Alright alright alright.
As I mentioned on our Honorable Mention list the other day, 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!
#30: Tucker Bradley, OF
Welcome back to the top-30, Mr. Bradley.
I don’t ever remember being as conflicted on a prospect as I am with Tucker Bradley. He doesn’t have any crazy weaknesses on a baseball field. Could he hit for more power? Yeah. Should he hit the ball in the air more? Sure. Is he blazing fast? No. Is he fast enough? Absolutely. Is he a good defender? Sure thing. I mentioned previously that Bradley doesn’t have an elite carrying tool to fall back on, but maybe that tool is his ability to hit RHP? So far this season Bradley is hitting .319/.403/.479/.882 against righties with 36 BB and 52 K. He posted a .968 OPS in the month of July and outside of a little slump in June, he’s pretty much crushed AA pitching all season. He’s lowered his K% 4% from last season while maintaining his BB% and ISO. He’s hitting more line drives this year, going the other way more…and yet I find myself not entirely sure if I’m bought in.
This is almost entirely because of the aforementioned lack of an elite tool. What does he fall back on in the big leagues when he’s slumping? What does he do insanely well? Just produce…I guess? I have absolutely no idea what to think. I’ve rarely been as perplexed by a prospect. I can’t wait to see what he does at AAA, because if he keeps hitting like this, he’s going to get a shot in the big leagues at some point.
#29: Samad Taylor, UTIL
I’m not entirely sure what to make of the reports on Taylor, and he’s currently on the IL and it’s not likely we’ll get to see him in Omaha this season. From what I have seen, I actually think his ability at the plate is going to be pretty interesting once he’s done developing. Not everyone is ready to play MLB when they’re 23. Taylor will be in just his age-24 season next year giving him plenty of time to carve out a big league utility role. Reports on his power vary…the folks over at FanGraphs aren’t buying it but the folks at MLB Pipeline seem to think it’s good enough to be legit…I’m split. I don’t think Taylor is a big league regular just yet, but I don’t think he swings a completely limp noodle either. Unfortunately for all of us, we’ll have to wait until next spring to find out for sure (unless the Royals send him to the Fall League…which they could). In any case, Taylor’s speed, defensive versatility, and Rule 5 eligibility make him a good bet to appear in the big leagues at some point next season.
#28: David Sandlin, RHP
Sandlin was the Royals 11th round pick in this year’s draft, and while you may be surprised to see the Royals 11th round pick ranked higher than most every other pick they made, I’ll remind you that the MLB Draft is almost never what it seems. Sandlin is a legitimate big league pitching prospect that only slipped that far due to some signability concerns. The Royals were able to talk ($) him out of going back to school, and instead wound up with one of my favorite picks in the draft.
Sandlin struggled a bit at times at Oklahoma this spring, but he had 102 K to just 31 BB in 95 innings for the Sooners and was a huge reason why OU made a College World Series run late in the season. Here’s a bit from a write-up that Marcus did on Sandlin after the draft:
It’s the secondary pitches that make Sandlin a particularly enticing prospect. He threw a lot of them in that start against the Aggies and got nearly all his swing and misses with them. The broadcast team mentioned that the spin rates and movement metrics on his 85-87 mph slider are already above major league average, and for the most part, he locates it well.
His curveball is probably a tick below his slider, but it’s still a good pitch with a lot of depth and little horizontal movement. It’s more of a 1-to-7 than a true 12-to-6, which I actually like. It also has plenty of velocity separation from his slider, as it sits round 80 mph. Sandlin also sparingly uses a changeup, but I think it’s got the potential to be at least a 50-grade pitch.
As Marcus put it, the Royals secured a deal to bring Sandlin to Kansas City, now they need to develop him. The kid has a ton of talent. I’m excited to see how he fares against professional hitters.
#27: Nate Webb, RHP
I mean it when I say that there wasn’t a hitter in the world that was gonna hit Nate Webb last summer as he was closing out the High-A Central Championship for Quad Cities. Webb was dotting 101 wherever he wanted it and pairing it with a wipeout slider. Seriously, if the Royals had been in playoff contention last fall, he would’ve been their 2021 version of Brandon Finnegan. The Royals added him to the 40-man roster this past offseason to protect him to the Rule 5 Draft, and I really thought there was a chance we’d see him in the big leagues by now if it weren’t for an injury he sustained that kept him on the IL for the better part of three months. He’s back in the bullpen at NWA now and just had his best outing of the season last week, striking out three batters in a scoreless inning. We may not see him this year, but don’t be surprised if he’s competing for a spot in the big league bullpen next spring.
#26: Noah Cameron, LHP
The Royals 7th round pick in 2021, Cameron dominated both A-ball levels this spring as a 22-year old before going on the IL in late June. A native of St. Joe, Cameron was making a comeback from Tommy John Surgery and looked fantastic before his shutdown. He’s back making appearances in Arizona, so it sounds like whatever his injury was shouldn’t be anything major, but you hate to see young arms start to battle the injury bug. I kind of wonder if the Royals won’t take it easy with Cameron for the rest of the summer and then send him to the Arizona Fall League to get some innings before sending him to AA next spring. In any case, Cameron’s changeup is filthy and his control gives him a great floor to keep starting through the minor leagues.
#25: Brewer Hicklen, OF
I love Brewer Hicklen, man. He is a fantastic athlete and somehow a better human being. There aren’t five guys easier to root for in the system. I was so excited to see him get a chance to make his big league debut in Toronto earlier this year. He’s striking out quite a bit this year at AAA, which will ultimately limit how often he can play in the big leagues, but he’s also got an outside shot at a 30/30 season and has been hitting for a ton of power all year. His K% is dangerously close to 40% for the season, but since June 10th that number is down to 32% and since June 26th it’s actually down under 31%. Does that really matter a ton in the long run? Probably not. Hicklen is probably a fourth outfielder at best at this point in his career, but I think there’s a good chance he gets the opportunity to be that next year. You never like to just take a guy and set him on the bench five days a week, but Hicklen could excel in a bench role and he’s been with this core of young guys so long I just think Kansas City is likely to give him his chance.
#24: Drew Parrish, LHP
Parrish absolutely steamrolled through AA to begin the season and was promoted to AAA Omaha after just 20 starts in Northwest Arkansas. He has really struggled to adjust to the new level at AAA, and somehow that’s severely affected his ability to not walk batters (his BB% doubled), but he’s still a pretty fair pitching prospect and I think he’ll have a role on a big league pitching staff at some point next season. Will that be in Kansas City? Will Parrish be trade bait in a deal that brings a frontline starter to Kansas City? I’m not sure, but his changeup is filthy and when he’s locating his fastball he’s a legitimately good pitcher.
#23: Will Klein, RHP
I know he’s a reliever, and I know he’s struggled with his command some this season, but I’m still a huge believer in the stuff that Will Klein’s right arm possesses. He’s got 40 K in his last 26 IP, and I don’t believe he’ll continue walking over a batter per inning like he has this season. He’s only been pitching for five or six years now and missing a chunk of this year wasn’t great for his development. He’s not Rule 5 eligible until next offseason, so he’s got plenty of time, and a potential change to the pitching development in the organization could do wonders for him this offseason. Needless to say, we’re riding with the good over the bad here.
#22: Anthony Veneziano, LHP
A lot of the things I said about Will Klein apply to Veneziano, but Veneziano has actually managed to stay pretty dang healthy while starting a majority of the last couple seasons. He led all Royals minor leaguers in strikeouts last season and saw his fastball top out at 100 mph. Veneziano is a big dude, standing 6′ 5″, and creates a crazy angle from the left side. His fastball hasn’t quite been what it was last summer, but he’s still striking out over a batter per inning at AA and his K/9 is over 10 since May 8th. The control is still an issue at times, and I’d like to see that fastball tick back up, but I really think Veneziano’s floor is an effective big league reliever. When he’s right, there aren’t many lefties alive that can square him up and his slider should keep righties honest in shorter stints as well. He gets the nod over Klein on the outside chance he starts in the big leagues, but he’s also probably a reliever long-term.
#21: Andrew Hoffmann, RHP
There were a lot of folks claiming that Hoffmann may have actually been the best prospect involved in the trade for the Royals 35th overall pick in this summer’s draft. We disagree quite a bit, but you can see why folks are excited about Hoffmann. He’s a big kid with a lot of deception in his delivery and still just 22 years old. He had a great start at AA the other day and showed off an arsenal that should allow him to start in the big leagues if his “stuff” ticks up at all in the next couple of seasons. You want a wildcard for a guy that could jump from the 20’s on this list to the top-10 by this time next year? How about Andrew Hoffmann.