2015 Kansas City Royals Top 20 Prospects

Christian Colon's 12th inning of the Wild Card Game forever vindicates the Royals selection of him over Chris Sale. (Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Christian Colon’s 12th inning of the Wild Card Game forever vindicates the Royals’ selection of him over Chris Sale in the 2010 draft. (Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

1. Raul Mondesi – SS: Yes, he only hit .211/.256/.354 this season, but he is still only 19 and has tools galore. He was one of the youngest players in the high-A Carolina League and is a plus defender at a premier position. He faced a lot of advanced pitching in a league where he faced players much older than him, so the struggles are expected. He still has a solid bat from both sides of the plate and scouts project some power to come as he fills out his 6’1″ frame. He will likely have another run in Wilmington in 2015, but the upside of a superstar is still there. ETA: 2017

2. Sean Manaea – LHP: I would not be surprised to see a monster year from Manaea, who took off in the second half this year in his first pro season after coming out of Indiana State in the 2013 draft. The 6’5″ southpaw went 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA in his last ten starts of the season for Wilmington. He should start 2015 in the Double-A Texas League and it would not surprise me to see him in the big league rotation at some point in the second half. ETA: 2015

3. Brandon Finnegan – LHP: Now here is a guy you will definitely see in Kansas City in 2015. The story of Finnegan has been well documented by now. He was the 17th selection of the 2014 first-year player draft out of TCU and was the first player from the draft to arrive in the big leagues. He pitched out of the bullpen down the stretch and into the postseason for the Royals and became the first player ever to pitch in the College World Series and World Series in the same year, but his long-term home is in the rotation. Finnegan proved he can handle pitching at the highest level, but he will likely start the season in the rotation in either Double-A Northwest Arkansas or Triple-A Omaha to lengthen him back out as a starter. ETA: 2015

4. Kyle Zimmer – RHP: It was a lost season due to injuries for Zimmer, and his status is hard to project right now. He dominated in a start in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 11 batters over five innings, but then had another injury that required shoulder surgery. The former San Francisco Don still has front-line stuff, but he will likely not be ready for spring training, and the Royals will likely want him to just have a healthy season and get some innings under his belt at this point. ETA: 2016

5. Hunter Dozier – 3B: Dozier had an interesting year. He had a solid year in the pitcher-friendly Carolina league hitting .295/.397/.429 and then struggled in the hitter-friendly Texas League, where he hit .209/.303/.312. He still has some work to do defensively after moving to the hot corner once he turned pro, but he has the bat, power and arm to profile just fine there. Expect to see the Stephen F. Austin product back in the Texas League and improve in his second stint there. ETA: 2016

6. Miguel Almonte – RHP: Almonte participated in the Futures Game in 2013 but struggled in the Carolina League in 2014. He still has a plus changeup, which is his best pitch, but scouts feel that he needs to work on utilizing his fastball more often. It’s plenty good enough too, as he sits in the mid 90s with his heater. He has a curveball that is still developing as well. If he can use his fastball more, it will make his changeup that much more effective. The Dominican born right-hander still has some work to do, but he has the potential to pitch near the top of a rotation. ETA: 2016

7. Jorge Bonifacio – OF: Bonifacio struggled in the Texas League this season, but he is still only 21 and has the tools to profile as the long term answer in right field for the Royals. He has a good arm and has an advanced approach at the plate with power he has yet to tap into. A return to Double-A is likely, but do not be surprised if he has a breakout season and emerges as one of the top outfield prospects in the game. ETA: 2016

8. Christian Binford – RHP: Binford was a 30th round pick out of the Pennsylvania high school ranks in 2011 and had Tommy John during his junior year in 2009. But the 6’6″ right-hander has been nothing short of spectacular since turning pro. He has a career 2.68 ERA in three minor league seasons with a sparkling 1.5 BB/9. He won’t blow you away but he knows how to pitch and has plus command of his pitches. He probably will not be an ace, but he will sit nicely in the middle of a rotation throwing quality innings in the not-to-distant future. ETA: 2016

9. Foster Griffin – LHP: These next three can go in any order as they were all 2014 high school draft picks with high ceilings. Griffin gets the nod here because he is left-handed and is advanced for his age plus he still has upside because he was also an outfielder in high school. The Orlando native will not blow you away with his fastball, but he has a good feel of his four pitch mix (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup.) All three will likely play 2015 at low-A Lexington in the South Atlantic League and make their journeys to Kansas City at a similar timetable. ETA: 2018

10. Scott Blewett – RHP: The Royals’ second round pick in 2014, Blewett has considerable upside coming out of the northeast. One could argue he has more upside than Griffin, but Griffin is the more advanced of the two. The New York native and St. John’s recruit can get his fastball into the mid 90s and also throws a curveball and a changeup. He is also “what they look like” at 6’6″, 210. It will take a few years, but Blewett has the tools to become a special pitcher for the Royals down the line. ETA: 2018

11. Chase Vallot – C: Vallot is interesting because he was one of the youngest players in last year’s draft class. He played most of his first pro season at 17 and will not turn 18 until August 21st of 2015. The backstop has plenty of power and should be able to stick behind the plate, though the Royals could move him to accelerate his run to the majors (Wil Myers.) If he stays behind the plate though, he has the chance to be a star, and with Salvador Perez not going anywhere anytime soon, the Royals can take their time developing Vallot behind the plate. ETA: 2018

12. Christian Colon – 2B: One Royals official still loses sleep at night for taking Colon over Chris Sale back in 2010, and understandably so. But Colon will forever be remembered in Royals’ history for driving in the tying run and scoring the winning run in the Wild Card Game. Still, I think Colon can be a useful player in the majors as a utility middle infielder who can also play some third base. Nothing stands out about his game, but he does everything well. I could even see him as a starting second basemen down the line, but there is no doubt that he contributes to the Royals in 2015. ETA: 2015

13. Cheslor Cuthbert – 3B: It seems like Cuthbert has been around forever in the prospect world, but it is worth remembering that the Nicaraguan is still only 22 years old (just turned that today – happy birthday Cheslor!) and will be for the entire 2015 campaign. He performed well in his second tour of duty in the Texas League, slashing .276/.342/.420 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI in 96 games before being promoted to Omaha, where he held his own. He should play 2015 back in Omaha and still has plenty of time to continue to develop into that impact corner bat that the Royals envisioned when they signed him to a record bonus back in 2009. ETA: 2016

14. Glenn Sparkman – RHP: Sparkman broke through in a big way in 2014, going 8-3 with a 1.56 ERA in Wilmington. The Royals took him out of Wharton County Junior College in Texas in the 20th round of the 2013 first-year player draft. He has some similarities to Christian Binford in the sense that he is not overpowering but knows how to pitch and throws strikes (1.9 BB/9 rate in 2014.) Another year like this will have the 22 year-old popping up on more radars, even if he tops out as a mid-to-back-end of the rotation guy. This is a name to watch as he should take on the Texas League in 2015. ETA: 2016

15. Marten Gasparini – SS: Gasparini gets the nod here ahead of Calixte only because of his youth and upside. The Italian was one of the top international prospects in 2013, and the Royals signed him for $1.3 million, a record for a European prospect. The Royals aggressively placed the 17-year-old in the Appalachian League, and as expected, he struggled. But this placement is based on projection at this point. He did improve after a call-up to Idaho Falls, although that was only four games. I expect to see him back in rookie ball in 2015, as he will be only 18 for most of the season. The talent is here for him to become an excellent all-around player, though it will take awhile. ETA: 2020

16. Orlando Calixte – SS: Calixte is an interesting case as he has had some moments where he looks like a future star and others where he is lost at the plate. Strikeouts have always been a part of Calixte’s game and that may always be the case. But he has good range at short and has a good arm, and scouts feel that he has enough bat to be an all-around player down the line. 2015 will be a big year for the Dominican native however, as he is entering his age 23 season with a return to the Texas League a likely scenario. ETA: 2016

17. Bubba Starling – OF: I still have hope for Bubba, although you kind of have to after giving him $7.5 million as the fifth overall pick in 2011 and considering guys like Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, Javier Baez, George Springer, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray (……I’ll stop there) were taken after him. A hometown hero, Bubba (you just cannot say Starling) grew up in Gardner, Kansas and grew up a Royals fan. He is a premium athlete and had a scholarship to play football and baseball at Nebraska. Bubba signed with his hometown team, and he just has not hit enough. His defense is fine. He has a great arm and can fly. The everlasting question is can he make the adjustments at the plate to fulfill his potential? He might never be a star, but I have to figure the Royals will give him a chance, even if it is as a fourth outfielder who can play good defense. ETA: 2017

18. Elier Hernandez – OF: The Royals signed Hernandez for $3 million back in 2011 when he was thought to be the top international free agent on the market. Scouts felt like he could be the prototypical power hitting right fielder who plays solid defense with a plus arm to boot. His bat has not come around yet and he played his age 19 season in the South Atlantic League. But he still has time to tap into his considerable potential, and 2015 could be a big year for Hernandez, making him a player to keep an eye on. ETA: 2018

19. Ryan O’Hearn – 1B: Eighth round pick in 2014 tore up the Pioneer League, hitting .361/.444/.590 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI in 64 games. Those numbers are hard to ignore and he will be 21 for most of 2015. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to full season ball, but this could be a breakout candidate to watch. ETA: 2017

20. Samir Duenez – 1B: Another potential breakout candidate at first base, though the Venezuelan is only 18. Started out 2014 in Lexington but struggled and went to Idaho Falls when their season started. It will be interesting to see how the Royals will split the time between Duenez and O’Hearn as both will likely start 2014 in Lexington. Duenez is mostly projection at this point, but he has the potential to be a run-producing first basemen down the line.  ETA: 2019

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