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!
#5: Maikel Garcia, SS
Maikel Garcia has had one hell of a year. The 22-year old shortstop (who is Alcides Escobar’s cousin, by the way) went to AA to start the year and did his thing. .369 OBP, 27 stolen bases, good BB/K. He got an opportunity to play in the big leagues during the Toronto fiasco, as well as one other quick stint, and has a 113 wRC+ in 7 big league games. He was recently tearing up AAA before being called up to the big leagues to fill in for Hunter Dozier who is on the paternity list. Garcia can really run, he’s really smooth on the infield, he’s got a great approach at the plate, he has some of the best bat-to-ball skills in MiLB, and he might just hit for enough power to be an All-Star one day. I swear I go back and forth between this kid being a consistent 2.0-2.5 WAR player and a potential 5-win player. It honestly just depends on the day and how many home runs I think he can hit when I’m evaluating it. In any case…the Braves just signed their center fielder to an 8-year, $72M deal. I don’t think you’d have to get close to $72M to lock Garcia up long-term but I sure would be asking.
#4: Tyler Gentry, OF
These rankings are really tough and there’s a reason we do an aggregate list. As safe a bet as I think Garcia is to be a big leaguer one day, and as much as I think there’s some legitimate ceiling in his game as well, Gentry just feels like a better bet to be an above average offensive producer and be adequate in the corner outfield. Really, this entire top-5 could change on a daily basis depending on what kind of mood you were catching me in. The important thing isn’t necessarily where they are all ranked specifically, but the fact that they’re mentioned in this article speaks volumes to how we see them fitting into the organization’s future. David Lesky mentioned it on Soren Petro’s “Kauffman Corner” podcast a couple weeks ago, but it sounds like Tyler Gentry may get a shot to compete for a spot on the big league team as soon as Opening Day in 2023. I’d kind of like to see him get some AB’s in the Fall League. I know you’ve seen us tweet about him all summer, but this kid is legit, and he’s definitely going to have a role on the next good Royals team.
#3: Drew Waters, OF
Something that I thought was kind of interesting tonight was Drew Waters playing LF while Nick Loftin was playing CF. Considering that we think a huge chuck of Waters’ value is the ability to lock up CF, that ought to tell you quite a bit about how much the Royals like Loftin out there.
Anyway, more about Waters. I have absolutely no idea what to make of his adjustments since coming to Kansas City. It’s easy to just chalk it up as #InSaylorWeTrust, but my goodness. He’s raised his walk rate by 6%, added over 80 points to his ISO, bumped his wRC+ nearly 60 points, and lowered his ground ball rate by 7%. The strikeouts are still pretty high…but I don’t think even Drew Saylor is capable of doing that to a guy in one month. Maybe it was just a change of scenery, maybe it really was as simple as a “come to Jesus” moment with Coach Saylor. I don’t know, but Waters has basically been the top-100 prospect most sites thought he was a couple years ago over the last month and the Royals are going to have a chance to capitalize on his turn around next season.
#2: Nick Loftin, SS/2B/3B/OF
That’s top-100 prospect Nick Loftin to you.
Seriously, I don’t think I could be any higher than I am on Loftin at the moment. There aren’t many players in MiLB this season with 10+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases and Loftin has done it while keeping his strikeout rate below 15% for most of the season. He runs well, he plays tremendous defense all over the field, he has a fantastic approach at the plate, great bat-to-ball skills, and legitimately enough raw power to hit 10+ HR in the big leagues on a consistent basis. The Whit Merrifield comparison is fair, but I really think Loftin can be more like post-peak Ben Zobrist. In 2014, Zobrist hit 10 HR, stole 10 bases, had a .123 ISO, 117 wRC+, and was worth 4.7 fWAR because he was so valuable defensively. He hasn’t taken to AAA pitching just yet, so it’s almost surely going to be 2023 before we see him in the big leagues, but he’s going to be a huge piece of the future for KC. Don’t let anyone convince you he’s Mitch Maier.
#1: Gavin Cross, OF
The Royals are currently running Cross out in center field, but I think he’s more likely the right fielder of the future than center fielder. His ability to hit the ball hard is impressive, but he also has a unique ability to finesse his way on base that not all big lefties possess. He plays a good outfield, has a cannon for an arm, and a good approach that should allow him to walk enough to be a great on-base guy while he’s hitting for power. He’s the only prospect the Royals have that’s currently a sure-fire top-100 prospect (by national sites…not our standards), and he should begin next year at High-A. I’ll be curious to see how he handles CF long-term, as well as how he handles LHP, but I really think Cross is pretty clearly the best combination of floor and ceiling the Royals have in the system and I can’t wait to see how he hits next year.
Thanks for reading everybody. I hope you enjoyed our midseason rankings update. Let us know if you have any thoughts on the list.