The 2015 Kansas City Royals Top 10 Prospects

 

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1. Brandon Finnegan, LHP

Born: 04/14/93 Age: 22 Height: 5-11   Weight: 185   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 21 A+ 15.0 0.60 3.05 7.8 26.5% 1.2 4.1% 0.60 100.0%
2014 21 AA 12.0 2.25 3.87 9.8 23.2% 1.5 3.6% 1.50 59.2%

Background: From the get go it seemed as if it was Carlos Rodon, N.C. State’s lefty ace and supposed #1 overall pick, and then everyone else in college baseball. But a couple weeks prior to the draft I compared Rodon with another two high-ceiling southpaws – Kyle Freeland, whom the Rockies would eventually grab with the eighth pick, and TCU star Brandon Finnegan. And while Rodon was the best of the three I pointed out that the differences weren’t as dramatic as one would assume. In terms of how Finnegan stacked up I wrote:

“Like Rodon, [he] starred for Team USA last summer, throwing a team-leading 23.2 innings with 23 strikeouts and 10 free passes. And unlike his N.C. State counterpart, Finnegan has not only slowly been brought up to speed – his workload has increased from 62.1 IP to 79.1 IP to 91.1 IP – but his production has continued to steadily improve.”

And as I previously pointed out, the case against the left-hander was quite simple: “Listed at just 5-foot-11, he’s going to have to show that concerns about his ability to hold up not only over the course of one long season, but multiple seasons as well are unfounded.”

Projection: In my pre-draft analysis of Finnegan I wrote,

“Despite the supposed shortcomings – both those in the present and projected – his stock continues to climb, so much so, that the little lefty out of TCU could go in the top 10 picks. He’s consistently shown an above-average to elite ability to miss bats. His control has improved from slightly below-average to a strong, reliable skill. And he’s given up just five homeruns throughout his career. Ace potential, assuming the drafting team doesn’t push him into a bullpen role.”

Well, Finnegan flashed a low- to mid-90s fastball during his stint in KC’s bullpen. And the temptation is going to be there to keep him in a late-game role and transform KC’s three-headed monster into a quartet, but, again, there’s some serious big league rotation potential here. For now, though, he’ll have to bide his time as the club is six arms deep in the rotation – Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy, Edinson Volquez, and Kris Medlen (when he makes his way back from another Tommy John surgery).

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

2. Sean Manaea, LHP

Born: 02/01/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-5   Weight: 235   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Kevin Ziomek, Jake Arrieta, Cody Martin, Barret Loux, Andrew Chafin
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 22 A+ 121.7 3.11 3.11 10.8 28.4% 4.0 10.5% 0.37 69.5%

Background: Hip and shoulder issues forced the Indiana State University left-hander to drop to the 34th pick in the draft two years ago, where the Royals, who reached a well below-slot deal with Hunter Dozier to save money, signed him for more than $3.5 million. Manaea didn’t make his professional debut until 2014, but the club has to be happy with the initial return on its investment: 121.2 IP, 146 strikeouts, 54 walks, and a 3.11 FIP.

Projection: After beginning the year on a bit of a down note – he totaled a 5.16 ERA, though he did manage to fan 63 in his first 45.1 innings – Manaea mowed through the Carolina League competition down the stretch, posting an immaculate 1.89 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than 2.5-to-1 over his last 14 games. Manaea’s a solid mid-rotation starter with the chance to jump up some.

 

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

3. Kyle Zimmer, RHP

Born: 09/13/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-3   Weight: 215   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Yordano Ventura, Robert Hinton, Clay Buchholz, Wade Davis, Danny Gutierrez
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A 29.7 2.43 3.05 8.8 22.0% 2.4 6.1% 0.30 69.5%
2013 21 A+ 89.7 4.82 3.27 11.3 29.8% 3.1 8.2% 0.90 59.2%
2013 21 AA 18.7 1.93 2.68 13.0 36.0% 2.4 6.7% 0.96 92.1%
2014 22 R 4.7 1.93 4.46 9.6 21.7% 7.7 17.4% 0.00 88.9%

Background:  I was incredibly high on the right-hander heading into last season, so much so, in fact, that I listed Zimmer as the game’s fourth best prospect – trailing only Byron Buxton, Xander Bogaerts, and Oscar Taveras. Zimmer, of course, lasted just 4.2 innings before a severe lat injury knocked him out for the year. And then once he came back from that in the Arizona Fall League the former first rounder hurt his right-shoulder, underwent surgery to removed damaged tissue and won’t return to live action until late April. Prior to the injuries, Zimmer was coming off of a season in which he fanned 140 walked 36 in just 108.1 innings.

Projection: I wasn’t the only one high on the 6-foot-3 right-hander; CAL likened Zimmer to a pair of org-mates Yordano Ventura and Wade Davis, and Boston’s Clay Buchholz – a pretty solid list of comparables. Shoulder injury, let alone ones that require any sort of surgery, are always alarming. He has front-of-the-rotation potential – if healthy.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

4. Christian Binford, RHP

Born: 12/20/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-6   Weight: 217   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Liam Hendriks, Jesse Litsch, Zach McAllister, Joe Wieland, Ryan Weber
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A 135.0 2.67 2.94 8.7 23.6% 1.7 4.5% 0.47 70.8%
2014 21 A+ 82.7 2.40 2.08 10.0 28.0% 1.2 3.3% 0.22 69.3%
2014 21 AA 48.0 3.19 3.93 7.1 19.6% 1.1 3.1% 1.31 78.7%
2014 21 AAA 10.0 5.40 5.00 8.1 17.3% 4.5 9.6% 0.90 72.8%

Background: An extreme late round pick in 2011, Binford, who was grabbed in the 30th round, 906th overall, made stops at three different levels last season. Beginning with 14 dominant starts with Wilmington and another eight with Northwest Arkansas, the big right-hander capped off an impressive year with 10.0 innings in the PCL. In total, he tossed 140.2 innings with 139 strikeouts and just 22 walks. His 6.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the fifth best among all minor league pitchers with 100+ innings.

Projection: Quietly – very, very quietly – Binford has established himself as one of the better young hurlers in the minor leagues. It’s really kind of mind boggling that the 6-foot-6 right-hander entered debut in pro ball as a 30th round pick and has already vaulted up for a quick cup o’ coffee in Class AAA. Another mid-rotation/#4-type arm.

Ceiling:  2.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015

 

 

5. Miguel Almonte, RHP

Born: 04/04/93 Age: 22 Height: 6-2   Weight: 180   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Wesley Parsons, Joseph Cruz, Jameson Taillon, Randall Delgado, Luis Cruz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 19 R 50.0 1.44 2.61 8.3 23.7% 1.4 4.1% 0.36 72.4%
2012 19 R 27.0 2.33 3.30 9.3 24.8% 1.7 4.4% 0.00 58.1%
2013 20 A 130.7 3.10 3.04 9.1 24.7% 2.5 6.7% 0.41 70.2%
2014 21 A+ 110.3 4.49 3.92 8.2 21.8% 2.6 6.9% 0.73 65.5%

Background: Playing in a run suppressing environment for half of his games, Almonte’s ERA (4.49) and FIP (3.92) ballooned noticeably as he settled into the Carolina League last season. The Dominican-born hurler still managed to post his trademark swing-and-miss ability with a strong feel for the strike zone, though, averaging 8.2 punch outs and just 2.8 free passes per nine innings. For his career Almonte has struck out 23.3% and walked 6.5% of the batters he’s faced.

Projection: Other than a lower-than-normal strand rate last season, 65.5%, nothing was really out of whack for Almonte. His BABIP, .316, and homerun rate, 0.73, were a skosh too big, but his slight downturn in production can be attributed – at least partly – to being one of just five qualified pitchers under the age of 22 in the Carolina League last season. CAL links him to some potential mid- to back-rotation arms: Randall Delgado, Jameson Taillon, and Wesley Parsons.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

6. Raul Mondesi, SS

Born: 07/27/95 Age: 19 Height: 6-1   Weight: 165   B/T: B/R                                                          
Top CALs: Oscar Tejeda, Elvis Andrus, Gustavo Pierre, Junior Lake, Cito Culver
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 16 R 232 .290 .346 .386 .733 .097 8.2% 28.0% 90
2013 17 A 536 .261 .311 .361 .672 .100 6.3% 22.0% 94
2014 18 A+ 472 .211 .256 .354 .610 .143 5.1% 25.8% 68

Background: Fun fact: the teenage shortstop’s father, 1994 NL Rookie of the Year and All-Star right fielder by the same namesake, slugged 30 homeruns three times and finished his 13-year career with 271 dingers but never drove in 100 runs in a season and only topped the 90-mark twice (1998 and 1999). The younger Mondesi was the only qualified player in the Carolina League under the age of 20. And after his barely-there offensive showing last season (.211/.256/.354), he’s likely to be one of the only players in that same category next season too.

Projection: Despite the epic struggles last season CAL offers a glimmer of hope for the young switch-hitting shortstop, linking him to Elvis Andrus, who twice hovered around the league average mark offensively, and Junior Lake, who debuted with the Cubs at the age of 23. He has some pop, 20-something-stolen base speed, and his defensive took a tremendous step forward last season. He doesn’t look like a star, but could be a solid big league regular.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

7. Christian Colon, 2B/SS

Born: 05/14/89 Age: 26 Height: 5-10   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Alberto Gonzalez, Manny Mayorson, Didi Gregorius, Mark Hallberg, Cole Figueroa
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 22 AA 568 .257 .325 .342 .668 .086 8.1% 9.0% 80
2012 23 AA 315 .289 .364 .392 .756 .103 9.8% 8.6% 115
2013 24 AAA 577 273 .335 .379 .713 .105 7.1% 9.9% 90
2014 25 AAA 388 .311 .366 .433 .800 .122 7.7% 7.5% 110

Background: It’s pretty easy to jump in and point out that the Royals, armed with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft, picked a future middle-infield utility guy, especially with the likes of Matt Harvey, Chris Sale, and Christian Yelich  all sitting on the board. But let’s look it at in another light. Here are picks four through 11: Colon, Drew Pomeranz, Barret Loux, who failed his post-draft physical and didn’t sign with Arizona, Matt Harvey, Delino DeShields, Karsten Whitson, who also didn’t sign, Michael Choice, and Deck McGuire. Just one player Harvey, is an impact MLB’er. Well, maybe two depending on your opinion of Pomeranz. Otherwise, a case can be made that Colon was the third best player in that group. Plus, he was coming off of a monster junior season at Cal State Fullerton, which followed a monster sophomore campaign. He hit .357/.437/.529 and .358/.450/.631 during those final two years.

Projection: Hey, what can ya say? Prospects fail, man. Colon did have his best season to date, hitting .311/.366/.433 – though that came at the age of 25 and in the hitter-friendly confines of the PCL. Decent walk rates, the ability to play passable defense at second and shortstop, some speed, and a little pop. Far less talented players have carved out lengthy careers.

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Low

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

8. Foster Griffin, LHP

Born: 07/27/95 Age: 19 Height: 6-3   Weight: 200   B/T: R/L                                                          
Top CALs: Alexey Lukashevich, Richard Zumaya, Logan Seifrit, Ryan Morris, Alex Claudio
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 28.0 3.21 4.53 6.1 16.5% 3.9 10.4% 0.64 75.3%

Background: The club decided to double-up on left-handers with its first two picks in draft, first by selecting TCU ace Brandon Finnegan and then going with Griffin, the third prep southpaw to be taken last June. The 6-foot-3 hurler had a nice, OK, yet forgettable debut with Burlington, throwing 28.0 innings while striking out 19 and walking 12.

Projection:  Per the usual, there’s not a whole lot of data to work with other than his high draft status, but Griffin didn’t exactly set the world on fire either. Not surprisingly, the club kept him on a pretty short leash – he tossed three innings in just five of his 11 appearances. On the plus side, he gave up seven of his 10 earned runs in two stints.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

9. Hunter Dozier, 3B

Born: 08/22/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-4   Weight: 220   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Niko Vasquez, Nick Romero, Elvys Gonzalez, Ryne Malone, Danny Valencia
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 21 R 258 .303 .403 .509 .912 .206 13.6% 12.4% 135
2013 21 A 59 .327 .373 .436 .809 .109 5.1% 8.5% 135
2014 22 A+ 267 .295 .397 .429 .826 .134 13.1% 21.0% 136
2014 22 AA 267 .209 .303 .312 .615 .103 11.6% 26.2% 81

Background: An admitted overdraft the moment it happened, the club took the Stephen F Austin State University shortstop with the eighth overall pick and signed him to a well below-average slot bonus of $2.2 million; Dozier’s bonus was more than $800,000 less than the pick directly taken after him (Austin Meadows). The franchise has been aggressively pushing the now-third baseman through the minor leagues and he split his season between Wilmington (.295/.397/.429) and Northwest Arkansas (.209/.303/.312).

Projection: The bat clearly doesn’t profile as well at the hot corner as it did at shortstop. And even then there were lingering questions. The power was below-average last season with a decent hit tool, but he does show an awful lot of patience at the plate. It wouldn’t be surprising to since his power spike a bit next year as he become more familiar with minor league pitching. Future utility guy.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

10. Brian Flynn, LHP

Born: 04/19/90 Age: 25 Height: 6-7   Weight: 250   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: T.J. House, Carlos Hernandez, Robert Rohrbaugh, Sean O’Sullivan, Daniel Barone
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 AA 45.0 3.80 3.72 6.4 16.4% 2.6 6.7% 0.60 70.7%
2013 23 AA 23.0 1.57 2.39 9.8 28.7% 1.2 3.5% 0.78 93.8%
2013 23 AAA 138.0 2.80 3.42 8.0 21.4% 2.6 7.0% 0.46 73.8%
2014 24 AAA 139.7 4.06 4.62 6.7 16.6% 3.2 8.0% 0.84 68.7%

Background: The big lefty out of Wichita State has been passed around like yesterday’s meatloaf at the cafeteria table through his four-year professional career. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in 18th round out of high school, Flynn opted to take the collegiate route and was eventually grabbed in the seventh round by the Tigers in 2011. Thirteen-plus months later the Detroit front office shipped Flynn, Rob Brantly, and Jacob Turner to Miami for Omar Infante, who would don a Royals uniform last season, and Anibal Sanchez. Sixteen months later the Marlins would deal the 6-foot-7 hurler with the incredibly underrated Reid Redman for Aaron Crow.

Projection: During his two brief stints in the big leagues – he’s totaled 25.0 innings – Flynn’s fastball averaged a tick above 90 mph. And while it plays up because of his size, it’s far from an above-average offering. He’s never really missed a lot of bats throughout his minor league career (7.4 K/9) but limits free passes relatively well (2.8 BB/9). CAL links him to a bunch of fringy MLB arms with the exception of T.J. House, another soft-tossing southpaw who put together a solid 19-game stretch for the Indians last season. Back-of-the-rotation ceiling with the floor of a good middle reliever.

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2013

 

 

 

**All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 

 

 

 

 

 



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.