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!
#20: TJ Sikkema, LHP
Sikkema, a Mizzou alum, is the most advanced pitcher that the Royals got back from New York in the Andrew Benintendi trade. We quite obviously have RHP Beck Way ranked ahead of him because Way has the higher ceiling, but Sikkema is already in AA and had a really good first start with NWA. Sikkema missed all of the 2021 season due to an injury, so his 60-grade pinpoint command hasn’t quite returned all the way just yet, but he won’t walk many batters when he’s right and his slider gives both righties and lefties fits. I really think he’s got a chance to fill out the back of a big league rotation at his peak, but worst case I think he’ll be a fine reliever and someone who can effectively eat innings for you as a swing type.
#19: Max Castillo, RHP
The prize return from Toronto in the Whit Merrifield trade, Castillo has already shown an ability to get big league hitters out at the age of 23 and I really believe he can be an effective big league starter in some capacity. In a lot of ways, his future value is very similar to that of Sikkema, but I think Castillo has a better chance to be successful in high-leverage innings late in the game, where Sikkema is probably a LOOGY if he’s not pitching longer stints. Castillo’s changeup is his calling card, and it’s a dandy of a pitch, but I really like his slider as well and think he could benefit from throwing it more often. He made a start for Omaha yesterday, throwing 50 pitches in three innings, so I would expect the plan for Castillo is to keep starting for now.
#18: Luca Tresh, C
I was blown away by how good Luca Tresh looked with High-A Quad Cities this year. He hit 14 HR and posted a 129 wRC+ in 80 games with the River Bandits and was recently promoted to AA where he’ll likely end the season. Tresh spent a little time in the Arizona Fall League last year, though he didn’t play much, and I suspect he could be a candidate to go down there once again given his current timeline. From there, I have absolutely no idea what the Royals plan for him will be. Is he the future backup catcher while MJ Melendez makes a permanent shift to the outfield? Is he the final piece of a big trade that brings an frontline starting pitcher to Kansas City? I don’t have a clue, but there are certainly no negatives to him playing as well as he has so far this year. If he can show an ability to handle AA pitching the way he handled High-A before the season ends, he’s going to quickly become a very valuable asset to the Royals this offseason.
#17: Peyton Wilson, 2B/CF
A 22-year old with a 104 wRC+ is…fine. Pretty good. But when you consider that this should really be Wilson’s junior year at Alabama instead of his second professional season, it makes things a bit more impressive. Add in the fact that he’s hitting .302 with a 139 wRC+ since the beginning of June and all of a sudden he looks like a legitimate big league prospect. Wilson can absolutely fly on the base paths and in the outfield and is a good defender at both 2B and CF. He’s got a fair approach at the plate and more juice than you’d expect for a guy who’s just 5′ 9″. He’s another candidate to spend some time in the Arizona Fall League this offseason where I think he’d benefit tremendously from some time against upper-level pitching. If he keeps hitting like this at AA next summer he’s going to make a strong case as a top-10 prospect in this system.
#16: Beck Way, RHP
The other big piece of the aforementioned Andrew Benintendi trade, Way has some lethal stuff that’s legitimate #3 starter in the big league quality if he can control it a little better. I’m not really sure who to compare him to for you, but his profile reminds me a little of Aldi-brand Dylan Cease. The fastball isn’t nearly on that level, obviously, but you’re talking about power starting pitcher if the command improves a tick, much like Cease when he was in the minor leagues. Cease OBVIOUSLY has better stuff, so his command improvements moved him from marginal big leaguer to Cy Young contender, but an increase in Way’s command could move him from big league reliever to big league starter in a similar fashion. In any case, I know some fans wanted more for Benintendi, but the early returns on this trade are quite promising.
#15: Diego Hernandez, CF
There aren’t three players I’ve been more impressed by in the Royals system than Hernandez this season. The 21-year old center fielder made the jump from Low-A to High-A this year, cut his K% down by 2%, AND more than doubled his ISO from 2021. He cut his infield flyball rate down by 10%, showing an increased efficiency to his launch angle, and has already ripped 27 bases this season. Everything he does is efficient, including his routes in center field which become increasingly productive when you consider that Hernandez is a legitimate 70-grade runner. The kid is an incredible talent, and while he may never be a top-100 prospect and won’t ever be a lock to play every day in the big leagues, his ceiling is sky high and I can’t wait to see how much better he can get. Hernandez is another candidate to see some time in the Arizona Fall League, as he is Rule 5 eligible this offseason.
#14: Nate Eaton, UTIL
We normally like to get guys off of our list once they’ve reached the big leagues, but I figured we’d keep Eaton around because I think it’s good to understand where he fits in terms of organizational depth. I know Eaton has already begun producing at the big league level (dude has a 122 wRC+ and 0.5 fWAR in 11 games), but he’ll be 26 next spring and I don’t *think* his bat will ever allow him to be an every day guy in The Show. With that being said, I don’t think you’ll find a better utility bench player than Eaton. He can steal bases, hit for some power, play excellent defense at four or five different positions (2B/3B/CF/RF/LF?), and won’t strike out so much that he just tanks his overall value. I kind of wonder if Eaton can’t be this team’s Jarrod Dyson. Between 2014 and 2015, Dyson played in 210 games, got 515 PA, had a wRC+ around 86, and was worth 3.8 fWAR because of his defensive value and base running. I really think Eaton can fill that role, especially considering there will be opportunities for him as a defensive replacement late in games if they decide to put Melendez or Dozier in the outfield on a regular basis. In any case, I don’t think Eaton will ever start full time, which prevents us from putting him in our top-10, but I hope you understand that us having him at #14 speaks volumes as to what we think of him as a role player for this team.
#13: Carter Jensen, C
Yes. We have a 19-year old in Low-A ranked over a guy who is currently producing in the big leagues. Here’s the thing. If this was just a list of players most likely to *reach* the big leagues, Eaton would obviously be our top ranked prospect. But it’s not. We weigh age and ceiling in our rankings and there aren’t but…well maybe nobody in this system younger than Carter Jensen with a higher ceiling. Jensen is technically in his age-18 season in Low-A right now and he is mashing baseballs. The batting average is pretty low, and Jensen does need to learn a little finesse in his game, but the Kyle Schwarber comps get better all the time. Jensen has also improved remarkably behind the plate this year, so there’s an off chance he actually catches through the minor leagues. Even if he’s just a LF/1B/DH type, the bat is legit and has a top-100 prospect in baseball ceiling once Jensen matures a bit as a hitter.
#12: Frank Mozzicato, LHP
I still wish the Royals had taken a hitter in the same price range with the 7th overall pick last year, but the more I watch Mozzicato pitch the more I can at least understand the scouting end of that pick. Mozzicato is a really good athlete and has a natural ability to throw the baseball at an advanced clip. My biggest issue with the pick is that there were plenty of hitters (Jackson Merrill and Colson Montgomery come to mind) that you could’ve swapped with Mozzicato and still gotten Kudrna, Jensen, and Tresh later on. Despite Mozzicato’s raw ability, he’s had trouble locating the zone at times and hasn’t dominated Low-A hitters the way you might hope a 7th overall pick would. I don’t want this to sound all bad. We’ve got Mozzicato ranked #12 for a reason. He’s got a pretty good fastball and his curveball is legitimately one of the best pitches in the entire organization. He gets some ugly swings on his changeup when he locates it well and his ultimate ceiling is still pretty high. Again…for your 7th overall pick to be ranked behind the third pick you made in that draft and just one spot ahead of the fourth pick you made in that draft…you’d just like to see a little more value.
#11: Asa Lacy, LHP
Speaking of…no need for more of that. #DraftMoreHitters
I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on Lacy right now. He’s not Rule 5 eligible until next offseason and he’s still just 23 years old and has some of the best pure stuff of anyone in MiLB. He’s gotta command the ball, but even just throwing strikes 50% of the time makes him a candidate to be a good reliever at the big league level.
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