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Prospect Profiles: Kansas City Royals

Prospect Profiles: Kansas City Royals Image via Sportsgraphics36


A look at the farm system of the Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals are just two years removed from their World Series title in 2015, and reeling from the tragic off-season death of budding ace Yordano Ventura. With a solid core of players, the Royals have managed to build a winning team, that when not struck by injuries, has a chance to capture the AL Central crown. That could all change as many of those core players are set to hit free agency after the 2018 season. As it stands, the Royals will lose Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Acilidies Escobar with no for sure replacements waiting in the wings other than Hunter Dozier. Dozier leads the way when it comes to Royals positional prospects, ranking second overall. Is it time for another rebuild in Kansas, or will the transition come easier this time.

Josh Staumont, RHP

The 6’3″ right-handed pitcher from Azusa Pacific was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft, but no other college pitcher threw harder than Staumont. He rode his triple digit fastball through the lower levels of the minor leagues, leaving hitters baffled as he struck out 11.4 per nine innings as a reliever and held the opposition bats to a .168 average.

While at times Staumont has shown he has the ability to be an ace with his hard downward curveball and good change-up with splitter type action, he often has trouble locating his pitches. As a starter, Staumont can work late into the game with a mid 90’s fastball and a two-seamer with heavy sink in the low 90’s. He often struggles with his command because of his mechanics, having a hard time repeating his delivery and staying in sync throughout it.

Unless Staumont can learn to keep his mechanics in sync and practice his command, he profiles as a reliever with a high 90’s fastball that can top out at 102 with some movement; his two-seamer also sits in the high 90’s. If Staumont can locate the strike zone as a reliever, he has a chance to take over as the teams closer but could at best become a front line starter if he can get his command under control.

ETA: Late 2017

Hunter Dozier, 3B/OF

A surprise pick at number eight in the 2013 draft, the Kansas City Royals believed Dozier was a first round talent…it didn’t hurt that he signed for below slot value so they could sign Sean Manaea with their supplemental pick. The right-handed hitting third basemen moon lighted as a reliever in college with a low 90’s fastball, but proved once he was drafted he could hit.

The 6’4″ prospect advanced to Double-A in his first pro season, showing a remarkable skill at the plate to hit the ball to all fields, and flashed 20 homer potential. While in the lower levels of the minors, he put together a slash line of .302/.397/.456 en-route to his promotion. In 2014 and 2015, Dozier struggled at the plate hitting just .212/.289/.337 at Northwest Arkansas, partly due to his pull happy approach. Dozier displayed natural power and leverage from the right side of the plate while using the whole field, and the switch to trying to pull the ball hurt his swing.

In 2016, Dozier managed to get back to using all fields earning him a berth in the Futures Game. He would go on to see time at Triple-A. The only issue with Dozier was his inaccurate throws from third base as he led the Texas League third basemen in errors with 22. With a more consistent approach on defense and his continued use of all fields while hitting, Dozier won’t be far from an MLB roster spot.

ETA: 2017

Matt Strahm, LHP

The former 21st round pick by the Kansas City Royals in 2012 had his career slowed by injuries early on. He features a fastball that sits in the 90-96 MPH range when healthy. Strahm led the Junior College circuit with 129 strikeouts in 99 innings, leading his team to its first Juco World Series appearance in nine years. Strahm would go on to miss most of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with Tommy John surgery and the rehab that followed.

He would go on to debut as a reliever in 2015 before becoming a starter following his promotion to High-A ball. Strahm would work his way up to Double-A and a brief appearance in the majors. Since having Tommy John surgery, he has exhibited a better and tighter breaking ball, and a fastball that averages 92-94 MPH. Many scouts question whether Strahm can hold up over a season as a starter, although he has the ability to constantly fill the strike zone, durability is his main issue. Strahm profiles as a solid reliever and at worst can be a solid lefty on lefty option for the Royals after posting a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings of relief.

ETA: 2017

Eric Skoglund, LHP

The former University of Central Florida lefty was the American Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2014 leading to him being drafted in the third round. Skoglund, at 6’7″, has been compared to Chris Sale since his high-school days, but is more of a finesse type pitcher instead of a strikeout type. The tall left-hander has better control of his body than most pitchers his size, allowing him to better control his delivery.

Skoglund was going to make it to Double-A in his first professional season but was held back due to an oblique injury, but would go on to make Double-A in 2016. He is believed to be the most polished starting pitching prospect in the Kansas City Royals organization. His fastball sits between 88-92 MPH, and he does a good job of keeping it down in the zone, allowing only four home runs in 107.1 innings since his pro debut. He also features a change-up, and a mid 70’s curveball. If Skoglund can maintain his control, he projects as a back-end of the rotation starter.

ETA: Late 2017

Jorge Bonifacio, OF

The younger brother of Emilio Bonifacio, Jorge profiles as a much different player than his older brother. While Emilio was a speedy utility player, the younger Bonifacio profiles as an average right fielder with some power. He features a plus arm, and limited range. He hit .277/.361/.466 in Triple-A with 19 homers and 51 walks, but struck out 158 times in 502 plate appearances. Bonafacio also doesn’t have his brothers speed but isn’t a liability on the base path.

In 2015, Bonifcacio struggled at the plate as he became pull-happy and tried to hit everything out of the park. He is at his best when he tries to use all fields, and hit his sharp line drives like he got back to in 2016, allowing him to hit for a decent average and some power. At the major league level, he projects to be a low .240-.250 hitter with 20 homer potential. With no clear right fielder in the Kansas City Royals system for the foreseeable future, at 23, he won’t be far from the major leagues.

ETA: 2017

Ryan O’Hearn, 1B/OF

After hitting only 11 home runs in the three years he spent at Sam Houston State, the Kansas City Royals believed with a few changes to his swing he could hit for power. He would go on to win the Pioneer League MVP, and finished tied in High-A ball for home runs, despite a mid-season promotion with 19. O’Hearn has displayed the ability to draw some walks but also has a lot of swing and miss in his game as he had 200 strikeouts in his first 191 games.

The left-handed hitter has above average power and the ability to draw walks. If he can get his strikeouts in check, he could provide some value at the major league level. Not the best defender but does have the soft hands and throws well enough that he has received some starts in the outfield despite his below average speed and range. With Hosmer due to leave after the 2018 season, it seems as though O’Hearn will be the first basemen of the future for the Royals.

ETA: Late 2017

Chase Vallot, C

The former compensation pick in 2014 won the Perfect Game National Showcase Home Run Derby, and hit 13 home runs in his senior year as he led his team to a 4A state championship. Vallot was the highest picked catcher by the Kansas City Royals since 2003. He features a plus power bat, and a strong-arm, giving him a very high ceiling as a catcher but still needs to clean up his game in order to achieve that ceiling.

Since his transition to pro baseball, he has struggled to throw out base runners, nabbing only 19% in his first two full seasons as he struggled with receiving the ball and the transfer. With the Royals having Salvador Perez behind the plate for the foreseeable future, Vallot has time to develop his defensive skills and work on keeping the ball in front of him. Vallot struggles to make contact leading to his high strikeout rate that has sat around 39% since his pro debut. Although Vallot has a very high ceiling, he still has a lot of work to do in order to handle a big league pitching staff.

ETA: 2021

Scott Blewett, RHP

The former New York high-school right hander had a chance to go in the first round of the 2014 draft, but a shoulder strain dropped him down to the second round. His first pro season began in extended spring training as he recorded a 2.82 ERA in his first eight outings. He faded over the last ten starts of his season going 1-4 with a 7.33 ERA. In 2016, he stayed at Lexington where he recorded an 8-11 record with a 4.31 ERA in 25 starts.

Blewett has a sharp sinking fastball that is at it’s best when it sits in the low 90’s, but can top out at 96 MPH. He also features a change-up and a curveball that has some tight break to it and can become a plus pitch when all is said and done. At 6’6″, the young right hander needs to put on some muscle to help hold up over the course of a full pro season, and projects to some as a front line starter while others see him as a solid number three.

ETA: 2021

A.J. Puckett, RHP

The second round pick in 2016 fashioned the third longest scoreless inning streak in NCAA Division 1 history at 45.2 innings. He would go on to put up a 3.68 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 15 walks in his first professional season. He doesn’t blow hitters away, but does have the ability to fill the strike zone and attack both sides of the plate.

The athletic right hander features a fastball in the low 90’s with some sink and run to it that draws weak contact. He also has a change-up that is above average and has managed to tighten up his curveball into an average third offering at best. His polished approach could vault him through the minor leagues at a faster rate than other pitchers in the Kansas City Royals system. The one down fall to Puckett is his low strikeout rate and while he has the highest floor of any Royals pitching prospect, his ceiling is only as a mid-rotation starter.

ETA: 2019

Kyle Zimmer, RHP

Kyle Zimmer is a former fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, that many believed was the top pitcher in the draft. The Kansas City Royals believed that Zimmer could reach the majors in just two years, but a series of injuries has slowed his progression. Having only pitched in 222.1 innings in five professional seasons, topping out at the Double-A level. Zimmer only pitched 5.2 innings in 2016 before having to undergo surgery to repair Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, the same surgery Matt Harvey had to have this past season.

The Royals hope to have the 25-year-old back in time for spring training this year. He features a fastball in the low to mid 90’s range, but that can top out at 97 MPH as a starter after flashing triple digits earlier in his career. He also features a heavy curveball that often makes hitters look foolish at the plate, and has developed a solid slider and change-up to complement his other two offerings. If Zimmer can stay healthy, he could become a front line starter for the Royals.

ETA: 2017 (if healthy)

Just Missed:

Khalil Lee, OF. Lee batted .296 with 33 walks and 57 strikeouts in 187 at-bats at the rookie ball level. Has plus speed and power, and is an all around athletic player and could be a future star if he can tap into his tools.

Alec Mills, RHP. Mills saw some brief MLB action in 2016 but did not enjoy the same success that he enjoyed at the Double-A and Triple-A level as he looked tentative to fill the strike zone. Has three average pitches in his fastball, curveball and change-up. Could be a relief option or a back-end starter.

The Kansas City Royals feature one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, without any true can’t miss players, the Royals have a bunch of back-end rotation pitchers and power bats that need to be polished and may not play well at Kauffman Stadium.

With a rebuild on the horizon after their magical runs in 2014 and 2015, many of the players will be thrust into the major leagues before they are ready. That could result in a long wait for Royals fans to have something to cheer about.