Welcome back. In case you missed our original rankings series, here are the links to all of our writeups for our preseason Royals top-50 prospects list:
We listed the primary position that each player usually plays during the writeups, but I wanted to go back and kind of do an organizational depth chart if you will for how the Royals system looks at each position. For this exercise I’ll include everyone in the system I think can play each position at the big league level, including players that made our preseason rankings, players who did not, and players who have already graduated. This isn’t an exact science but I’m sure you’ve come to expect that from us by now. Here’s the writeups we’ve done so far:
Here’s a list of everyone I think could start a game on the mound in the big leagues, ranked in order of their ability to do it on Opening Day in 2022.
#1: Zack Greinke
Greinke is 38 years old and is in the twilight of his Hall of Fame career, but he has failed to throw at least 170 innings in a season just once since 2008. You can pretty well pencil him in for 30 starts and 170+ IP which is something the Royals need at the top of their rotation. He may not make the All-Star Game this year, but the stability in the rotation will be a welcome development for the Royals bullpen.
#2: Brad Keller
Keller is still 26 years old and has three years of control left on his rookie deal. He was much better in the second half of last season, lowering his ERA from 5.97 in the first half to 3.96 in the second half. Keller still has some wicked stuff when he’s on, and I think he can help anchor a young rotation for now.
#3: Brady Singer
We’re kind of splitting hairs between the young arms between 3-6 on this list. Singer has been the guy they have leaned on and so I’m giving him the nod here.
#4: Daniel Lynch
I was never exactly the high man on Lynch but his offspeed stuff is just too damn good for him to not have some kind of success in the big leagues. I actually think we could be in for a breakout year from the lefty out of Virginia. Over 10 starts from July 25th through September 16th last year after returning from Omaha, Lynch posted an ERA of 3.71. He had his struggles for sure, but I think he’ll settle into the rotation long-term.
#5: Carlos Hernandez
I was torn between Hernandez and Kris Bubic here. Hernandez posted a 3.23 ERA in 64 IP in the second half of last season, so I’m giving him the nod, but I think it’s close here. Hernandez has some of the best raw stuff in the system, but the lack of an ability to strike guys out with that stuff is kind of odd, if not outright concerning. We’ll see if he can start all year in 2022 or if a move to the bullpen is in his future.
#6: Kris Bubic
Bubic is another example of a Royals starter who saw stark improvement in the second half last season. His ERA dropped from 5.40 in the first half to 3.68 in the second half. He’s still going to have to improve his command if he wants to start long-term, but I think there’s enough here to think he can get the job done.
#7: Angel Zerpa
We can talk about a couple of guys I haven’t mentioned yet in a second. Angel Zerpa has impressed the crap out of me over the last 12 months and I absolutely think he should be the next guy in line for a big league rotation spot after the six guys we’ve already mentioned with more big league experience. If Bubic and Lynch falter, go get the 22-year old LHP out of Venezuela. Zerpa dominated High-A last year, was promoted to AA where he stumbled a bit but still struck out over 10 batters per 9 IP, and made his big league debut where he was blowing fastballs by hitters and absolutely looked liked he belonged in The Show. I don’t *think* Zerpa has a chance to break camp with the big league club, but I wouldn’t be shocked at this point either. The kid is really, really good.
#8: Jackson Kowar
*Sigh* … I really thought Kowar was gonna be “that guy” in the Royals rotation. He was so dominant in the minor leagues. His fastball did not get touched, it was in the zone, he threw it in on lefties, up to righties…his breaking ball was serviceable and his changeup doesn’t really need further explanation. I have no idea what has happened to him in a big league uniform. Maybe it’s just the pressure of the big leagues. I don’t know. I can tell you that this isn’t the same pitcher we saw in Omaha. There’s video evidence of that all over our Twitter feed. I just don’t know that Kowar’s future in the big leagues is in the rotation anymore. I still think he could be a mighty valuable reliever, because 99 and that changeup will always play in shorter stints, I’m just not as confident in his ability to start as I used to be. (To be clear, I still think there is a chance he starts and is very good at it, I’m just not as confident as I was 10 months ago.)
#9: Jonathan Heasley
Heasley looked really good in 105 AA innings last year and got a cup of tea in the big leagues right at the end of the season. He looked a little over matched in that time, but the fact that they gave him the opportunity should speak volumes about how much the Royals like the former Oklahoma State Cowboy. Another member of that 2018 draft class, I think Heasley is probably best suited as a swing-man long-term, but I think he could serve as a fine rotation option in spurts as well. Think of Chris Young a little bit in that 2015 run.
#10: Drew Parrish
This one might surprise some people, but we’ve been all over Parrish for the last 9 months or so after an impressive showing at the AA level last summer. Parrish’s fastball has reportedly been in the upper-90’s already this spring and Parrish already possesses one of the best changeups in the organization. The lefty has a serviceable curveball that he should be able to use early in counts, and enough deception to work through a big league lineup. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on this year at Omaha.
Photo Credits: Minda Haas Kuhlmann (@minda33)