RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: 50-41

Welcome back. Another year is upon us which means it’s time to break out another edition of the Royals Farm Report preseason prospect rankings. As always, these rankings are a cumulation of what is now seven different lists compiled by the guys on staff here. Jared Perkins, a new member of our staff, was able to get involved this year adding a new angle to our list. A couple of things to remember about prospect lists:
– They DO NOT MATTER. This is a list from a group of bloggers that love the Royals. We watch as many games as possible, do as much digging as possible, and try like hell to get you the best list possible so you can have an idea of what the Royals have coming through the minor league system. We love what we do and we love sharing that love with you. There’s no reason to be upset about a list. I promise you JJ Piccolo and the Royals front office aren’t using this list in their evaluations. So, enjoy the list, but please don’t take it too seriously.
– This list is a combination of seven individual lists. There’s no one person responsible for the placement of the prospects on this list.
– This list won’t be perfect. There will certainly be someone we rank way too low that makes us look silly in a couple of years. We do what we can, but understand that this is more for record keeping than “player #14 is better than player #15.” Pay more attention to tiers, and groups of prospects, rather than each individual ranking.

Alright, that should cover most of our bases. Thank you all so much for getting this far. We appreciate all of you for your support over the years. This will be our fourth annual preseason prospect rankings here at Royals Farm Report. Just for funsies, here’s a quick look at the top 5 prospects on each of our previous preseason lists.

2018:
1) Nick Pratto
2) Khalil Lee
3) Seuly Matias
4) Hunter Dozier
5) MJ Melendez

2019:
1) MJ Melendez
2) Brady Singer
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Khalil Lee
5) Nicky Lopez

2020:
1) Bobby Witt Jr.
2) Jackson Kowar
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Brady Singer
5) Erick Pena

2021:
1) Bobby Witt Jr.
2) Daniel Lynch
3) Asa Lacy
4) Jackson Kowar
5) Erick Pena

A couple of those names from 2021 might look pretty similar this year, but there’s gonna be some new faces in there too. I’m excited to get this going. Thank you, again, very much for enjoying this with us. You can read about the 23 players we listed as “Honorable Mention” below. Now it’s time we get into the top 50. Thanks again so much for reading. Enjoy!

#50: Luinder Avila, RHP

  • Age: 20
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 3″ 195′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2021 Stats (AZ/A-): 58.0 IP, 4.66 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 21.0% K%, 7.0% BB%, 1.14 WHIP

I’m not entirely sure if Avila’s spot on our rankings will come as a surprise to most, because I’m not entirely sure there’s more than five of you that will even know who Luinder Avila is. To anyone as insane as us to follow the system this much, maybe it will be a surprise. Avila hasn’t been spectacular in his four years of professional baseball, but there is a TON of projection left in his right arm and I LOVE his feel to pitch.

Avila doesn’t throw overly hard, 91-93 without a ton of movement (though his fastball was cutting like crazy in one particular outing I watched), but he locates the ball well for a younger kid and he has a WICKED changeup, something you don’t see much from younger pitchers. This might be a bit of a reach, but every now and then you see something in a kid that excites you and I’m willing to stick my neck out for this kid. He posted a 3.18 FIP with Low-A Columbia after being called up to fill out a hurting rotation. He didn’t give up a single home run while he was there and kept hitters off balance despite the lack of a dominant fastball. I assume he’ll start 2022 in Low-A again (though that could certainly change), and assuming things go well, he’ll end the year as a 21-year old in High-A.

You’ll notice that Avila is Rule 5 eligible this winter despite being just 21 years old. That’s due in part to the fact that he started pitching professionally when he was 16 years old back in 2018. We didn’t talk much about Avila in 2021 because he was hiding in Arizona for most of the summer, but you can bet you’ll be hearing more about him from us from now on.

#49: Tyler Tolbert, UTIL

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″ 160′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, Round 2
  • 2021 Stats (A-): .219/.352/.357/.709, 5 HR, 22 XBH, 49 SB, 14.7% BB%, 27.4% K%, 100 wRC+

Somewhere between Jarrod Dyson and Terrance Gore. That’s about how I’d describe Tyler Tolbert. Jarrod Dyson carved out a legitimate role in a big league lineup at times in his career despite being known for his speed on the base paths. Terrance Gore was used almost solely on the base paths, but dammit was he good at running bases. Tyler Tolbert is somewhere in the middle. He’s every bit the base runner of Dyson and Gore. He can play 2B, SS, and all three outfield positions well. I don’t know that he’ll ever hit enough to play as regularly as Dyson did, but I absolutely believe he could be used on the base paths and in the field as often as Dyson was used.

Tolbert isn’t exactly a black hole offensively though. He entered 2021 with no career home runs, and then bopped six between Low-A and High-A. He’s got some legitimately good batted ball data. He can run like hell. He just doesn’t make nearly enough contact at the moment to be considered as a legitimate offensive prospect long-term. Enter Drew Saylor. Tolbert, thankfully, has plenty of time to develop his bat-to-ball skills because the Royals don’t figure to need a runner-only type on their roster for the next year or two. When they do, if Tolbert is still in the organization, you can bet he’ll be the first person they call on. For now though it’ll be fun to see what the Royals development staff is able to do for the kid at the plate, because he has every other tool in the world that you could want in a prospect.

#48: Collin Snider, RHP

  • Age: 26
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 4″ 195′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, Round 12
  • 2021 Stats (AA/AAA): 66.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 22.0% K%, 8.9% BB%, 1.46 WHIP

It was a tale of two seasons for the Royals big relief prospect. Snider started out the 2021 season with AA Northwest Arkansas but was quickly promoted (after just two outings) to AAA Omaha and was…well…not good. He posted just a 14.3% K% and 11.45 ERA in his first 11 IP with Omaha. The Royals sent him back down to Northwest Arkansas to get right and he did just that. Snider bumped his K% to 26.9% with NWA and got his ERA down to 3.15. He returned to Omaha on August 24th and was much better than his first stint. He still only struck out 18.1% of the batters he faced, but he got his ERA down to 3.32 and was a really good arm out of the Storm Chasers’ bullpen down the stretch.

The Royals thought enough of the adjustments Snider made in 2021 to add him to their 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He’s got legitimately very good stuff. I’ve heard from a couple different people that they think he has some of the best stuff in the org. FanGraphs gave him a 55/55 fastball grade and 50/55 slider grade with 50/60 command last May. The raw “stuff” coming out of his hand seems apparent, and while I agree it’s pretty good, I’d be really curious to see his fastball metrics. He doesn’t appear to generate a ton of swings and misses on the pitch (the data may prove me dead wrong, that’s just an observation). I would never put a Brandon Maurer tag on anyone, seeing as that would just be rude, but his fastball seems to have similar characteristics. Good velo, good shape, just seems to get hit a lot.

Anyway. Snider’s appearance on this list is partially due to his addition to the 40-man roster, partially due to the things I’ve heard from people I trust, and partially due to the fact that his stuff is truly pretty impressive. We’ll see if the adjustments he made after his first stint in AAA will pay off. If everything clicks, he’s a legitimate back of the bullpen arm.

#47: Christian Chamberlain, LHP

  • Age: 22
  • B/T: L/L
  • Ht/Wt: 5′ 10″ 175′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, Round 4
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 3.2 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 3 H

I could not have been more excited to see Christian Chamberlain last summer. He wasn’t exactly on my radar during that chaotic 2020 draft cycle, but after diving into his career at Oregon State I loved what I saw. Chamberlain, despite his size, is a freaking bulldog on the mound. He isn’t afraid to attack hitters with his fastball that can touch upwards of 98 mph at times and his curveball might remind some of former Royal Tim Collins a little bit. I don’t mean to comp him directly to Collins but Chamberlain will certainly remind some Royals fans of the former left-handed reliever whose curveball had its own Twitter account for a little bit.

Chamberlain looked great in a very limited capacity for the Quad Cities River Bandits last summer. He got his season started a little late due to some soreness, then was shut down for the year after just two professional outings. Even in those two outings he showed off exactly why Royals fans ought to be excited about this kid moving forward if he can get healthy. He’s more than likely destined for the bullpen on a permanent basis moving forward, but he could be a legitimate weapon there in the big leagues. If Chamberlain had been healthy in 2021, I feel confident in saying he would definitely be in our top 35 right now. He checks in at #47 for now, but look for him to make a very quick rise in our mid-season rankings if he comes out and looks good this spring.

#46: Caden Monke, LHP

  • Age: 22
  • B/T: L/:
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 3″ 170′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft, Round 14
  • 2021 Stats (AZ/A-/A+): 13.2 IP, 17 K, 7 BB, 7 H

Caden Monke made 11 appearances for Royals affiliates after being drafted out of the University of Arkansas last summer and only allowed a run in 2 of them. He was completely dominant at times and worked his way all the way up to High-A where he was a force to be reckoned with on that High-A Central championship team. Monke was pretty successful at Arkansas, but he showed another gear in pro ball that kind of makes me wonder what the hell he was still doing on the board in the 14th round.

Maybe I’m reaching a bit here. Maybe Monke’s debut was a mirage and he’ll flame out a bit in his second bout with professional hitters. But the pitcher that I saw in 2021 is absolutely going to be a big leaguer in some capacity. Monke throws all 6′ 3″ of his wiry frame at the hitter and then unloads a 93-95 mph fastball that has to look more like 95-97 to the hitter. His slider is his best secondary pitch at the moment which creates an impossible angle for left-handed hitters. Monke’s biggest concern moving forward is his control, and he did walk over 5 batters per 9 IP at Arkansas, but I think the raw stuff will overcome those concerns at the upper levels. Deception is the number one most unquantifiable trait a pitcher can possess and Monke seemingly possesses a ton of it. We’ve seen what guys like this can do in the minor leagues. It’s really a question now of, “Can he make the necessary adjustments to be effective in a big league bullpen long-term?” If I was a betting man, I’d be betting on this kid.

#45: John McMillon, RHP

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: L/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 3″ 230′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent, 2020
  • 2021 Stats (AZ/A-): 17 IP, 32 K, 13 BB, 16 H

John “The Whammer” McMillon was one of the most highly coveted players in the undrafted free agent class in 2020. Had he had a full 2020 spring to show off his stuff, he may have been drafted in the top five rounds. College relievers don’t always get drafted very high, but McMillon is the exception to the rule because he’s got top 1% stuff in the entire world. Seriously, despite no professional track record to speak of by the age of 24, McMillon earned this spot on our ranking purely because he rivals Asa Lacy for the best pure “stuff” of any pitcher in the organization.

When he’s right, John McMillon will throw his fastball in the upper-90’s and touch 100 mph with elite spin rates on both his fastball and curveball. The control is definitely something of an issue at the moment, and folks may be reminded of Josh Staumont based on this brief detail of McMillon, but McMillon’s stuff is legitimately as good or better than even Staumont’s when he’s right. He’s going to have to stay healthy (he had surgery to repair his ulnar nerve in September), and he’s going to have to be around the zone more than he was in 2021, but it won’t take a whole lot of improvement for McMillon to reach the big leagues. I don’t mean to belittle the control issues, because it is certainly a problem at the moment, but if McMillon makes any kind of significant strides in his development, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the back of a big league bullpen.

#44: Noah Murdock, RHP

  • Age: 23
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 8″ 205′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, Round 7
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 22.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 19.8% K%, 11.5% BB%, 1.15 WHIP

The way Noah Murdock was throwing the ball for Quad Cities, he’d be a hell of a lot higher on this list if he’d been healthier. The 6′ 8″ righty out of the University of Virginia looked dang near unhittable at High-A last summer and looked like a legitimate piece of the future until he was shut down for the season in July. Unfortunately for Murdock and the Royals, that was the theme of 2021 as Murdock was late getting out of Arizona as well. There’s no question about whether Murdock’s stuff is good enough to carry him to the big leagues. He doesn’t throw overly hard, but he can get his fastball into the mid-90’s which is more than enough when you’re 6′ 8″. His breaking ball is my favorite secondary offering of his at the moment, but I thought his changeup was more than fine at times too.

Murdock, Monke, Chamberlain, Snider, and McMillon are all pretty interchangeable here in terms of ranking, which is why you’ll find them all back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. Murdock somehow has the best track record of the four, McMillon possesses the most upside, Chamberlain and Monke both bring some intrigue from the left side, and they all have some questions to answer in 2022. All five could be effective big league relievers, but all five have plenty to prove on their road to The Show.

#43: Luca Tresh, C

  • Age: 22
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″ 195′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft, Round 74
  • 2021 Stats (AZ/A-): .226/.293/.358/.652, 1 HR, 5 XBH, 8.6% BB%, 25.9% K%, 75 wRC+

Luca Tresh had sort of a wild 2021. He was highly thought of as a potential first round catcher before the collegiate season began. He got out of the gates hot for NC State, cooled off, and then played a huge role in the Wolfpack getting to the College World Series in Omaha. It sounded a lot like he’d be returning for his senior season, causing him to fall all the way down to Kansas City in the 17th round of the draft, where he sort of surprisingly wound up signing for less than half of a million dollars. He made it to Low-A in his professional debut and then even wound up catching a few games in the prestigious Arizona Fall League to top it all off. Caught up?

I like Tresh a good bit as a catching prospect. He’s got a ton of raw strength, translating well to his power at the plate and cannon for an arm behind it. He’s not an elite receiver yet by any means, but he’s a bit new as a backstop and actually looked really good back there for NC State down the stretch. He’s gotta cut down on the swing and miss, something he and the next guy on our list have in common. In fact, he and Kale Emshoff are pretty interchangeable here. Don’t pay too much attention to us ranking one over the other. Both are good catching prospects to have in your system. Both could potentially hit 20+ HR in the big leagues if given the opportunity, or could provide a legitimate power threat in a backup role off of the bench. In any case, we ought to get a better look at Tresh in 2022 when he’s had some time to get settled in with the organization and finally has some consistency.

#42: Kale Emshoff, C

  • Age: 23
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 2″ 230′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
  • Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent, 2020
  • 2021 Stats (A-/A+): .267/.378/.480/.858, 10 HR, 27 XBH, 13.5% BB%, 32.6% K%, 132 wRC+

Like McMillon and Garza, Emshoff was one of the 2020 undrafted free agent classes’ biggest prizes. In a draft that was shortened due to “COVID,” the Royals walked away with four of the classes’ best undrafted guys in Tucker Bradley, Saul Garza, John McMillon, and Kale Emshoff. Some even thought of Emshoff as being the best of the best of that group due to his size, power, and ability behind the plate.

Emshoff showed off plenty of all of that in his professional debut in 2021. His .232 ISO was the 5th best mark of all hitters in the Low-A East league (min. 200 PA). He allowed just 3 passed balls in over 300 innings between Low-A and High-A. In his first 98 professional PA, his K% soared over 38%, but he cut that down over 12% over his next 136 PA before being promoted to High-A. His last 89 PA in Low-A consisted of just a 22.5% K% to go with 9 XBH and a 163 wRC+. It’s hard to know just how much the missed 2020 season affected some of these guys, but you can tell that 2020 class made great strides toward the end of the 2021 season (Nick Loftin, for example, also started off slow and ended scorching hot).

Emshoff will need to continue to cut down on the strikeouts to jump back into our top 30, but I was really pleased to see the adjustments he made down the stretch in 2021. He’ll presumably have a chance to end the 2022 season as a 24-year old in AA, leaving him just one step away from The Show. Unfortunately for Emshoff (and Tresh), he’s in a system that is loaded with talented catchers right now, so how he fits into the puzzle will remain to be seen. A good showing in 2022 could be great for his theoretical trade value if the Royals decide that’s the way they want to go with him.

#41: Wilmin Candelario, SS

  • Age: 20
  • B/T: S/R
  • Ht/Wt: 5′ 11″ 195′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2021 Stats (AZ): .154/.206/.285/.490, 3 HR, 8 XBH, 9 SB, 5.6% BB%, 51.4% K%, 26 wRC+

There’s really no sugar coating it, Wilmin Candelario had a ROUGH go of things in the Arizona Complex League last summer. I’ve mentioned this several times before on Twitter and the podcast, but I had a couple of people tell me that the pitching quality was so bad in Arizona last summer that you can throw out the entire league. Almost all of the Royals biggest prospects that went into the ACL last summer struggled. So, I’m willing to kind of give Candelario a pass here, but a 51.4% K% is ATROCIOUS no matter how you frame it.

The good news is that Candelario has some of my favorite tools of any position player in the entire organization. Right up there with Erick Pena and Maikel Garcia in that Tier 2 behind Bobby Witt Jr. and the gang. He hits for quite a bit of power for a kid that’s not really that big. He’s got 20 stolen bases and 27 XBH in 87 career games. He’s a smooth defender at SS and could legitimately be a plus defender there one day. He tore up the Dominican Summer League back in 2019 and was cruising up prospect lists before the 2020 shutdown.

The 2020 shutdown also feels like it deserves some acknowledgment here for how some of these international guys performed in 2021. I don’t know the specific situation for each prospect, but I know some of these guys had trouble getting into the States, facilities were closed in Arizona for a while, and it’s fair to assume those things took a toll on the kids who needed the structure of what MiLB brings them the most. So, while I’m not exactly excited about the showing that Candelario had in 2021, I am still excited about the raw ability he’s blessed with. He’s going to have to show us something this spring to remain on the list, but there’s a lot to like about the player worthy of plenty of chances to succeed. A few years ago it would be a little easier to write someone like Candelario off, but Drew Saylor, Alec Zumwalt, and the Royals PD team have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to getting these young hitters on the right path.

Photo Credits: @bmitchell1810 on Twitter

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5 thoughts on “RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: 50-41

  1. Hi Alex, big concerns in KC’s international scouting when a player like Candelario struggles so badly in the states. Tools and talent – yes but OMG 51% K rate. Add that to Erick Pena’s struggles and you have two big dollar prize prospects who are overwhelmed in rookie ball. Not good at all. I also have concerns when the focus on Royals development staff like Zumalt and Saylor are relied upon too much instead of the coaches on the regular staff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: 40-31 | Royals Farm Report

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