RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: 25-21

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” and players 26-50 below. Now it’s time to get into the top 25! Enjoy!

#25: Seuly Matias, OF

  • Age: 23
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 3″ 225′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2021
  • Acquired: International Free Agent
  • 2021 Stats (A+/AA): .213/.309/.511/.819, 18 HR, 31 XBH, 5 SB, 8.9% BB%, 36.4% K%, 115 wRC+

If you have been following this site for more than like a week, you probably don’t need much of a refresher here. 80-grade raw power. Cannon for an arm in RF. Moves around the bases well enough to not clog them up. Moves around in RF well enough to be a serviceable defender. Going to strike out in over 30% of his PA with regularity. Matias went down to the Arizona Fall League this past offseason after some missing some time due to injury in the summer. He bopped six impressive home runs, struck out in 33% of his PA, and walked in 12.8% of them. The strikeouts, for the most part, are what they are at this point. There’s a chance he can cut down on them just enough to play in the big leagues, but he’s always going to be around that 30% mark. The walks, however, were a welcoming development. It’s not that Seuly has never shown the ability to take a walk, he walked in over 11% of his PA twice in the minor leagues, he just hasn’t ever walked so much that it kind of eased the pain of the strikeouts. If Seuly can walk in 12% of his PA moving forward, that is a massive step in his development long-term.

There were times last summer when I really felt like Seuly had turned some things around in his approach. He appeared to be way more selective on the first pitch of an at bat than I’ve seen in the past. He didn’t walk a ton between High-A and AA, but the added walks in the Arizona Fall League really intrigue me. Seuly’s power was on full display all year, so there’s nothing to worry about in that department. The dude hit 23 HR in 91 games last year. He’s a force to be reckoned with when he’s healthy, which has unfortunately become a concern nearly as big as the strikeouts for Matias, but I’d be willing to bet on this kid making some improvements in 2022 that get people excited about the prodigious power once again. The question will be, “Are the improvements going to be enough for Matias to reach the big leagues in the next couple of years?” We shall see. #InSaylorWeTrust

#24: Nate Webb, RHP

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 2″ 215″
  • Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
  • Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft, Round 34
  • 2021 Stats (A-/A+): 59.1 IP, 3.94 ERA, 3.02 FIP, 37.7% K%, 8.9% BB%, 1.03 WHIP

In the spirit of transparency, I probably wasn’t considering Webb nearly enough for our top 30 before the Royals added him to their 40-man roster this offseason. Webb obviously had a great year in Low-A when he struck out 41% of the hitters he faced, but he was 23 years old and still walking a few too many hitters than you’d like, which had kind of been the knock against Webb so far in his professional career. Then Webb was promoted to High-A, closed out the High-A Central championship for Quad Cities, and just seemed to find another gear that was completely untouchable. Even still…a 23-year old reliever in High-A…I don’t know.

It wasn’t until the 40-man roster addition that I decided to just go back and watch pretty much every outing Webb had with Quad Cities. If you lower the minimum innings requirement down to 30, Webb had the 4th best FIP in the High-A Central last summer. He was also 4th in xFIP, 12th in K%, 22nd in K/9, 5th in K-BB%, 24th in WHIP, and 4th in SwStr%. The kid was legitimately almost unhittable. His fastball, that popped triple digits a couple of times in that High-A Central championship, showed improved command from Low-A and was blown by hitters with regularity. His slider began to take shape and became a legitimately filthy secondary offering for Webb. He even flashed a changeup to lefties that did a great job of keeping them off balance and from camping on his fastball. There’s a reason he’s not quite ranked as high as a guy like Will Klein on this list, but he was just about as good as the River Bandits relief ace down the stretch and he certainly warrants his spot on the 40-man roster.

Webb is another local kid that is going to be super easy to root for. He’s a Lee’s Summit North High School graduate that used to work on the Royals grounds crew as a kid. Seriously. The dude used to take care of the field he’s going to wind up pitching on here in the next couple of seasons. Now he finds himself on the team’s 40-man roster and just a moment’s notice away from a big league call up. 2022 should be a big year for Webb and what ought to be an outright dominant bullpen at AA Northwest Arkansas.

#23: Daniel Tillo, LHP

  • Age: 25
  • B/T: L/L
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 5″ 215′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
  • Acquired: 2017 MLB Draft, Round 3
  • 2021 Stats (AA): 23.1 IP, 4.63 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 21.6% K%, 14.7% BB%, 1.54 WHIP

If you’d forgotten about how good Daniel Tillo is when he’s healthy, that’s okay. Keeping track of every player on the 40-man roster when they miss nearly two entire seasons is not an easy task, especially when that player has not yet made their big league debut. I am now asking you to remember how good Daniel Tillo is when he’s healthy, because the big lefty is coming in hot in 2022.

Back in November of 2019, Tillo was pitching for Team USA and pumping 96-97 mph with a national spotlight on him. He showed up to big league Spring Training in 2020 and appeared to have picked up where he left off with Team USA. There was buzz around Tillo that he may even break camp with the big league club in 2020 after an impressive run with AA Northwest Arkansas to end the 2019 minor league season. Well, Tillo required Tommy John Surgery in 2020 and then we never saw him after the season resumed. He returned in 2021, threw 29 innings between Arizona and AA Northwest Arkansas, and despite not quite being all the way back, he should be back this spring and ready to make another run at the Opening Day roster for 2022.

The overall results weren’t there for Tillo in 2021, but there was plenty to like about his performance. His 8.49 K/9 was the highest mark of his career, along with a career high 21.6% K%. He was a bit wild and a bit elevated at times (Tillo throws a heavy sinker when he’s right so being elevated isn’t great for him), leading to a higher batting average against than we’d normally see for him, but he only allowed 1 HR in 29 innings between Arizona and NWA. If Tillo can regain the stuff he was showing back in 2019, there’s no reason he can’t break camp with the big league club in 2022.

#22: Anthony Veneziano, LHP

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: L/L
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 5″ 205′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, Round 10
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 93.2 IP, 3.75 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 32.3% K%, 9.4% BB%, 1.21 WHIP

There were 85 pitchers aged 23 or younger that threw at least 60 IP in High-A last summer. Here is where Anthony Veneziano ranked in certain categories:
– Strikeouts: 2nd
– K/9: 9th
– K%: 7th
– K-BB%: 10th
– SwStr%: 2nd

Another big LHP in this Royals system, Veneziano is likely a reliever long-term due to a lack of plus-control, but there’s at least a chance he could start which is why we’ve got him a tick ahead of Tillo here. When he’s right, Veneziano will run his fastball into the upper-90’s and has even hit 100 mph a time or two. His slider is a good pitch made better by a filthy angle Veneziano is able to create with his lanky frame. His changeup has really good shape, though I didn’t see Veneziano use a ton of it against righties last year and so I still don’t have a great feel for how that pitch will play at the upper levels. The development of that changeup and the ability to keep his walks down will be the difference between the bullpen and starting rotation for Veneziano moving forward.

If Veneziano does wind up in the bullpen, which is a pretty strong lean for me at the moment, he’s going to be an absolute force to be reckoned with. He generates a ton of swings and misses with his fastball which is steps one and two for any pitcher wanting to reach the big leagues. He doesn’t have any crazy splits, but he is absolutely dominant against left-handed hitters, which you’d expect from a 6′ 5″ lefty. Again, if you can get this kid in shorter stints where he can turn his fastball loose a little more often, he has the potential to be a dominant arm in the back of a bullpen that could theoretically consist of Will Klein, Dylan Coleman, Nate Webb, Daniel Tillo, Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont…whew.

#21: Peyton Wilson, 2B

  • Age: 22
  • B/T: S/R
  • Ht/Wt: 5′ 9″ 180′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
  • Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft, Round 2
  • 2021 Stats (AZ/A-): .216/.341/.392/.733, 1 HR, 9 XBH, 7 SB, 11.0% BB%, 23.1% K%, 99 wRC+

Maybe my favorite pick of the draft at the time considering the price, the round, and the player, Wilson showed off a little bit of everything in his professional debut for Kansas City. If you ignore his batting average, pretty much everything else about Wilson was as advertised. His .176 ISO suggests he’s got a little pop in his bat despite the fact that he’ll never be known as a power hitter. Seven stolen bases in 23 games is nothing to shake a stick at. An 11% BB% would’ve been good for 34th best in MLB last year. The 23% K% isn’t great, but you’d expect that to come down a bit with more experience. And yet, despite a BABIP much lower than you’d expect for a guy like Wilson, he was about league average at the plate.

I really, really like the addition of Peyton Wilson to this organization. I think he can be a very Jed Lowrie type of player if he reaches his potential, and even if he doesn’t quite reach his ceiling, his floor is plenty high enough to carry him through the minor leagues and give him at least a shot at the big leagues. Wilson’s carrying tools will be his speed, defense, and hit tool, but I really believe there’s some extra juice in the bat that we haven’t seen yet. If he can maximize the efficiency of his swing and keep the strikeouts to a minimum, I think he could be a guy that’s good for 10+ HR every year despite the smaller frame. This is a kid we were high on before the draft and nothing that we saw in 2021 changed our minds about him. Really excited to see where the Royals start him out in 2022.

Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@BanditsPhotog)

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