RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: 20-16

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 21-50 below. Now it’s time to get into the top 20! Enjoy!

#20: Drew Parrish, LHP

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: L/L
  • Ht/Wt: 5′ 11″ 200′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, Round 8
  • 2021 Stats (A+/AA): 98.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 30.1% K%, 7.1% BB%, 0.99 WHIP

There were 67 pitchers aged 23 or younger to throw at least 50 innings at the AA level last season. Drew Parrish ranked:
– 20th in ERA
– 17th in FIP
– 17th in K-BB%
– 19th in BAA
– 18th in SwStr%

After posting an ERA of 0.00 to begin the season with High-A Quad Cities, Parrish went off to compete with the US Olympic team before during the Olympic qualifiers. He missed about three weeks of competition (because he didn’t pitch for Team USA) and then was promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas. It took Parrish a few outings to get back into the swing of things, but once he got settled in, he started cruising again. Over his last 8 AA starts, Parrish posted an ERA of 1.93 with a 2.77 FIP and struck out 46 batters in 42 IP. To say that Parrish was impressive would be doing him a disservice, especially for a guy that entered the season outside of our top 30.

Parrish’s fastball doesn’t get much higher than 95 mph, but he can consistently throw it 93-94 and his ++ changeup makes the pitch feel like it’s getting on you a bit quicker than it really is. His curveball came around immensely down the stretch and became a legitimate third offering for Parrish against left-handed hitters. If Parrish’s scouting report reminds you at all of Kris Bubic, I’d say you’re probably on the right track. Parrish’s changeup isn’t quite what Bubic’s is, but he commands the ball better than Bubic and I think his fastball will be a better pitch than Bubic’s at the big league level as well.

Parrish fell during the 2019 draft because of a bit of a lackluster spring at Florida State. However, he had a track record of success and absolutely showed out during the College World Series that spring, which landed him on our radar before the draft began. The Royals got lucky to scoop Parrish up in the 8th round like they did. He’s Rule 5 eligible next offseason, but I feel comfortable saying there is a 0% chance he won’t be on the 40-man roster before then. He may not make his big league debut this summer, but I’d say there’s a 40% chance we see Parrish in Kansas City in 2022. Even if we don’t, this kid has 100% earned a spot on this team’s 40-man roster next offseason.

#19: Ben Hernandez, RHP

  • Age: 20
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 2″ 205′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, Round 2
  • 2021 Stats (A-): 31.1 IP, 4.31 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 22.3% K%, 12.2% BB%, 1.56 WHIP

Ben Hernandez looked really, really good for Low-A Columbia last year before he was shut down with an injury in June. He did make three starts in the Arizona Complex League before their season ended, but he never made it back to Columbia so we could get a closer look at him. Assuming he’s healthy, Hernandez will sit 93-94 with the fastball and run it up to 97. His best secondary offering is a wicked changeup that some thought of as the best changeup in the entire 2020 draft cycle. His curveball was not very good in high school, but it looked great in the limited looks we got at it in Columbia. I even heard a scout say something like, “He did not have that pitch when we saw him in 2020.”

The development of Hernandez’ curveball and fastball velocity ought to be a welcoming sight for Royals fans. The Royals have been sort of infamous for their lack of pitching development in the system over the years, but I think Royals fans are about to witness the product of a complete overhaul in their pitching development philosophy. These kids are training different. They’re throwing different. It all just LOOKS different. To say that I’m excited for what we’re going to see from Hernandez, Mozzicato, Kudrna, etc. in 2022 would be an understatement.

I’m not entirely sure where I think Hernandez starts out in 2022, but if he’s in a rotation with Mozzicato and Kudrna in Columbia…look out. That would be a really, really fun team to watch considering that Peyton Wilson, Erick Pena, and others could be joining them there. We’ll have to make sure he’s healthy, but there’s no reason that Hernandez couldn’t pitch his way into our top 10 at some point in the near future. He’s got that kind of ability.

#18: Dylan Coleman, RHP

  • Age: 25
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 5″ 230′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
  • Acquired: Trade for Trevor Rosenthal
  • 2021 Stats (AA/AAA): 57.2 IP, 3.28 ERA, 2.39 FIP, 40.4% K%, 9.6% BB%, 1.04 WHIP

There were 1,132 pitchers that threw at least 50 IP last year in the minor leagues. Only 12 had a better K% than Dylan Coleman. Only 14 had a better FIP. And only 15 had a better SwStr% between AA and AAA. The big righty from Missouri State exploded onto the scene last year after coming to Kansas City in a trade from San Diego and currently looks like an absolute steal for what wound up being one month of Trevor Rosenthal. It wasn’t always this way for Coleman though. He’d had some success in the Padres system, but he’d just never been healthy enough to show it for long. He threw 56.2 total innings between 2018 and 2019 for San Diego, then threw 64 innings last year between AA, AAA, and MLB for the Royals. Alec Lewis of The Athletic had a really good piece on Coleman’s journey that you can read here, but to sum it up, Coleman had an injury and some mechanical issues that he had to workout and once he did, his velocity returned, turning him into an entirely different animal.

At present, Coleman will sit 97-99 and hit 100-101. His slider is an absolutely electric secondary offering, due in part to how hard he throws the damn thing, but there seems to be some deception created by his delivery as well. Put it all together and you’ve got a guy that could legitimately be this team’s closer as early as this 2022 season.

#17: Will Klein, RHP

  • Age: 22
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 5″ 230′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, Round 5
  • 2021 Stats (A+): 70.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 40.9% K%, 14.9% BB%, 1.24 WHIP

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, the Royals really do have a relief prospect that might be as good or better than Dylan Coleman. There were 112 pitchers age 21 or younger to throw 50 innings between Low-A and High-A last year. Klein was first in K/9 and K% by a considerable margin. He was also 15th in HR/9 which can sometimes be an issue for guys with big time velo and a lack of elite control. Klein’s fastball, like Coleman, will sit 97-99 but will get as high as 102 at times. Unlike Coleman, however, Klein’s fastball doesn’t have overly impressive spin rates, and actually has some decent sinking action to it. This is part of why he was so good at keeping the ball in the yard last year, and adds to the impressive nature of his leading the world in strikeout rate.

I’m also giving Klein a little bit of an edge here because I think his changeup is a tick ahead of Coleman’s. Not that Klein was a true 3-pitch pitcher last year, but it’s certainly there and I think could be a legitimate option for him in the big leagues. I also think there’s a very small chance we could still see Klein get chances to start in 2022. I don’t expect it or anything, but only 4 of his 36 outings went one inning or fewer last season, and Klein was going to be a starter in college before the pandemic shut the college season down in 2020. Again, it’s not something I expect necessarily, but I absolutely expect Klein to be a multi-inning weapon for Kansas City out of the big league bullpen. He’s not on the 40-man roster yet, but he’s absolutely capable of giving the big league club innings at the end of the 2022 season. Royals fans ought to be FIRED UP about the group of relief prospects that this organization has coming up the pipeline.

#16: Michael Massey, 2B

  • Age: 24
  • B/T: L/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 0″ 190′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2022
  • Acquired: 2019 MLB Draft, Round 4
  • 2021 Stats (A+): .289/.351/.531/.882, 21 HR, 50 XBH, 12 SB, 7.5% BB%, 15.5% K%, 135 wRC+

Before we get to the offensive season that Massey had, I want to quickly acknowledge out good this kid is defensively at second base. Massey was solid all year, committing just 3 errors in over 680 innings at second base, and won the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for all MiLB second baseman. He’s got great feet, great range, and plenty of arm strength to turn double plays up the middle. We could probably justify the ranking with his defense combined with a .242 ISO and just 15.5% K% at High-A last summer.

There were 383 hitters age 23 or younger to take 250 PA between Low-A and High-A last year. Here is how Massey ranked in certain categories:
– 15th in HR
– 17th in 2B
– 34th in ISO
– 40th in OPS
– 27th in K%
– 41st in wRC+
– 72nd in SwStr%

The combination of power and contact rate that Massey and Vinnie Pasquantino showed last year in High-A is almost completely unprecedented. For the most part, Massey dominated the level in 2021 and was arguably the most impactful bat left in the lineup after Vinnie Pasquantino was promoted. There was a month-long power drought that Massey went through from July 21st through August 19th, but he found his stroke again just in time for the playoffs and went nuclear. From August 19th through the end of the season, Massey hit .317 with a 165 wRC+. I’m a little…I don’t want to say concerned…so I’ll say I’m a little intrigued by the lack of walks. You’d like to see a potential middle-of-the-order bat be a little more disciplined at the plate, but Massey is so good at so many other things that the pros far outweighs the cons in my mind. We’ll see how he handles AA in 2022, but assuming he keeps hitting the Royals are going to have a tough decision to make next offseason as Massey will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@BanditsPhotog)

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