We’re a little over a month into the MiLB season and most of the best prospects in the Royals system have over 100 PA at this point. Here are 10 statistics from the Royals minor league system that I’m going to be watching for the next 100 PA or so:
1. Nick Loftin’s .148 ISO
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently bad or worrisome about a .148 ISO, but his ISO was .184 for the better part of last summer and Loftin probably needs to be closer to .200 than .140 to maintain that borderline top-100 prospect status with which we’ve been talking about him. All of his peripherals are in check. He could walk more, but he doesn’t strike out and he doesn’t swing and miss either. He’s hitting line drives, he’s hitting the ball to all fields, he’s stealing bases, he’s just not hitting for much power yet. If he can find a way to hit around a .180 ISO all the time, he’s a bona fide top-100 prospect in my mind.
2. Darryl Collins’ .097 ISO
I mean you can almost copy and paste Loftin’s paragraph here. Biggest difference is that Collins isn’t the athlete that Loftin is, isn’t near the defender, and has actual, legitimate plus-power potential. He just cannot get to it with any kind of regularity for some reason. He’s made a semi-significant change to his stance, so maybe it’ll just take a couple months to get right, but everything else is there for the 20-year old Dutch outfielder.
3. Nick Pratto’s 33% K%
Nick Pratto’s SwStr% at AAA is currently 11.6%. Emmanuel Rivera’s SwStr% at AAA was 12.3% before he was promoted. Nick Pratto is striking out in 33% of his PA and Emmanuel Rivera was striking out in just 17.1% of his. Pratto’s issues so far haven’t been about swinging and missing. He has almost been TOO passive at the plate, something that is hilariously ironic given this article I wrote earlier this week, so he winds up in more two-strike counts than he needs to be in. I actually think Pratto is the rare Royal that could benefit from swinging more often. In any case, he’ll need to cut down on that K% one way or the other, but I don’t think the swings and misses are the issue at present.
4. Yefri Del Rosario’s 17.4% K%
There are currently 58 pitchers in the Royals system with a better K% than Del Rosario right now. Del Rosario is doing a ton of things well right now. He’s throwing more strikes, he’s keeping the ball in the yard at a better rate than last year, he’s not walking as many batters, and his ERA is an org-best 1.66. The only thing he isn’t doing well is getting swings and misses. It kind of looks to me like folks have just given up trying to hit his curveball and stopped swinging at it. That’s been his best chase pitch in the past and now guys aren’t even trying. Getting his fastball in the zone and working ahead in the count should help him get back to that, as he’s had plenty of success with it in the past, but he’ll have to make that adjustment before making the jump to AAA.
5. Kasey Kalich’s 15% BB%
Would you believe that Kasey Kalich currently has the best SwStr% of any pitcher in the organization? His 21.6% SwStr% tops Alec Marsh as the only two pitchers with marks over 19%. Kalich is 24 years old and relieving one inning at a time in High-A, BUT, his strikeout numbers are legitimately impressive and I think this kid could pitch in the big leagues. The return for Jorge Soler is gonna have to command the ball better, and he may never be a closer or anything crazy, but I could see him making a surge through the minors later this year if he starts commanding the ball better.
6. Christian Chamberlain’s 44.1%K%
Christian Chamberlain, like Kalich, is currently battling some pretty legitimate command issues. However…when he is in the zone, he’s been almost completely unhittable. His 44.1% K% is #1 in the org with a bullet at the moment and High-A hitters have looked completely helpless against Chamberlain when he’s throwing strikes. If he can start to command his fastball at an above average clip, he’s a legitimate top-25 prospect in the system and could be in the big leagues in the next year or so.
7. Tyler Gentry’s 45.5% GB%
Gentry is doing a lot of things well this year after missing most of last season due to injury. His strikeouts are way down, his walks are in great shape, he’s hitting a bunch of line drives…he’s also just hitting way too many balls on the ground. He’s got a good bit of raw power and should have his ISO way over his current mark of .172. If he can start elevating the baseball a bit, we should see that raw power pay dividends in the box score.
8. Michael Massey’s 7.7% BB%
Michael Massey is so good. What a freaking pick by the Royals to snag him in the 4th round. The only knock I’ve had against Massey for the last year or so is that he swings too much. We talked about this with Bobby Witt Jr. a bit too. It’s not the walks that are inherently the issue, it’s what they say about his approach. Michael Massey is no Frank Schwindel, and I’m not saying he needs to be Nick Pratto either, but pitchers are going to work around you when you’re the best hitter in the lineup. Let them! You don’t have to swing at EVERY pitch that’s in the strike zone. Hunt YOUR pitch. Make the pitcher come to you. Walks will happen naturally when you do that. So much of what Massey is doing is so good. Seriously, top-10 prospect in the system good. I’m just afraid that more advanced pitchers will take advantage of his tendency to swing too much when he reaches the upper levels of baseball.
9. Maikel Garcia’s .407 BABIP
Maikel Garcia is so damn good. He hammered a double into deep CF last night that showed off some raw power that I don’t think many people give him credit for having. He doesn’t get to it very often because it’s a very contact-oriented approach, but he can legitimately drive the baseball when he gets ahead in the count and gets his pitch. He’s currently slashing .319/.428/.388/.815 with a 0.88 BB/K in his first month or so at AA. My only question is, what does he look like if that BABIP regress .070 points? A .337 BABIP is nothing to shake a stick at. That’s still pretty good! But it would take a semi-significant hit on his overall performance and I wonder where he would make up for it. Walks? More power? He’s on the 40-man roster, so he’s never more than an injury or two away from the big leagues, but I’m glad the Royals middle infield situation is set this year because Garcia needs one more full year to develop. Next spring, he could be in Kansas City really quickly.
10. Alec Marsh’s 31.3% HR/FB%
This is getting kind of ridiculous for Alec Marsh. Nearly a third of the fly balls that teams are hitting against him are leaving the yard right now. This is totally unsustainable and will absolutely come back to earth at some point. Marsh has had a problem with walks and home runs so far this year, but if the home runs stop leaving the yard like they’re playing with the “super happy fun ball” then Marsh could see some significant improvement in his overall results.
11. Angel Zerpa’s 7.7% SwStr%
Angel Zerpa has been pretty good so far in Northwest Arkansas. He’s not walking many guys, his ERA is a tidy 4.50, but he isn’t missing any bats to speak of. I don’t know exactly why, maybe he’s working on something and not concerning himself with striking guys out right now, but he’s going to have to miss more bats long-term. Hopefully once he gets his feet under him a little better as the year goes on this number will begin to increase.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)