RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: #5

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 6-50 below. Now it’s time to get into the top 5! Enjoy!

#5: Nick Loftin, UTIL

  • Age: 23
  • B/T: R/R
  • Ht/Wt: 6′ 1″ 180′
  • Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
  • Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, Round 1
  • 2021 Stats (A+): .289/.373/.463/.837, 10 HR, 37 XBH, 11 SB, 10.2% BB%, 14.6% K%, 130 wRC+

Here’s a bit of where Nick Loftin ranked in certain categories among all High-A hitters age 22 and younger last summer:
– SwStr%: 1st
– LD%: 16th
– 2B: 14th
– BA: 6th
– OBP: 5th
– OPS: 9th
– wRC+: 5th
– K%: 3rd
– BB/K: 4th
– wOBA: 6th

All of this after the dude started his professional career going 9-47 (.191) through the first couple of weeks of the season after missing most of 2020 during the shutdown. From May 23rd through the end of the season, Loftin hit .304 with a 140 wRC+ and was legitimately one of the better players in all of Minor League Baseball. He runs the bases well, steals his fair share of bags, plays phenomenal defense at several different positions, refuses to strike out, walks his fair share, hits a bunch of doubles, and is just an all-around solid player that every system needs.

During the 2020 draft cycle Loftin drew a bunch of comps to Whit Merrifield for his offensive profile and defensive versatility. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure how much I liked the comps because I think Whit and Loftin do different things well, but I’m on board with the comp now in terms of overall value. Both guys profile similarly on offense. They’ll both hit a ton of doubles, double digit home runs, and for a high average. The biggest difference between the two in my opinion is that Loftin has a much higher potential to draw some walks and probably (definitely) won’t ever lead the league in stolen bases. Defensively, I actually think Loftin is capable of handling SS, 2B, and 3B in the big leagues, where Whit is more limited to 2B and the corner outfield spots. So, again, I may have gotten a little too caught up in the specifics during the draft process, but I don’t hate the comp anymore as it relates to overall prospect value.

Speaking of overall prospect value, there aren’t a ton of prospects in MiLB with a safer floor than Loftin. Alex Verdugo hit just 13 HR, had a 107 wRC+, and rated pretty bad defensively last year in the big leagues and was still worth 2.0 fWAR. If Loftin proves to have value as a swiss army knife on defense and can just hit .280 with a respectable BB/K, he’ll easily be a productive every day big leaguer. I’m not suggesting that he will make any All-Star Games, but I think the chances that he’s a valuable piece on a playoff team are really, really good. There’s nothing the kid is really bad at which is half the battle to becoming a big leaguer in the first place. I know Loftin doesn’t have the same kind of upside as a guy like Alec Marsh or even Erick Pena, but the high floor will keep him locked into our top 5 Royals prospects for the foreseeable future. Loftin figures to start the season with AA Northwest Arkansas, and while I’m not certain there will be a place for him in the big leagues in 2022, I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him really early on in 2023.

Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@BanditsPhotog)

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16 thoughts on “RFR’s 2022 Preseason Royals Prospect Rankings: #5

  1. Hi Alex, Thanks for the statistical analysis on Loftin. It really measures up with those of comparable ages. I believe Loftin’s progress will allow KC to trade Whit Merrifield this season. I know Whit is a fan favorite and has been one of the cogs of the team. However, with his age and Loftin’s emerging talent, this is a move a near contending team would make. Really looking forward to the infield at NWA – Eaton, Loftin, Massey and who plays 1st base for them?

    Liked by 1 person

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