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 5 players on our 2021 list:
#10: Nick Loftin, SS
- Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft (1st Round Comp. A)
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Age: 22
- 2021 Stats (A+): 253 PA, .242/.315/.383/.698, 6 HR, 20 XBH, 37 K : 21 BB, 6 SB, 94 wRC+
Despite some rather underwhelming stats in his professional debut, I’ve been really impressed with Nick Loftin this year. After finishing Tuesday night’s game 2-3 with HR #6 and a walk, his season OPS is up to .722 and wRC+ is nearly league average. Loftin hasn’t hit for a ton of power yet, but he’s shown flashes of good enough power and is a ++ athlete in the field. He has some of the very best K% and SwStr% in the organization. I didn’t like the Whit Merrifield comps at all coming out of Baylor, but the more he plays the more I can see why people put that comp on him. Loftin is a really good line drive hitter and has shown enough pull power to make you think he could hit 15 HR in the big leagues once or twice. I don’t think he’s a SS long-term but he’s so athletic I think he could handle 2B, 3B, and LF and be a true Ben Zobrist type of super-utility defender in the big leagues. I’m not sure we’ll see him in AA this season, because there’s really no need while he isn’t dominating High-A, but I’d bet he starts there as a 23-year old in 2022. With Mondesi and Bobby Witt Jr. manning the left side of the infield, hopefully, Loftin’s versatility will be a huge addition to the Royals lineup right around the same time Whit Merrifield’s contract comes to an end.
#9: Erick Pena, OF
- Acquired: 2019 International Free Agent (Dominican Republic)
- Bats/Throws: L/R
- Age: 18
- 2021 Stats (ACL): 73 PA, .222/.329/.413/.742, 1 HR, 9 XBH, 16 K : 9 BB, 1 SB, 89 wRC+
I absolutely love this kid’s ceiling. He has such great hands with the ability to drive baseballs so effortlessly when he’s making contact. The numbers in Arizona this year aren’t really worth discussing too much, but Pena does have the 3rd most doubles in the league at the moment. He’s playing CF now but I would imagine this kid moves to LF or RF long-term as he grows into his 6′ 4″ frame and inevitably loses a little speed. This kid legitimately has the second highest ceiling of any player in this system at the moment, and if he can get a little time in Low-A this season, he’ll have a full head of steam heading into the 2022 season. I don’t think we see this kid in the big leagues until 2024 at the earliest, but my goodness, when he arrives he’s going to be so much fun to see in a lineup that should have Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, Salvador Perez, Bobby Witt Jr., and Kyle Isbel in the middle of it. Now it’s just a waiting game.
#8: Jonathan Bowlan, RHP
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft (2nd Round)
- Bats/Throws: R/R
- Age: 24
- 2021 Stats (AA): 17 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.06 FIP, 13.24 K/9, 1.59 BB/9
I know it was just 17 innings, but Bowlan looked like the second best pitcher in the entire system (behind Kowar) before blowing his UCL earlier this spring. I happened to be at the game when he blew his elbow, and my gosh, the first inning he threw was mighty impressive. Flashing 97 on the radar gun in Springfield and had perfect command of his fastball and breaking ball, which he showed in all 4 starts. The fastball was the only thing I was a little cautious of coming into this season, but 97 will play at any level with his ++ command. We’ll have to make sure he bounces back right from Tommy John Surgery, but there wasn’t anyone I was more impressed with this season than Bowlan while he was healthy. I imagine we’ll get a chance to see him back in action between AA and AAA sometime next summer, putting him a healthy month or three away from the big leagues.
#7: Kyle Isbel, OF
- Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft (3rd Round)
- Bats/Throws: L/R
- Age: 24
- 2021 Stats (AAA): 288 PA, .254/.354/.415/.769, 8 HR, 22 XBH, 58 K : 32 BB, 16 SB, 106 wRC+
Isbel’s overall numbers have been pretty good in Omaha, but they’ve been incredible of late. Since June 23rd, Isbel is hitting .293 with 4 HR and 8 doubles with a 1.06 BB/K and 146 wRC+ in 114 PA. That is much more on brand for Isbel than we saw from him early on this season. I still think Isbel is going to be a very good everyday RF for the Royals, as soon as later this summer. Isbel can really go get it in the outfield and, as you can see, steals his fair share of bases as well. I think at his peak he can be a Kole Calhoun type posting 4ish fWAR with good offensive output and borderline Gold Glove defense in the outfield. I know his debut this spring was less than impressive, but Royals fans should still be REALLY excited about Kyle Isbel’s future.
#6: Asa Lacy, LHP
- Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft (1st Round, 4th Overall)
- Bats/Throws: L/L
- Age: 22
- 2021 Stats (A+): 52 IP, 5.19 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 13.67 K/9, 7.10 BB/9
To be completely honest with you, I have no idea how serious Asa Lacy’s injury is. I don’t want to speculate what I’ve heard until the team announces anything, but it’s not anything normal/major. In any case, Lacy was so wild in his professional debut this season that it’s hard to squint and see a starter in there. I have no idea if the injury and control issues are related, but hopefully we can wipe the slate clean and get a fresh start for Lacy in 2022. It’s probably best to temper expectations of him making his big league debut before the trade deadline in 2023 at this point, but I still think Lacy can move quickly once he’s back on the mound. His stuff is absolutely filthy. When he had any semblance of control this year, he didn’t get touched. Too often guys would just camp on fastballs and come out of their shoes when they got one because the offspeed stuff wasn’t close. The stuff is good enough that Lacy will have some role in the big leagues, be it in the ‘pen or rotation, I just wish we could’ve seen him make some adjustments this year to make me feel better about his chances to start. He’s still here at #6 (ahead of Bowlan and others) for a reason, he’s wildly talented and has some of the best pure stuff I’ve seen, but we’re going to need him to get healthy and hone his craft a bit before moving him past guys that are producing in a big way at the upper levels.