One reason for optimism, one reason for concern for three Royals prospects

There are several guys we cover here at Royals Farm Report that I kind of think fans are getting too excited about or are being too critical of in the early going here in 2022. It’s almost been two months of baseball now for most of these guys, so I wanted to check in and see how certain guys are doing compared with what I perceive to be the fan base’s perception of how they’re doing. I have no idea if that makes any sense but it should make sense as we move along here.

Michael Massey: .231 ISO and 7.4% BB%

Fans have been clamoring for a Massey promotion already, and I don’t mean to inject unnecessary cause for concern, but I actually think Massey is fine at AA right now. The jump from High-A pitching to AA pitching is the biggest in the minor leagues and Massey has handled it like a charm so far. He’s currently slashing .314/.358/.545/.903 with the aforementioned .231 ISO, good for a 119 wRC+ in the Texas League (AA). That slash line looks really impressive, and it certainly is very impressive. This is why it’s also good to mix in wRC+, because wRC+ gives us a look at how Massey is performing comparatively to other players in his league.

Massey’s 119 wRC+ (meaning he has been 19% better than the league average hitter) is good for the 77th best mark among 216 qualified hitters at AA this year. The biggest reason for the gap between Massey’s perceived production and the rest of the league is the fact that he has the 51st lowest BB% in all of AA at 7.4%. The median BB% at AA right now is over 10%. Massey swings A LOT. That’s not an inherently bad thing, but we’ve seen with guys like Salvador Perez at the big league level that you can lead all of MLB in home runs and still have just the 37th best wRC+ if you’re not on base all that often.

Again, I want to reiterate that this isn’t inherently a bad thing! I just want fans to relax a little bit (seriously, just a little bit) on Massey because, while the Gold Glove-caliber defense at 2B and legitimately plus raw power should carry him to the big leagues, he’ll need to find a way to draw just a few more walks to be a legitimate top-100 caliber prospect. The power is legit, and the more he grows into it the more likely it is he’ll be able to play almost every day in the big leagues, but the lack of walks may limit his overall ceiling.

Erick Pena: 0.44 BB/K his last 8 games, 41.5% K% this season

The explanation for Pena will be a little bit easier than Michael Massey. Pena has obviously struck out a ton so far this season. Pena appears at times to have absolutely not sort of plan at the plate. He pretty frequently flails at pitches outside of the strike zone and will even swing through hittable pitches semi-regularly. However, he has been light years better of late and has even started walking over 12% of the time in his last 8 games. In that time, he has his K% under 30% and has hit a pair of home runs and a triple as well. I’m not saying that all of Pena’s problems are solved and he’ll be a top-100 prospect any time soon, but he is still just 19 years old and should be given as long a leash as you’ve ever seen. He’s making legitimate changes to his approach, on the fly, and we’ve started to see the fruits of that pay off a bit here in the last week and a half. This is something I’ll be watching very closely over the next month or so.

Drew Parrish: .154 BAA and .188 BABIP

Drew Parrish has been freaking incredible so far this seaon in the Naturals rotation. He currently has a 1.85 ERA and 4.10 K/BB ratio in 8 starts at AA. His ERA is the 28th best mark in all of Minor League Baseball out of 371 pitchers with at least 30 IP this spring. His Batting Average Against (BAA) is good for 12th in MiLB. His BABIP against is also the 5th lowest mark, meaning there’s a better-than-good chance some regression is headed his way and Parrish’s K% is down over 4% from last season. Parrish has done such a good job of keeping hitters off balance this year that I don’t think any kind of negative regression will be his undoing or anything, but I do kind of wonder what average Drew Parrish looks like long-term. Can he be better than a 5th starter in a big league rotation? Can he start in the big leagues at all long-term? I think we’ll have a much better idea of that very soon.

Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)

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