The trade deadline is later today and before we get potentially swamped with news of new prospects, I wanted to try to throw out some thoughts on guys that were already in the Royals system. Our mid-season rankings will begin to drop on Friday morning with the Honorable Mentions, and then we’ll get into our top-50 on Monday. Waters, Lacy, and Marsh all figure to be pretty high up on the list, despite some struggles each have suffered throughout this season.
If you’re reading this, I assume you know the deal by now. Waters came over in a trade from Atlanta after struggling to adjust to the AAA level the last couple of seasons after being a unanimous top-100 prospect in 2019. It’s only been 69 PA with the Omaha Storm Chasers, but the early returns on Waters are insanely promising as he has doubled his walk rate and started hitting the ball in the air way more than he was in Atlanta.
Strikeout rate be damned, EVERYTHING that we said we needed to see from Drew Waters in Omaha he’s done. I mentioned on Twitter before that when you’re trying to fix a hitting prospect in particular, the negative cannot be the focus. You have to focus on the things you want a player TO do, not the things you want him to AVOID doing. “Swing at better pitches.” “Hit the ball in the air.” Not, “Strikeout less.”
Waters is doing all of these things. The Braves have generally been very good about developing their hitting prospects, so I’m not entirely sure what to make of Waters not cutting it in Atlanta, but Drew Saylor and the gang have been pretty damn impressive in three short years in Kansas City and they’re already working some magic for Waters. It’s a tiny sample size, and nobody can run up a BABIP over .400 forever so there’s certainly some regression coming to his 172 wRC+, but he doesn’t need to be the top-100 prospect he used to be. He plays great defense in CF, he has 30 SB speed, and he has 15 HR power in his bat. Do those things, find ways on base, and he’ll be an incredible value for the future of this Royals team.
Last thing on Waters: maybe don’t expect him to see much time in Kansas City this season. He has spent parts of three seasons now in AAA and he’s never really had a ton of success until joining the Royals organization. It’s totally okay with me if the Royals just let him tear up AAA for the rest of the year and then reevaluate him in February. Let him enjoy having success. He’s 23 years old. I’d even be okay with him starting next season in Omaha. That would guarantee the Royals having Waters under contract for his age-24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and age-30 seasons. Considering they got Waters and two other players for the 35th pick in the draft, that would be a slam-dunk for Kansas City.
Here are the tweets I sent out yesterday about Lacy’s outing on Saturday:
Okay. What I didn’t say on Twitter is that Lacy’s mechanics are a mess right now. He has two distinct deliveries, approach angles, and arm slots for two different types of pitches. He looks confident on the mound, but he doesn’t throw confident. His fastballs are all over the place and he consistently releases the ball too early in his delivery. He looks as stiff and uncomfortable as he has the entire time he’s been with the Royals. I know he didn’t walk anybody in this outing, but he also barely threw 50% strikes and hit a batter in the process.
I want to be very clear that I am not insinuating that this is anyone’s fault. Maybe he’s hurt. Maybe he’s dealing with some stiffness from his time on the IL. We don’t have any clue what the Royals nor Lacy are doing to attempt to remedy the issue, all we know is that it’s not working at the moment. I know the popular thing to do is just start crushing the Royals pitching development staff, but this seems different. This isn’t something that I think can be fixed over night. Do I think there are a few things Lacy could do to make things better? Absolutely. Are they going to solve all of his issues? Absolutely not.
The nice thing about Lacy is that Dayton Moore was right: he’s got top 1% in the world stuff. For hitters to potentially know what’s coming and still not be able to hit his offspeed stuff is absurd. It is patently absurd. I’ve rarely seen a LHP who can just spin 86-90 mph sliders and cutters by guys like it’s nothing. The fastball is broken, and the command needs help, but his breaking stuff is so good that it won’t take a total overhaul of his arsenal to fix. At the very least, Lacy is going to have value in the big leagues versus lefties out of the bullpen. It’s not remotely fair how difficult it is for left-handed hitters to hit anything off of him.
Marsh, like Lacy, has had some pretty disappointing results this year. The good news for Marsh however is that he’s been able to stay healthy and has made 18 starts so far in 2022. They haven’t all been great, but the number one goal for Marsh coming into 2022 was just to stay healthy, and he’s done that.
There are 677 pitchers that have thrown at least 50 innings in the minor leagues this season. Marsh ranks 44th in K/9, 125th in K%, and 34th in SwStr%. If you filter that down to 490 pitchers that are 24 or younger, Marsh ranks 42nd, 114th, and 30th, respectively. His offspeed stuff, like Lacy, is legitimately very good. It’s not quite Lacy’s but it’s not that far off either. Marsh controls the ball better than Lacy in terms of getting it to the strike zone, but his fastball can be pretty hittable at times despite running into the upper-90’s and he misses in the middle of the zone a ton.
For two consecutive seasons now at AA, Marsh has posted a HR/FB% (percentage of fly balls that leave the yard) of 21.1%. That is the 34th highest mark in Minor League Baseball this season. Marsh’s BABIP is also the 2nd highest BABIP in all of the minor leagues, implying that he may just be getting rather unlucky and could be due for some positive regression.
But regression has yet to come. I haven’t done a breakdown of Marsh yet on Twitter because I honestly can’t tell what the issue may be. He leaves his fastball fat sometimes, but it’s still weird for a guy that throws as hard as he does with the offspeed stuff that he has to get hit as hard as he does. Is it the fastball shape? Is it the pitch mix? Is he tipping his fastball? I don’t know. What I do know is that Marsh, like Lacy, has a great chance to still be an effective big league reliever even if the command and fastball issues never do get totally fixed. His offspeed stuff is that good.
Klein missed much of the early portion of the season due to what we were told was shin splints, but he’s back in the bullpen at AA Northwest Arkansas and his stuff looks fantastic. He’s striking out plenty of batters and still generating a ton of ground balls. His BABIP is somehow even higher than Marsh’s at the moment (in way fewer innings), and he’s walking entirely too many hitters, but he’s a big guy with a unique delivery that could take some time to iron out now that he’s healthy. We haven’t talked about him much this year, and I’m sure fans are disappointed to not see him tearing up AAA Omaha right now, but I am 0% concerned about Klein’s long-term outlook. He’s 22 years old, 6′ 5″ tall, and throws 101 mph. He’s going to be fine.
It looks to me like Drew Saylor and the gang have made a slight change to Bradley’s set up to help him elevate the baseball a little more often. I like it. I tweeted about Bradley on Sunday so I figured I’d add him in here, but he’s an enigma to me. Nothing he does really stands out. He doesn’t have an elite carrying tool he can fall back on at the big league level. Yet, there’s nothing he really can’t do on the baseball field and guys like that tend to stick around for a while as long as they’re hitting. Bradley probably won’t ever be allowed to hit much against LHP at the big league level (if he gets there), but I think there’s a future for him as a strict platoon versus RHP if he keeps hitting like this. Maybe he splits time with Edward Olivares as a 4th outfielder or something. I’m not entirely sure what to make of Bradley, and there’s still a 50/50 shot he flames out in AAA or something, but there’s just something about this kid that I can’t give up on.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)