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.
1) Nick Pratto
2) Khalil Lee
3) Seuly Matias
4) Hunter Dozier
5) MJ Melendez
1) MJ Melendez
2) Brady Singer
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Khalil Lee
5) Nicky Lopez
1) Bobby Witt Jr.
2) Jackson Kowar
3) Daniel Lynch
4) Brady Singer
5) Erick Pena
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 5-50 below. Now it’s time to get into the top 5! Enjoy!
#3: Asa Lacy, LHP
- Age: 22
- B/T: L/L
- Ht/Wt: 6′ 4″ 215′
- Rule 5 Eligible: 2023
- Acquired: 2020 MLB Draft, Round 1
- 2021 Stats (A+): 52.0 IP, 5.19 ERA, 4.81 FIP, 33.3% K%, 17.3% BB%, 1.58 WHIP
I’m sure there will be people who see this and wonder why we still have Asa Lacy ranked ahead of Nick Pratto while Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus have already begun dropping Lacy from their top-100 lists. The reason is pretty simple: there aren’t five minor league pitchers with better raw stuff than Asa Lacy. They just don’t exist. You cannot teach the kind of stuff Lacy possesses. His delivery creates some unique challenges for hitters, especially left-handed hitters, and he possesses an arsenal of above average pitches that make it impossible for hitters to camp on the fastball, which is a dominant force by itself. Among ALL pitchers to throw 50 IP (and make 5 starts) between Low-A and AAA last year, Asa Lacy finished 5th in SwStr%. When he’s in the strike zone, he’s damn near unhittable.
I was reading an article today over at RotoGraphs, the fantasy baseball sister of FanGraphs, and the author had Asa Lacy ranked as the 180th best SP option for 2022 drafts. That was ahead of Nick Lodolo, who tore up AA last year, George Kirby, Jackson Kowar, Mike Minor, Brad Keller, J.A. Happ, and Chris Archer. Think about the Minor and Keller mentions for a second. Those guys are GUARANTEED to break camp in a big league rotation so long as they’re healthy. Asa Lacy doesn’t even have 60 professional innings under his belt yet. I mentioned on the RFR Podcast that we recorded last night (should be out later today) that Lacy already has big league stuff. He doesn’t need any advancements or upticks in his pitches to be a successful big league pitcher. There are quite literally just two things he needs to do: stay healthy and throw strikes. Not that that’s an easy task, just that it’s easier for guys like this to soar through the minors than guys like, say Frank Mozzicato, who throw strikes, have great pitchability, and you’re just waiting for the stuff to develop.
There’s no good way to sugarcoat that 2021 was a disappointing season for Asa Lacy. I get it. The walks were out of control and then he goes down with an injury before we get to see him make any kind of significant adjustments. He only made four outings in the Arizona Fall League, but he hit 100 mph while he was there and, quite frankly, somehow looked more dominant in three of those four outings than he did in most of his outings at High-A. He wasn’t around the zone nearly enough in High-A, and still struck out a third of all the hitters he faced while he was there. Even with that, his ERA was north of 5.00. I understand the caution flags and I understand why folks are taking him off of their top-100 lists. I’m just here to tell you that I think this is way too premature and way too reactionary to a guy that never looked comfortable on the mound last year and we now know that may very well be due to the injury he suffered midway through the season.
The problem with backing off of Lacy right now is that he only needs a couple of things to go his way and he’s instantly a top-30 prospect in baseball again. If you had me rank the Royals top 5 prospects on a national level right now, I’d probably have BWJ 1 or 2, Melendez top 30, Lacy top 60, and Pratto somewhere between 75-90. I really don’t think there are 75 players in all of Minor League Baseball that you’d rather bet on than Lacy. You cannot teach a player to throw his raw stuff. You can teach them to throw strikes, you can try to help them work to stay healthy, but you cannot teach them to throw 100 with his slider, changeup, and curveball combination. Like I said, despite all the command issues, there aren’t five pitchers in the minors with better stuff than he’s got. The control certainly needs improvement, but as soon as it does Lacy instantly becomes an option to get big league hitters out. I don’t think we see him in the big leagues until 2023, but he’s still got top of a rotation quality stuff if he can put it all together.
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