How are we through June already?! It feels like the baseball season just started. The Royals season has been tough to watch thus far, but we are beginning to see the youth infusion make its way to Kansas City. The Royals traded Carlos Santana to the Seattle Mariners for two right-handed pitchers in Wyatt Mills (27) and Will Fleming (23). The trade of Santana opened the door for Vinnie Pasquantino to be called up and make his major league debut. We also saw Jackson Kowar get called up and be nasty out of the bullpen.
The Royals team we may see take the field by the end of July could be completely different from what we have seen in June. This could be the beginning of trades by the Royals before the deadline. We may also see Whit Merrifield, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael A. Taylor on the move. Other top prospects like Nick Pratto, Michael Massey, and others could make their major league debuts.
On top of that excitement, the 2022 MLB Draft will be held July 17 -19, and the Royals have the 9th overall pick. Alex has provided plenty of coverage to prepare you for the MLB Draft. He and Joel even sat down with Joe Doyle of Prospects Live to preview the upcoming draft and what players the Royals might take in this year’s draft. I even covered some names to watch after the first round of guys who could be some later-round steals for Kansas City.
With all that excitement, it is time to dive into the June Players of the Month! The Arizona Complex League also kicked off, so I will be highlighting some players from those leagues. You can check out our previous players of the month here:
Omaha Storm Chasers
Michael Massey – 2B
June Stats: 6 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 5 BB, 1 SB, .339/.394/.644
I so badly wanted to give this to Nathan Eaton because he played more games this month and destroyed baseballs, but I couldn’t ignore what Michael “Mashey” did in just 15 games in June. In nine fewer games, he out-homered and drove in more runs than Eaton. That is not to discredit Eaton’s month by any means. The guy raked, and I dive into him more in my honorable mentions. Massey continues to impress across the board. As the Royals continue to make moves at the trade deadline, there is an excellent chance we could see Massey debut this year. The defense is slick. The barrel-to-ball skills are insane. Massey has the tools you want to see in a potential future Royals second baseman. I will be as excited to see Massey debut as I was Vinnie Pasquantino.
Austin Cox – LHP
June Stats: 29.1 IP, 24 H. 8 ER, 10 BB, 14 SO, 2.45 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
The 25-year-old lefty looked GOOD in June. At one point in a two-game stretch, Cox threw 13.2 innings, giving up two earned and striking out eight. He struggled a tad with walks this month but found ways to dominate hitters. Cox isn’t going to strike out a ton of bats with his stuff. He’s got three pretty good pitches that are near or above-average, with the fourth pitch in his change-up still needing some work. The Royals will keep trying him as a starter as long as he keeps having the success he has. The lack of strikeouts is somewhat concerning, but Cox is just another arm the Royals are lucky enough to have as a depth piece. He could be a tweak or two away from being a back end of the rotation arm.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Logan Porter – C
June Stats: 21 G, 6 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 17 BB, .284/.449/.507
I was also torn here between Porter and Tyler Gentry. I gave the edge to Porter since he had more games, more doubles, the same amount of RBIs, and more walks. Porter was an honorable mention last month, and he just picked up right where he left off in May. I love what I am seeing from Porter so far. Excellent ability to get on base while keeping his strikeouts in check. He is sporting a 150 wRC+, and I imagine the 26-year-old catcher will be seeing a promotion to Triple-A soon. The bats at the upper levels are raking. Porter is just another name that is taking the proper steps in his development. The Royals have been playing him behind the dish, at first base, and a little third. It is also great to see the versatility he brings to the table.
Anthony Veneziano – LHP
June Stats: 27 IP, 18 H, 11BB, 11 ER, 32 SO, 3.67 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Let the Anthony Veneziano comeback train commence! Veneziano struggled early on in Double-A this season but bounced back in June. Besides a bad start on June 26th, Veneziano was locked in all month, going at least five innings and giving up no more than three earned in a start. Veneziano has electric stuff, but the command and control have always been a work in progress. The fastball is a plus-plus pitch that he pairs with a slider with which he can get whiffs. Veneziano has the makings to be an electric late-inning reliever with a fastball that can hit the triple-digits if needed.
Quad Cities River Bandits
Diego Hernandez – OF, Quad Cities River Bandits (High-A)
June Stats: 21 G, 30 H, 8 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 8 BB, 4 SB, .345/.412/.575
Kale Emshoff was originally going to be my player of the month, but the more I dove into Diego Hernandez’s statistics, I couldn’t ignore what he did in June. Hernandez raked. He displayed the pop in his bat and his plus speed on the base paths all month. Hernandez has kept his strikeout rate in check and sports a 10% walk rate all year. Defensively, Hernandez has been great in the outfield showing great jumps and a rocket arm. He has become one of the more exciting prospects in the Royal’s lower minor league affiliates and possesses some of the most intriguing tools for a position player. There is a good chance he will skyrocket the Royals prospect rankings sooner than later.
Charlie Neuweiler – RHP
June Stats: 31 IP, 31 H, 11 ER, 10 BB, 24 SO, 3.19 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Neuweiler was locked in during June. In his last four outings of the month, he went 6+ innings in each start and gave up only five earned during those four starts. In his last outing of the month, he went seven innings giving up only six hits and one earned run while striking out four. Neuweiler has been with the organization for quite a while as he was taken in the fifth round of the 2017 MLB Draft. It is fun to see him have some success this month. Neuweiler has been a quiet commodity in the Royal’s minor league system.
River Town – OF
June Stats: 24 G, 21 H, 5 2B. 4 HR. 14 RBI, 21 BB, 2 SB, .266/.433/.488
River Town is back as our player of the month for June! He won it in April due to his scorching hot month. The Royals must be extremely excited about the results thus far from the 15th rounder. Town has tools for days, and he’s starting to tap into them more as he develops. The power and speed combo has been on display, as well as his athleticism. He finds a way to get on base, but you would like to see his average increase. Town had an off May, but hopefully, his June performance is a sign that he is back on track and will carry over this success into July. With the upcoming draft and a few players in the Arizona Complex League pushing to be called up to Columbia, Town will most likely see a promotion to Quad Cities shortly.
Ben Kudrna – RHP
June Stats: 15.1 IP, 15 H, 6 ER, 12 BB, 16 SO, 2.35 ERA, 1.76 WHIP
Kudrna was one of the most exciting picks for the Royals in the 2021 MLB Draft. They were able to sign him for an over-slot and keep him from his commitment to Louisiana State. After seeing Jay Johnson’s work in the transfer portal and recruiting class this year, I don’t think he is upset about losing out on Kudrna. All of us are excited about the potential Kudrna brings. He didn’t have the most innings this month, but Kudrna had the most impressive numbers. He generates easy velocity with his fastball, which can be up to 96-98 mph. There is potential he adds even more velocity as he grows. His slider and change-up have both looked good, and he will keep working to develop this over the next year or two.
Arizona Complex League Player to Watch
The season is early in the Arizona Complex League, so I just wanted to highlight a few players from the complex that are worth keeping your eye on, as we could see a few of them in Low-A Columbia soon.
I started covering McNair last November. He was one of my five players to watch from the ACL and DSL. He’s hit the ground running again in the Arizona Complex League. His strikeout rate is near 30%, but it is still early. He is a guy we could see be a quick mover to Columbia, especially after the upcoming MLB Draft. Full of athleticism and tools, McNair seems like he was a steal to get in the 11th round of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Rodriguez is another one I had my eye on last November. He displays some power and speed early on in the Arizona Complex League. I wanted to see what he could do stateside as he was a bit older for the Dominican Summer League last year. He has started strong in the ACL, and there is a chance he could be a quick riser in the Royals farm system.
Holy doubles. Roger Leyton has been a gap power machine since debuting stateside in the Arizona Complex League. The 19-year-old has hit NINE doubles in 12 games already. Who needs walks or singles when you just hit gap shots all day?! Leyton has a total of 16 his on the year, including a triple and home run so far. He leads the team with 11 RBIs and is quickly jumping on everyone’s radar.
Honorable Mentions – Position Players
Nathan Eaton – 3B, Omaha Storm Chasers (Triple-A)
June Stats: 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 7 BB, 4 SB, .341/.408/.549
I covered Nathan Eaton when I dove into the Kansas City Royals prospects sent to the Arizona Fall League for Prospects 1500. At the time, I said Eaton’s ceiling was probably that of a utility infielder. There weren’t many stats that stood out to you besides his steals and ability to get on base via the walk. Eaton has surpassed many of my expectations this year and is continuing to tear the cover off the ball. He has maintained an excellent strikeout rate in both Double-A and Triple-A and is sporting an insane 153 wRC+ since being called up to the Storm Chasers. You have to love the development Eaton has taken this year as a player. The increased bat-to-ball skills to go along with his speed could have him playing a vital role in Kansas City soon. His versatility to play all over the field will only play to his advantage.
Tyler Gentry – OF, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Double-A)
June Stats: 13 G, 14 H, 2 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 6 BB, .286/.375/.694
Man has Tyler Gentry just been fun to watch all year long. He would’ve easily been my Double-A player of the month if he had just a few more games since being called up. There is a good chance we could see Gentry taking the July player of the month since he will most likely have the entire month in Double-A. Gentry is just another bat the Royals have been able to develop from the 2020 MLB Draft Class. The Royals took him and the third round and have to be happy with the results thus far. He has a 1.018 OPS with 13 home runs and 38 RBI. He has a remarkable ability to get barrel to ball and shows tremendous power with his bat speed.
Kale Emshoff – C, Quad Cities River Bandits
June Stats: 19 G, 21 H, 6 2B, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .292/.395/.583
Emshoff’s power was on FULL display in June. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it, the ball is just loud off Emshoff’s bat. The strikeout rate is still over 30%, so you want to see that come down a bit, but Emshoff’s power is unbelievably real. His walk rate dropped a bit this year, but he has shown great patience at the plate in the past, and I expect that number will come up as we get further into the year.
Parker Bates – OF, Quad Cities River Bandits (High-A)
June Stats: 17 G, 19 H, 4 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 7 BB, .322/.403/.610
Parker Bates was one of the most intriguing bats I thought the Royals signed later in the 2021 MLB Draft. The Louisiana Tech product has intriguing tools on the plate and field. He displayed his real good gap power this month. The strikeout rate has been slightly higher than I expected, but he has been offsetting that with a near 17% walk rate. The 24-year-old needs to make a few adjustments before making his way to Double-A.
Morgan McCullough – SS, Quad Cities River Bandits (HIgh-A)
June Stats: 22 G, 22 H, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 16 BB, 5 SB
The 2019 22nd-round pick by the Los Angeles Angels out of Alabama has been extremely impressive this month. The Royals signed McCullough to a minor league deal in February 2022. The 24-year-old is a bit older for High-A, but he has displayed a good feel for the strike zone and some decent pop/speed early this season. His walk rate is dang near 15%, but he still hits the ball on the ground quite a bit. I imagine a call-up to Double-A at his age could be in the books fairly soon.
Honorable Mentions – Pitchers
Angel Zerpa – LHP. Northwestern Arkansas Naturals
June Stats: 21.2 IP, 19 H, 9 ER, 13 BB, 20 SO, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Angel Zerpa just dominated hitters in his last start for June. He went seven innings while giving up just two hits and striking out nine. He didn’t give up a single run in this start. We all know Zerpa’s bread and butter is his pinpoint command. He’s got solid strikeout stuff to go along with it, and his change-up is beautiful. Zerpa will always be a strike thrower and will take advantage of having fantastic command of his pitches. He will find an opportunity in the Royals rotation.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)