There is no debate about who the Royals best prospect has been since the 2019 draft began. The moment the Royals chose Bobby Witt Jr. #2 overall in June of 2019 he vaulted to the top of the prospect rankings and hasn’t left the top of any good lists since. There was some discussion on the interwebs about Witt being the second best prospect behind Daniel Lynch and/or Asa Lacy for a while, and while I think those discussions were always silly, I think there were some legitimate conversations taking place about the gap between Witt Jr. and the crowd, even if it was clear Witt was always at least a hair above the rest.
By the time the 2022 season comes to an end, I think we all assume that the Royals’ current top three prospects (Witt Jr., Melendez, and Pratto) will all have graduated. Add in the recent graduations of Kyle Isbel, Daniel Lynch, Carlos Hernandez, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Jackson Kowar, and it’s fair to start wondering what the top of the list will look like this time next year. I decided to go ahead and rank the top 10 possibilities for who could be the Royals #1 prospect next offseason. Keep in mind, this isn’t necessarily a prediction of the top 10 next year. Think of it more as a Vegas odds to be THE #1 prospect.
Really quick, here is a quick list of guys that I think are more likely to be graduated next offseason than they are to be the Royals #1 prospect: Austin Cox, Angel Zerpa, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Jonathan Bowlan. Bowlan has the most realistic chance of the four to be considered the Royals top prospect in my opinion, but I don’t think any of the four are quite good enough to be considered the top guy AND somehow not graduate by the end of the season. So, that’s why they won’t be included in the top 10. Okay, here we go:
#10: Nick Loftin, UTIL
I like Nick Loftin a good bit, I just don’t know how much ceiling he has and therefore can’t really picture a world where he surpasses the likes of Asa Lacy, Erick Pena, and whomever the Royals draft with the 9th overall pick. I think there’s a decent chance he could be a consensus top 5 pick by this time next year, but I just think the chances of him being a bona fide #1 prospect are infinitely lower than his chances of sticking in the top 5.
#9: Seuly Matias, OF
Look, I know, but the Royals only have one guy with his power and its him. That kind of power puts Matias within arms reach of being the #1 prospect in a system that may lack a true heavyweight. The Vegas odds of this actually happening would be, like, +10000, and there’s almost certainly a better chance he’s still outside our top 20 than actually being #1, but, hey. Anything can happen.
#8: Maikel Garcia, SS
Garcia doesn’t have any power to speak of but he might be the best defender at SS in the system and his hit tool/patience combo is spectacular. If Garcia goes to AA and pops 5-6 HR next year, and finds his way to AAA before the end of the season, and EVERYTHING else goes his way (which would also require a lot of other things to go horribly wrong), you can squint and see it.
#7: Will Klein, RHP
I almost put Klein in the “more likely to graduate” category but here’s my caveat: if the Royals decide to let him start games at AA next year, then maybe. Could Klein’s stuff play as a potential #1 starter? I mean, probably not, but he’s got a better chance than most of the arms in the system. If he relieves long-term, there’s almost certainly a 0% chance he could ever be considered for the top spot.
* Large Gap *
#6: Frank Mozzicato, LHP
Mozzicato, the Royals 7th overall pick in 2021, possesses a mid- to low-90’s fastball and lethal curveball from the left side of the mound. If he progresses like the Royals expect him to, I expect he’ll have his name in plenty of top five conversations for the Royals prospects list.
#5: Ben Kudrna, RHP
Same story as Mozzicato here, but Kudrna possesses the better fastball at present in my opinion which gives him the leg up. If he comes out throwing 95-97 consistently in Columbia (A-) and holds his own, he’ll skyrocket up Royals prospect rankings.
#4: Erick Pena, OF
The prize of the Royals 2019 International Free Agent class, Pena struggled a bit in his professional debut in Arizona this past summer. If Pena, who is still incredibly blessed with out of this world athleticism, can go to Columbia and hit well next year, he’ll be back in the conversation for the Royals top prospect spot this time next fall.
#3: Whomever the Royals draft with the 9th overall pick
We’ll get into draft coverage in January, but it looks like the top 10 of this next draft class is stronger than it’s been in years past. The Royals could legitimately draft their best prospect next summer if things don’t go right for the pitchers.
#2: Alec Marsh, RHP
There was some whispers this past offseason that Marsh could climb into the national top 100 lists with a good showing at AA in 2021. Marsh was striking out the world before an injury shelved him for the season back in mid-June and his stuff looked fantastic despite so-so overall results. Because Marsh only threw 25.1 IP this year after there was no season in 2020, I don’t know what to expect from him in terms of where he’ll be next October. However, if he can get healthy and return to his early 2021 form, he’ll be in strong consideration for the top spot.
#1: Asa Lacy, LHP
The 4th overall pick back in 2020, Lacy has the pedigree and the stuff to maintain a #1 ranking in the system if he doesn’t debut in 2022. He’s currently tearing up the Arizona Fall League in shorter stints, topping out at 100 mph a couple weeks ago. He’s going to walk a fine line of graduation and stardom if he’s healthy in 2022, but I’ll bet the Royals take it a little bit slower with him next year before unleashing him on the league in 2023. If I had to make a bet for the Royals #1 prospect this time next year, this is where I’d bet my money.
- Daniel Vasquez will get his time, but I don’t think he can make this kind of jump with just a good Arizona performance next summer. We’ll circle back to Vasquez next offseason.
- The Royals prospect list could potentially go back to being pitcher heavy again next year when Witt, Melendez, Pratto, and Pasquantino are all potentially graduated. Darryl Collins, Carter Jensen, Peyton Wilson, and Nick Loftin could begin the next wave of hitters, but the top of this list seems destined to be pitcher heavy.
- It’s going to be important for the Royals to start refilling the organization with higher ceiling types of hitters. They’ve done a good job of keeping it stocked with arms of late, but they need to find their next generation of top tier hitters now as well.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@BanditsPhotog)