The Kansas City Royals affiliates kicked off their minor league season, and it was exciting to see the stacked farm system back at it. There were some great performances by many players at each level which made it hard to select the players of the month. Here are your Kansas City Royals minor league players of the month presented by Royals Farm.
Omaha Storm Chasers
Position Player: Vinnie Pasquantino – 1B/DH
It didn’t take long for Pasquantino to pick up right where he left off in 2021 with the NW Arkansas Naturals. He slashed .282/.398/.507 with a .905 OPS. In 21 games, Pasquantino hit five doubles, three home runs, drove in seventeen, and stole three bases. Don’t get too excited about the stolen bases, though, as he is a below-average runner. He sported an insane 11.4% strikeout rate with a 15.9% walk rate drawing more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) in April. He has an uncanny feel for the strike zone and can generate good power through his lower half. Pasquantino might be the best-hitting prospect in the Royals’ entire farm system, and it shouldn’t be too long before we see Pasquantino in the major leagues this year. Especially with the lineup being as stagnant as it has been so far.
Pitcher: Jon Heasley – RHP
Many remember Heasley from his solid debut in 2021 against the Detroit Tigers, where he went 5.1 innings, gave up three hits, and struck out three. He started 2022 in Omaha with the depth of young arms the Royals are trying to establish this year. Heasley didn’t let that impact his performance. He threw 22.1 innings in five starts compiling a 3.63 ERA while striking out 23 and only walking four. Heasley is a reasonably good strike thrower but lacks a plus pitch to put hitters away at the big league level. His slider is probably his best out pitch, and it has been in effect this year. He can be lights out when he is on and has command of all four of his pitches. With some of the Royals’ struggles at the bottom of the rotation, there is an excellent chance we see Heasley get the call in May or June.
NW Arkansas Naturals
Position Player: Michael Massey – 2B
I can’t tell you how often I heard it from analysts that they didn’t believe in Michael Massey when I was hyping him up early on, whether it was due to his age or lack of pitching in High-A. Well… he started intensely wanting to silence the critics in 2022. In April, Massey slashed .284/.318//519 with a .837 OPS, including seven doubles, four home runs, 16 RBI, and two stolen bases. The strikeout rate is slightly higher than last year (20.2%), and you’d still like to see his walk rate increase (4.8%) but he still flat out mashes. Massey also carries an elite glove at second base. If he keeps up his hot start, Massey could find himself in Omaha come June or July.
Pitcher: Drew Parrish – LHP
Parrish was another under-the-radar prospect last year. He got off to a bit of a slow start to April but dominated in his previous two outings totaling 11 innings, giving up only two hits and one earned run where he struck out ten. He’sHe’s compiled a 3.32 ERA with 0.89 WHIP. He seemed to show some increased velocity this spring, which could be another huge factor in his development. He has struggled slightly with walks again this year, so he will need to hone his command and control as we kick off May. Parrish has been showing off his three above-average secondaries, and his changeup has been disgusting. He will look to keep up his dominance in May and hope to potentially see a call-up to Omaha during the middle of this season. He is just another exciting pitch prospect in this Royals farm system.
Quad Cities River Bandits
Position Player: Luca Tresh – C
Man, was this a tough decision. Between Gonzalez, Gentry, and Tresh, you could’ve picked any to be the player of the month. The nod went to Tresh but just barely. It was hard to ignore the numbers he put up in April. He slashed .293/.382/.517 with a .899 OPS, which included four doubles, three home runs, and ten RBI. He shows why the Kansas City Royals signed him for $298,000 over slot value and assigned him to the Arizona Fall League in his first pro season. Tresh’sTresh’s bat is LOUD. He can generate some massive power with his swing and draw walks with his patience at the plate. There have been some swing and miss issues, but he has been able to temper that slightly to start 2022. Tresh adds to the great depth of catchers that Kansas City has in their farm system. Tresh could find his way to Double-A soon with Saul Garza and Kale Emshoff also looking for playing time in High-A.
Pitcher – Emilio Marquez – LHP
The 24-year-old Marquez was named the Low-A Pitcher of the Year for the Columbia Fireflies in 2021. He went 6-1 that year with a 1.86 ERA. Marquez has dominated High-A hitters to continue his success in 2022.. Over 13.1 innings pitched, he has struck out 18 and walked four while only giving up three earned. This has led to a 2.03 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. He has come out of the bullpen with 3.2 innings for his most extended appearance. Marquez has an excellent command of all of his pitches. He probably ends up as a swing-man/back-of-the-rotation starter due to his lack of plus-stuff, but Marquez flashes the ability to contribute at the major league level. He should continue in his bullpen role in May and will look to dominate hitters yet again in May. Due to his age, we could see him in Northwest Arkansas sooner than later.
Position Player: River Town – OF
Town may have been my easiest choice for the player of the month. River He made Low-A pitching look silly. It seemed like every night Town was doing something special. Despite only having 43 at-bats in April, Town hit five doubles, three home runs, and stole four bags while driving in six. He walked (8) nearly as many times as he struck out (9). His final slash line was .326/.431/.651 with a 1.092 OPS. On top of his offense, he played some stellar defense in the outfield, making some magnificent plays. The Royals may have gotten a steal in the 15th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. Town has the tools and athleticism to be a good major league outfielder. His name is an 80-grade, so it makes sense he has the tools necessary to be a big leaguer (jokes..). He will try to carry over this momentum in May as he aims to maintain his solid walk and strikeout rates.
Pitcher: Samuel Valerio – RHP
High octane stuff. That is the first thing you think about when you watch Valerio. When he was 18-years-old, he hit 101 mph. Valerio has struck out 17 over 14 innings pitched thus far, compiling a 1.93 ERA. The fastball is his calling card, and his offspeed pitches are in progress. As stated, Valerio’sValerio’s stuff is electric. If he can get his command and control to even average while improving his offspeed, he could be an absolute force as a late-inning reliever. He is only 20-years-old, so there is still plenty of time for Valerio to take the following steps in his development.
Honorable Mentions (Position Players)
Emmanuel Rivera – 3B/1B, Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)
Emmanuel Rivera was recently called up when news broke that Adalberto Mondesi tore his ACL and would be on the IR for the entire season. After debuting in 2021, Rivera started the year in Omaha, given the depth on the big league roster. Rivera was off to a hot start hitting four doubles, three home runs, and walking ten times leading to a .290/.389/.532 slash line. He should provide the Royals with so much-needed bat depth on the bench.
Brewer Hicklen – OF, Omaha Storm Chasers (AAA)
One of our favorite minor leaguers, Hicklen, started the year off in Omaha on the right foot. We featured his story about his journey through the minor leaguers in an article earlier this offseason. His battle with the ups and downs that come with baseball hasn’t always been easy. Hicklen is showing off his plus-plus speed with seven stolen bases already. He’s also hit 4 doubles and three home runs and drove in 13. He is continually working on cutting down on strikeouts, but it is hard to ignore his power/speed combo that makes him such an intriguing prospect. That, paired with his extraordinary presence in the clubhouse, lets you know that he could play a sufficient role in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals.
Robbie Glenndinning – 1B/3B, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
The Pittsburgh Pirates released Glenndinning, and the Kansas City Royals signed him to a minor league deal this past offseason. Although he is already 26 years old, he has kicked off his career with the Kansas City Royals in a good way. He led the Naturals with a .995 OPS while hitting five doubles, two home runs, and driving in 13. Definitely worth an honorable mention, but he had 30 fewer at-bats than Massey, which led him to not being named player of the month.
Nathan Eaton – 3B, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Eaton was a surprise addition to the Arizona Fall League roster. He has played mostly at third base but can play all over the field, seeing time at SS and the OF this year. He took advantage of that and got himself named to the Arizona Fall League All-Star team. He has kept that momentum going in 2022 by slashing .333/.405/.478 with two home runs, 11 RBI, and eight stolen bases. He pairs this with a solid strikeout rate (17.3%).
Tucker Bradley – OF, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
Bradley was another one of my favorite prospects to watch last year. Like Massey, he is already 23 years old due to the lost COVID year. Bradley is just a natural hitter and has an advanced eye at the plate due to his ability to recognize pitches. He’s started 2022 strong with a .308/.368/.442 slashline with an .810 OPS. He should keep getting opportunities to shine and will look to carry over this momentum into May.
Tyler Gentry – OF, Quad Cities River Bandits (High-A)
It kept every ounce of me from not making Gentry the player of the month. Ultimately, having more than 20 at-bats less than Tresh led me not to select him. Gentry terrorized High-A pitching to .471/.578/.735 with a 1.313 OPS with three doubles, two home runs, and seven RBI. He just played six fewer games than Tresh, which led to fewer at-bats. He will look to build on his late start in May and is proving to be one of the batter bats in the Royals minor league system.
Herard Gonzalez – 2B/3B, Quad Cities River Bandits (High-A)
Gonzalez was also quite impressive in April. He carried a .923 OPS while hitting three home runs, driving in 12, and stealing four bags. He did this while walking (14 BB) almost as much as he struck out (18 K). Gonzalez is only 20-years-old, so it is exciting to see him having this kind of success in High-A. He’s grown a bit in size, and it seems like Herard is starting to develop some more power. It will be interesting to see how he keeps developing in 2022.
Darryl Collins – OF, Columbia Fireflies (A)
Everyone knows the potential of Collins if he can tap more into his power and other raw tools that he carries. Collins showed off his raw tools and his sound approach at the plate this month. Collins compiled five doubles, a triple, seven RBI, and three stolen bases. Most were shocked to see him start the season in Low-A since he spent all of 2021 there, but his decent start could see him getting a promotion to High-A soon.
Honorable Mentions (Pitchers)
Yefri Del Rosario – RHP, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA)
It feels like Del Rosario has been in the Royals’ minor league farm system for years (which is true). He’s looked great on the mound to start the year, compiling a 1.26 ERA while striking out ten over 14.1 innings pitched. He has been coming out of the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever throwing three innings in each of his last four outings. Unfortunately, Del Rosario has had a few injuries that have kept him from his development.
Adrian Alcantara – RHP, Quad Cities River Bandits (High-A)
Alcantara has not disappointed Quad Cities River Bandits fans in April. Over 15 innings, Alcantara has struck out 18 and only given up four earned, leading to a 2.40 ERA helping the River Bandits by earning two wins. Alcantara will look to hone in his walks over the next couple of months, but he has the stuff to keep racking up the strikeouts. Emilio Marquez has been coming out of the bullpen but has thrown over four innings in two appearances.
Heribert Garcia – RHP, Columbia Fireflies (A)
Garcia was the Royals minor league pitcher of the year for the Arizona Complex League. He has carried much of that success into Low-A as Garcia has a 3.07 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 14.2 innings pitched during April. He has done a great job limiting the walks, but hitters have been able to hit .290 off of him. He will keep working on his ability to put hitters away but has flashed some extraordinary skills to control the strike zone.