Happy Opening Day Royals fans! The Royals may not play for a couple more days, but the Omaha Storm Chasers are playing baseball today! Nick Pratto, Clay Dungan, MJ Melendez, and Vinnie Pasquantino will be in action tonight and we could not be more fired up about it. For starters, here’s the tweet the Royals sent out with their minor league rosters to begin the season:
You may notice that none of Ben Kudrna, Frank Mozzicato, nor Shane Panzini is on a roster. All three are healthy and all three are hanging out in Arizona for a little bit. They should break with Columbia in a month or so. This just helps limit their workload a bit in their first professional season. Will Klein has shin splints and won’t be out to begin the year. We’ll update you guys on the rest of the roster ASAP.
Now here’s a quick look at the bold predictions that we gave for the 2022 season on the RFR Podcast last week:
- Nate Webb will debut in the big leagues before September 1st
- Dylan Coleman will be the Royals closer by June 1st
- Maikel Garcia will steal at least 40 bases and hit at least 5 HR this year
- Angel Zerpa will start more games in the big leagues than both Jon Heasley and Jackson Kowar
- Nick Loftin will be on 4 of the major 7 top 100 lists by the end of the season
- Vinnie Pasquantino will make it to The Show before Nick Pratto
- Will Klein will be in the big leagues by August 1st
- Erick Pena will be back on top 100 lists by the end of the season
- 1 of the 2021 prep arms will reach High-A by season’s end
- Angel Zerpa will break camp with the big league club
- Asa Lacy leads upper minors in K; is a top-10 prospect by season’s end
- Seuly Matias will lead MiLB in HR
- MJ Melendez catches more games in the big leagues than Cam Gallagher
- 4 of the Royals top 30 prospects will be traded to Colorado for German Marquez and Garrett Hampson
- Tyler Gentry is a bona fide top-20 Royals prospect by season’s end
Here are five more realistic predictions I will add to my five listed above for the 2022 MiLB season:
- Michael Massey will hit 25 HR between AA and AAA
- Asa Lacy blows the doors off of AA hitters and is knocking on the door of the big leagues by August
- Jonathan Bowlan returns from Tommy John and cements himself as a top prospect in the system
- Maikel Garcia is a bona fide top-10 prospect in the system by year’s end and is knocking on the door of top-100 lists
- Carter Jensen will hit 20+ HR in Low-A (assuming he plays every day, I’m a little skeptical because I think it’s possible he’s in a platoon role of sorts, but the power is legit and that’s more the point)
I am FIRED UP to be watching Minor League Baseball tonight. I could not be more excited to see Omaha take on Indianapolis tonight. Before we get too much more into the upcoming season here’s a recap of the fantasy league draft we did on the aforementioned podcast that we recorded last week:
- Brewer Hicklen
- Michael Massey
- Nick Loftin
- Anthony Veneziano
- Will Klein
- Alec Marsh
- Adrian Alcantara
- Tyler Tolbert
- Carter Jensen
- Nate Webb
- Vinnie Pasquantino
- Asa Lacy
- Maikel Garcia
- Tucker Bradley
- Jon Heasley
- Kale Emshoff
- Yefri Del Rosario
- Erick Pena
- Noah Murdock
- Ben Kudrna
- Nick Pratto
- Angel Zerpa
- MJ Melendez
- Drew Parrish
- Seuly Matias
- John McMillon
- Darryl Collins
- John Rave
- Jon Bowlan
- Frank Mozzicato
We’ll send out weekly updates on scores and how the league standings look as the season goes along. Hopefully we’ll add a couple of listeners of the podcast to the league next year and have five teams in the league so you guys can play against us. That would be a lot of fun. We’ll see how this goes.
For any offseason content you may have missed here are some helpful links you may want to check out before the season begins for Omaha today:
- Our preseason top 50 rankings
- Organizational Depth Charts
- The RFR Podcast
- Comparing Royals prospect lists across different sites
- “Get to know a Royals prospect” series
The most recent edition of the RFR Podcast is a breakdown of all four minor league rosters that are out, from Low-A to AAA. Check it out wherever you get your podcasts and/or YouTube for the full breakdown. There’s also a link on our site.
I am so excited for this season. I love baseball, man. The Royals have a young core nearing the big leagues that is going to be a ton of fun to watch, very soon. With that being said, here’s a list of 10 guys currently on minor league rosters that I’ll be watching the most for the first half of the MiLB season:
1: Angel Zerpa
I thought Zerpa had an outside shot of making the big league rotation out of camp, but the Royals decided to send him all the way back to AA to begin the season, and he wasn’t even on the official roster they announced yesterday. I think Zerpa is going to be a really good starter for the big league club, very soon, but I’m excited to see how he handles a second go round at AA after being admittedly a little slow to adjust to the level last summer.
2: Michael Massey
Massey has legitimate 25+ HR power and won the MiLB Gold Glove Award at 2B last season. He’s got great range, great feet, and great hands that make him a mortal lock to stick at the position if the Royals want to keep him there. The Royals also have a good bit of depth when it comes to infielders at the moment and I kind of wonder what the plan is for Massey long-term. Is he the second baseman of the future? Is he trade bait? The Royals moved Nick Loftin to CF this spring, so maybe there’s an opportunity for Massey long-term, but either way, a big season from the 24-year old at AA puts the Royals in great shape moving forward.
3: Luinder Avila
Avila came in at #50 on our preseason rankings, and the 20-year old RHP doesn’t exactly have the most electric stuff in the world, but he showed some incredibly promising pitchability in a short stint in Columbia last summer and I’m really curious to see how the stuff plays up in his first full go at full-season ball. Any kind of significant improvement could be a sign of a step in the right direction for the Royals player development program that I think we’re all rightfully interested in.
4: Adrian Alcantara
Along the same lines as Avila, the 22-year old Alcantara has shown a ton of promising pitchability in his time in the minors with some impressive stuff to go along with it. He got hit around a bit at Low-A last year, but also showed off an impressive 3.27 K/BB ratio that I’m curious to see at the next level. Again, not the most dynamic pitching prospect ever, but any kind of significant improvement should give us a sign that the Royals PD is working.
5: Carter Jensen
Jensen, a Park Hill High School graduate, was the Royals 3rd round pick last summer and has had quite the offseason. He was blasting baseball to Kingdom Come with famous YouTuber Eric Sim which, I know probably shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but the raw power the backstop displayed was wildly impressive. I said it at the time of the draft last year, but I’ve only ever seen one or two prep prospects in person that can hit the ball as hard as Jensen. It’s seriously insane raw power. I don’t know how long he’ll catch long-term, but you don’t come across that kind of power from the left side in a catcher very often. If he hits well at Low-A this year, the Royals have a very legitimate prospect on their hands.
6: Seuly Matias
This one probably doesn’t need a ton of explanation, right? Matias has legitimate 80-grade raw power and will be starting the season at AA. Any kind of improvement (seriously, just marginal improvement) to his approach at the plate makes him an instant top-20 prospect in this system again.
#7: Austin Cox
I went back and forth with what to do with Cox all offseason. Is he a top-25 prospect? Top 30? We wound up with him at #32 on our preseason list, and luckily there wasn’t a Rule 5 Draft to lose him in. I am super excited to see if the 6′ 4″, 25-year old LHP can regain what was once some of the best stuff in the system. He posted ERA’s of 2.75, 2.77, and 3.00 at Low-A, High-A, and AA between 2019 and 2021, but lost a couple mph off his fastball last year that has me a little concerned for a guy that doesn’t have great command. We’ll see how he handles the “super happy fun ball” at AAA this year, but there’s a big league pitcher in here somewhere if he can figure some things out.
#8: Drew Parrish
I’m a little perplexed by Parrish starting this season out in AA again, after posting a 3.36 ERA and 3.80 K/BB ratio at AA last year, but I guess we’re splitting hairs between the AA and AAA rotations at this point. Parrish’s fastball was reportedly hitting the upper-90’s this spring which is absolutely fascinating considering he was mostly in the low-90’s and topping out around 95 last summer. If he finds an extra gear to his fastball on a permanent basis, his changeup and command are good enough that he could be a starter in the big leagues as early as this year.
#9: Maikel Garcia
I’ve said this before on the podcast, but I truly believe that Maikel Garcia would be getting Nick Loftin/Vinnie Pasquantino types of praise if he didn’t play the same position as Bobby Witt Jr. Garcia walked more than he struck out at Low-A last year, and then moved to High-A and posted a 108 wRC+ at the age of 21. He was added to the 40-man roster this past offseason and will begin the 2022 season in a loaded AA lineup that consists of Loftin, Massey, Nate Eaton, Seuly Matias, etc. Garcia also stole 35 bases last year and drew rave reviews for his defensive ability at SS. He doesn’t hit for a ton of power at the moment, but he’s got some raw pop in his bat and he’s got enough other tools to be a very successful big leaguer in a year or two. I really believe we’re going to get a huge season from Garcia this year.
#10: Asa Lacy
Like Matias, this kind of speaks for itself, right? The development of Lacy is probably one of the two most important developments of the 2022 season for the Royals. At any level. Lacy’s stuff is elite. At any level. If he can put it together he can start in the big leagues right now. Health and command are paramount for the former 4th overall pick. The Royals sending him to AA ought to be a vote of confidence of sorts.
So there ya go. As always, we’ll update you on the results of the games as we get them going today. The non-AAA affiliates will get going on Friday, and obviously big league Opening Day is on Thursday. For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy baseball’s REAL Opening Day today as AAA Omaha gets their 2022 Championship campaign underway!