still think there’s still a chance he can be a good swing starter as the 6th option on a big league staff. Heasley is kind of puzzling to me because he shows legitimately elite pitchability and command at times and yet gets himself in trouble getting down in the count at times. He spins his stuff really well despite just average velo’s, but it’s not good enough stuff to walk 3.50 guys per 9 IP either. He gets hit a little bit, which is fine because I think the command and stuff will eventually balance that out, but for now, Heasley’s future is almost pointed toward the bullpen until we know for sure. Hopefully we’ll get to see what a really good Heasley looks like in a rotation in the big leagues.

#19: Maikel Garcia, SS

  • Acquired: 2016 International Free Agent (Venezuela)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 21
  • 2021 Stats (A- and A+): 285 PA, .285/.382/.385/.767, 1 HR, 19 XBH, 44 K : 41 BB, 26 SB, 115 wRC+

I was a little hesitant with Maikel Garcia’s ranking this spring, but I love what I’ve seen from him so far. He’s posted some of the best K% and SwStr% numbers in the entire system for KC this year and, while the power hasn’t come around yet, there’s tons of room for him to add strength in his frame. He was right around age appropriate for Low-A, maybe a little young, but he’s starting to come into his own in High-A as well where he’s certainly younger than the average arm in the league. Garcia is a fantastic defender at SS with a terrific arm to go with legitimate 50-grade speed and really good baseball instincts (being Alcides Escobar’s cousin probably helps with that). Right now, Garcia figures to be very much like his cousin when he reaches the big leagues. Plenty of contact with great defense and the ability to steal the occasional base. Enough pop to hit 20-25 doubles but probably won’t ever hit more than 10 HR or so in his best season. I do think there’s room to grow into 10 HR a year, but he’s got a swing geared for line drives so I don’t know if I expect that. In any case, the Royals have a fantastic young SS prospect here that could create some good roster problems for them in the future.

#18: Peyton Wilson, 2B/OF

  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft (2nd Round)
  • Bats/Throws: S/R
  • Age: 21
  • 2021 Stats (College): 248 AB, .290/.356/.460/.816, 9 HR, 23 XBH, 41 K : 22 BB, 10 SB

If you count the money they spent on him, this was my favorite pick that the Royals made in the entire draft. There were some who questioned the hit tool coming out of Alabama but it may actually be my favorite part about Wilson’s game. I really think he’s got a chance to hit like an Andrew Benintendi/Whit Merrifield type. Line drives all over the field, lots of contact, a handful of HR, and a bunch of doubles. Defensively, Wilson has caught, played 2B, CF…just about everything really. I don’t know what the Royals plans for him are but I’d probably start him out in CF just to see if he could handle it. Wilson has legitimate 60-grade wheels in my opinion and I really believe he could handle CF if given the chance to work at it every day. That would be my plan, anyway. In any case, I’m really curious to see where they start Wilson (level wise) and see how quickly he can adapt to professional pitching. I really, really like this pick by Kansas City.

#17: Jeison Guzman, SS/CF

  • Acquired: 2015 International Free Agent (Dominican Republic)
  • Bats/Throws: S/R
  • Age: 22
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 159 PA, .291/.354/.468/.822, 4 HR, 16 XBH, 34 K : 12 BB, 9 SB, 124 wRC+

There are 106 hitters aged 22 or younger with at least 150 PA in High-A this season. Among them, Jeison Guzman ranks 20th in wRC+, 8th in BA, and 20th in wOBA. I’ve still got some questions about the approach and the hit tool, but Guzman has shown an ability to impact the baseball this year that I have not seen from him before. His .177 ISO this year is over 50 points better than his previous career high. Guzman is currently in Japan representing the Dominican Republic, but I am really excited to see him get back to Quad Cities later this summer to see if he can continue this pace. If he can, he’ll start 2022 as a 23-year old in AA with all kinds of upside. There are still some strides left to go, but I could not be more impressed with the adjustments that Guzman has made so far in the limited action we’ve seen from him in High-A.

#16: Austin Cox, LHP

  • Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft (5th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Age: 24
  • 2021 Stats (AA): 44.1 IP, 3.65 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 7.11 K/9, 3.86 BB/9

I was a big fan of…Austin’s coming into this season. We had him ranked ahead of Alec Marsh and Jonathan Bowlan this preseason for a reason. I believed a ton in the fastball/curveball combo and thought that there was a legitimate chance Cox could start in a good big league rotation. I still do, but I’m a little cautious of the fastball at the moment. At the end of 2019, Cox looked like he could potentially be among the best pitchers in the system, going to High-A and posting a 2.77 ERA in 10 starts to close out the year. He was throwing 92-94 topping 95 with an absolute hammer for a curveball. He’s been more like 88-91 this year after not starting with the team out of Spring Training due to some soreness, and I’m curious if we’ll see that good velocity again. If we do, Cox is still a top 12ish prospect in the system in my opinion. If not, he’s going to have to be perfect around the edges to be a starter and his command has been something of an issue at times. There’s still a ton to dream on here, but I’d really like to see a fully healthy…Austin before moving him back up the ranks.

#15: Clay Dungan, 2B

  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft (9th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Age: 25
  • 2021 Stats (AA): 298 PA, .295/.364/.436/.800, 8 HR, 18 XBH, 47 K : 24 BB, 17 SB, 118 wRC+

Clay Dungan may be my favorite surprise of the entire year for Kansas City. He hit the ball really well in rookie ball back in 2019, but he was 23 years old and didn’t show any kind of meaningful pop, I didn’t think. We left him off of our preseason rankings because, well, I figured he’d be a 25-year old Nicky Lopez in A-ball, but then he just kept getting all kinds of run with some of the biggest prospects in the system at big league camp in Spring Training. Dungan looks like he worked his tail off during the COVID year and has completely transformed his ability to drive the baseball. He’s got some legitimate pop, flashing max exit velocities up there with some of the best guys in the entire system, and his swing is going to allow him to drive the ball in the air without swinging and missing much. He’s got some of the best K% and SwStr% in the sytem, up there with the Kyle Isbel’s of the world, and flashes a ++ glove at 2B with the ability to handle SS in a pinch. Really, he reminds me a ton of Kyle Isbel in that way. If he was just a touch younger, he’d probably be in our top 10 right now. As it is, Dungan will probably find value in the role of a Nicky Lopez type when he reaches the big leagues, with just a touch more pop and XBH ability. There is a ton to like here and he really should be getting more attention from the average Royals fan.

#14: Frank Mozzicato, LHP

  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft (1st Round, 7th Overall)
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Age: 18

Here we go. This ought to be good. I just want to make something abundantly clear: I see the next four players on this list as being entirely interchangeable. Mozzicato, Kudrna, Zerpa, and Massey, you could convince me of having any of the four at any spot on this list between 14-11. So, don’t freak out too much about Mozzicato being here. He could just as easily be #11 on this list as he is at #14.

Alright. I didn’t love the pick at the time but I am coming around on it a little bit. There is a TON of upside here. Mozzicato’s fastball plays well in the upper parts of the zone for only being 90-92 (from what I’ve seen against some…inferior opponents), and his curveball has legitimately elite spin rates that you just cannot teach. Let’s say this all plays out and Mozzicato is pumping 97 in a couple years with a hammer for a curveball. Fantastic. I can actually see it happening. Mozzicato has that kind of projection and ability in my opinion. I just hope he’s in the right system to help him get there. If he does, you’ve got a kid as talented as Daniel Lynch on your hands. You could also have the next….well….use your imagination.

#13: Ben Kudrna, RHP

  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft (2nd Round)
  • Bats/Throws: R/R
  • Age: 18

This is my favorite player that the Royals drafted this year. The raw talent that Kudrna possesses is absolutely insane. He’s legitimately my 2nd or 3rd favorite prep arm in the entire draft class this year and if he had been drafted by the Dodgers or Rays or something, I think folks would be drooling over him. I’m not entirely sure I would’ve given him $3M given the track record of prep RHP in the draft, but my gosh is he talented. If the Royals can get the most out of his talent, you’ve got a front of the line rotation type with the ability to reach triple digits with a wipeout slider. Let us pray that the Royals can make some adjustments to their pitching development to get him there.

#12: Michael Massey, 2B

  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft (4th Round)
  • Bats/Throws: L/R
  • Age: 23
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 276 PA, .294/.354/.544/.898, 15 HR, 31 XBH, 38 K : 20 BB, 9 SB, 141 wRC+

This kid is a freaking stud. He and Vinnie Pasquantino were pretty interchangeable for me with the bat, but Massey’s ability to play good defense at 2B and run a little bit gives him the edge in our rankings. Massey has been incredible for Quad Cities this year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down, even without Pasquantino hitting behind him at the moment. I think he’ll get the bump to AA when Guzman gets back from the Olympics, and if he handles things well, could be 24 years old starting the year in AAA Omaha in 2022. The accomplishments of Dungan, Lopez, Witt Jr., and Massey give the Royals a few good options at 2B for the long run, meaning they REALLY ought to be looking to maximize the value on Whit Merrifield this week…in any case, I really think Massey could be the best option at 2B for Kansas City as soon as 2023, which says a lot about his development this season.

#11: Angel Zerpa, LHP

  • Acquired: 2016 International Free Agent (Venezuela)
  • Bats/Throws: L/L
  • Age: 21
  • 2021 Stats (A+ + AA): 70 IP, 3.99 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 10.67 K/9, 2.70 BB/9

68 pitchers aged 22 or younger have thrown at least 30 IP at High-A this season, and only one had a better FIP than Angel Zerpa. I was dead wrong about this kid coming into the season. I didn’t see a starting pitcher here. I was wrong. Zerpa might be a stud in the making if he can improve his breaking ball just half a grade and command it a little better as well. His fastball has been up to 96 mph this summer, which was a new high for me on him, and I think there may even be room for a touch more velo to come. Zerpa has been walking guys rather uncharacteristically at AA so far, but once he gets his command back together a bit, I think he’s got a chance to start dominating hitters once again. If he can be knocking on the door of the big leagues by the end of 2022, he’ll be just 22 years old with a chance to be making a big league debut for a team that could possibly be .500 ish. I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen from Zerpa so far and I can’t wait to see how it translates at AA once his command returns to normal for him.

4 thoughts on “RFR’s 2021 Mid-Season Royals Prospect Rankings: 11-20

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