Alright alright alright.
As I mentioned on our Honorable Mention list yesterday, our midseason list is never as detailed as our preseason list. So, this is more of an inventory check than a full write-up like we do preseason. As always, our lists are an aggregate of several folks that vote on individual top-50 lists. Enjoy!
#50: Tyler Tolbert, UTIL
Tolbert’s defensive versatility and 80-grade speed are going to keep him on this list while he’s still in the organization. I’m not saying he’ll be the Royals next Jarrod Dyson, but he has a chance to be at least Terrance Gore but with more 9th inning defensive replacement value. He’s played SS, 2B, LF, CF, and RF during his minor league career and he’s currently in the middle of a historic season in which he’s stolen 46 bases without being caught even once. As far as I can tell, no one has stolen 40 bases in a minor league season without being caught, much less the 60 or so that Tolbert is on pace for. He’s a legitimately very good defensive SS and while the bat will probably prevent him from being a legitimate big league utility player, he could have a huge role on a playoff team like Dyson and Gore did late in games.
#49: Yefri Del Rosario, RHP
I hate having Del Rosario this low on the list, despite what has been a pretty disappointing season at AA, but it would be hard to justify having a struggling, non-closing reliever too much higher than this. He’s still just 22 years old, which is shocking in some respects, but his strikeouts are WAY down this year and his ERA has been hovering around 5.00 for quite some time now. I’m still a believer in the stuff, and a lot of pitchers in this system are a hot mess right now, but Del Rosario seems to have no chance to start long-term and I’m worried about his ability to regain his plus-velocity on his fastball.
#48: Rylan Kaufman, LHP
I’d love to see what Kaufman looked like after an offseason with the best pitching development team on earth. He’s 23 years old, 6′ 4″ tall, throws from a high arm slot from the left side, throws his fastball up to 97 mph, and has a curveball with some of the craziest spin rates you’ll see in MiLB. That should excite fans. I can’t really put my finger on why Kaufman has struggled, but the walks are a good place to start and he’s been more home run prone at High-A than he ever has been before. He’s almost definitely not a candidate to start long-term, but I think you could have a pretty gnarly relief prospect on your hands if he made the proper adjustments.
#47: Hayden Dunhurst, C
The Royals grabbed Dunhurst in the 6th round of this year’s draft out of Ole Miss, continuing their trend of grabbing a highly valued backstop early in day two. Dunhurst is one of the very best defensive catchers that came out of this year’s class, and two years ago he looked like he might be a first round pick before COVID shutdown his freshman season. He never got close to returning that form offensively, but there’s certainly some thunder in his stick and plenty of defensive value worth taking a shot on. If Drew Saylor and the gang can help him regain his offensive form, the Royals could have a steal on their hands.
#46: Chandler Champlain, RHP
One of the arms the Royals got from New York in the Andrew Benintendi trade, Champlain reminds me a little of what Josh Staumont looked like in the minor leagues. Big fastball, big curveball, with some command issues that will probably push him to the bullpen long-term. Is it a perfect comparison? Of course not, but you get the idea…I hope. Champlain is in his first year of pro ball this year, and he’s already 23 years old, but he’s shown a knack for striking batters out and he walked just 19 batters in over 70 innings in Low-A earlier this season. I’m guessing the Royals will let him keep starting for now, the same way they let Staumont start for most of his MiLB career, but I can’t wait to see what Champlain looks like in one inning stints.
#45: Erick Torres, OF
Torres was one of the Royals biggest international free agent signings this last period and has also been pretty clearly their best player in the DSL this summer. It’s kind of rare to get that combination from a player but Torres has fit the bill thus far. I won’t spend too much time hyping you up on a 17-year old that’s never played professionally in the US, but the swing looks fantastic and so far the production has matched the hype.
#44: Brennon McNair, SS
McNair was the Royals 11th round pick in the 2021 draft and is currently in his second go in the Arizona Complex League. The loss of short-season rookie leagues like the Pioneer League and Appalachian League hurts guys like McNair, who may not be ready for full-season ball yet, but could also do well to get out of Arizona for a bit. In any case, McNair has really hit the ball well this year and will be a lot of fun to watch play in Columbia every day next spring. The strikeouts are a little high, but there’s a lot of tools here that make McNair an interesting name to watch moving forward.
#43: Seuly Matias, OF
Fact: Seuly Matias is currently posting his lowest K% of any full-season level of his minor league career. Please do not Google what that number is.
While that may be true, Seuly has sacrificed a ton of power this season to try to cut down on the strikeouts and it’s not been a great trade for him. He’s been below league average offensively and while he’s still just 23 years old, it appears that Matias may never even be capable of platooning against LHP in the big leagues. With that being said, he still has some of the most ridiculous raw power you will ever see in MiLB and his approach at the plate has legitimately improved some this season. There’s always a chance with guys like this that they go full Aristides Aquino and hit 19 HR in 56 G during a big league call-up before totally flaming out for the rest of ever.
#42: Hunter Patteson, LHP
The Royals 5th round pick out of UCF this year, Patteson might be the most under rated picks of this draft class. He had Tommy John Surgery in April, so we won’t get to see Patteson on the mound for a while, but he’s a legitimately talented SP prospect and I think Royals fans will start to understand the excitement when they see him healthy. Had he pitched all spring, I think Patteson sneaks into the top three rounds of the draft and you probably could’ve just slid him into the High-A rotation. In any case, we’ll have to wait a while to see how Patteson performs against professional hitters, but I love the Royals taking a chance on an injured arm that was under valued in the draft.
#41: Christian Chamberlain, LHP
Chamberlain has some crazy good stuff, and he’s shown it at times this year striking out 66 batters in just 42 IP between High-A and AA. The Oregon State product is still just 23 years old, and certainly has the ability to get big league hitters out, but he’s walked 40 batters in those 42 innings this year and has really struggled to be in the strike zone at times. He missed most of last season due to injury, so there’s quite a bit of leeway you’re willing to give a guy like this, but we’ll need to see him get his stuff under control before ranking him too much higher than this.
#40: Junior Marin, OF
Junior Marin had one of the best seasons of any hitter in the DSL last summer as a 17-year old, and it was one of the best performances by any Royals prospect in the DSL in years. Marin has continued some of that success in the Arizona Complex League this summer, posting a 143 wRC+ so far in 77 PA as an 18-year old. He’s doing it very differently than he did last year in the DSL, but he’s hitting the ball hard and has a 31.1% LD%, which is the 4th best mark of any hitter in the ACL this summer. We’ll have to see Marin get some time in Columbia before moving him much higher on this list, but we could be talking about a potential top-20 prospect in this system this time next year if he keeps hitting like this.
#39: River Town, OF
Town has burst onto the prospect scene this year by being the best player on the Fireflies (A-) roster early on this season. Town was the Royals 15th round pick last summer out of Dallas Baptist, and although he’s in his age-22 season, the lefty crushes professional pitching this year to the tune of a 137 wRC+ before being promoted to High-A just a few weeks ago. We’ll see if he can keep up his newfound power stroke at the new level, but if Town can show he can hit for power in High-A the way he did in Low-A, he could potentially find his way into our top-30 the way Tucker Bradley has this time next year.
#38: Erick Pena, OF
Pena has really, really struggled this season. He’s still just 19 years old and playing full season baseball, but he’s striking out in nearly 40% of his PA and has a total of 37 hits this season in 77 games. He does do some things well…he’s walking quite a bit, he hits the ball hard, he hits the ball in the air…he just doesn’t hit the ball very often. He looks lost at the plate at times and it’s going to be more than a quick fix or two to get him right. He’s still got the skillset of a top-100 prospect, and I’m by no means ready to give up on him just yet, but he needs something of a reset this offseason.
#37: Shane Panzini, RHP
Panzini was the Royals 4th round pick out of high school last summer, but he’s already 20 years old as he was a year older than most prep draftees. He’s been okay for Columbia this year, but he’s really struggled with walks and he’s not striking out as many guys as you’d like to see. You never want to start slapping reliever tags on guys before they can legally drink, but that was kind of the vibe I got from Panzini last year and nothing he’s done this year has changed my mind really. Still, I think he has a pretty high ceiling if he can iron some things out.
#36: John Rave, CF
How about John Rave making a leap in our midseason rankings? I kind of wish he would’ve been part of the group that was promoted to AAA Omaha today, but he’s been excellent at Northwest Arkansas this season and I think there’s a spot for him on the big league roster next year. I don’t think he’ll ever be a big league regular, although he has oddly hit lefties better than righties this year at AA. Still, I think his role is probably as a 4th outfielder that plays CF against RHP occasionally, but he has some power and runs well and I think the Royals like him a bit more than folks may realize.
#35: Jonatan Bernal, RHP
What a freaking find by Danny Ontiveros and company. I was floored watching Bernal pitch in relief of Frank Mozzicato last week. This kid is just 19 years old, he’s a bona fide starting pitching prospect, and the Royals got him for a guy they DFA’d. His fastball doesn’t have great velocity just yet, but he has all kinds of movement on the pitch and his slurve is outstanding. I need to see a little more on him to be able to throw him into our top-30, but this kid is legit.
#34: Daniel Vazquez, SS
Vazquez is an 18-year old currently manning SS for the Royals Low-A affiliate in Columbia. Is he having a ton of success at the plate? No. Does he look totally overmatched? Absolutely not, and the fact that he’s not in Arizona ought to tell you everything you need to know about how the Royals feel about their big international signing from a couple years ago.
#33: Darryl Collins, OF
Collins was so hard to place on this list. On one hand, he’s a pretty good sized kid with some of the best plate discipline and bat-to-ball skills in the organization. On the other hand, he’s not a good defender, he’ll be stuck in LF at best, he doesn’t really run well, and he’s yet to hit a home run this year which is pretty well representative of his overall struggles this season. I’m still a believer in the kid. I think he can still tweak one or two things in his swing to unlock some legitimately impressive raw power, but we need to see it first to get him back into a top-30 that lacks ceiling, but has some depth to it at the moment. Collins was promoted to High-A today.
#32: Austin Charles, RHP/IF
A two-way player! I cannot tell you how excited I am to see how the Royals handle Charles now that they’ve got him in the system. How often will he pitch? How often will he hit? Where will he play? Who cares! He’s got a huge arm on the mound and he moves pretty well in the field. He has a ton of raw power, but he’ll need to iron out some contact issues to be a hitter long-term. MLB Pipeline ranked him #106 on their draft rankings this year and Baseball America had him #102, both sighting his ability on the mound for his high ranking. I’m still pumped to see a two-way player in the system.
#31: Ben Hernandez, RHP
I don’t really know what to make of Ben Hernandez at the moment. On one hand, I love his changeup and ability to sequence pitches on the mound. He’s got a great feel to pitch and he’s been pretty healthy this season. On the other hand, his fastball is kind of poopoo and he’s not striking many guys out in Low-A. He’s still technically in his age-20 season, but he’s got a July 1st birthday so he’s as close to 21 as you can get (he’s obviously 21 years old right now). I don’t know…I hate to keep using this as a cop out, but I really need to see how the Royals handle their pitching development this offseason before I judge too many of these pitchers too harshly. Hernandez is certainly talented, but I don’t know what his path to starting in the big leagues looks like right now.