Kansas City Royals' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2015

Kansas City Royals' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    The San Francisco Giants may have won the 2014 World Series, but the season belonged to the American League Champion Kansas City Royals.

    General manager Dayton Moore’s vision of building a winning organization based on strong scouting and player development finally was validated, as the Royals introduced a collection of homegrown talents to a national audience last October.

    More importantly, the Royals already have another wave of talent within striking distance of the major leagues.

    Kyle Zimmer, should he ever stay healthy for more than a half-season, has No. 1-No. 2 starter upside with athleticism, command and a near-double-plus fastball-curveball combination. Left-hander Sean Manaea took some time to adjust to professional baseball last season, making his professional debut at the High-A level, but the left-hander eventually found his groove en route to posting gaudy strikeout numbers.

    Meanwhile, 22-year-old right-hander Christian Binford, whose plus command helped him climb to from High- to Triple-A last year, is already knocking on the big league door headed into 2015. 

    2014 first-round pick Brandon Finnegan (No. 17 overall) made baseball history last fall by becoming the first pitcher to pitch in both the College World Series and World Series, but he’s likely to resume development as a starter next season after working out of the bullpen in his professional debut.

    As for Kansas City’s other notable 2014 draft picks, left-hander Foster Griffin could receive a full-season assignment next year based on the merits of his strike-throwing ability and feel for mixing pitches, while catcher Chase Vallot already possesses arguably the best raw power in the system.

    As for hitters, outfielder Jorge Bonifacio had a nightmare season in Double-A Northwest Arkansas, though, amazingly, he was still young for the level at 21. The team’s top prospect, 19-year-old shortstop Raul Mondesi, also had a forgettable year at the dish but still impressed by battling through a learning year in the Carolina League.

    Here are the Kansas City Royals’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 


    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?


Close Calls

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    LHP Brian Flynn
    LHP Brian FlynnGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Chase Vallot, C

    Brian Flynn, LHP

10. Christian Binford, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/20/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 217 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 30th round, 2011 (Mercersburg Academy, Pennsylvania)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 26 G/22 GS, 140.2 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .246 BAA, 0.6 HR/9, 1.4 BB/9, 8.9 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    A 30th-round draft pick in 2011, Christian Binford quietly raced through Kansas City’s system last season, pitching at three different levels and finishing the year in Triple-A.

    The 22-year-old right-hander dominates opposing hitters with his plus command of a three-pitch mix, none of which grade out better than average. However, Binford makes up for his lack of a true plus offering with an impressive feel for pitching, which in turn has helped his entire arsenal play up against older hitters.

    Although Binford’s ability to throw strikes and change speeds likely will get him to the major leagues, his capacity to make quick adjustments and compensate for a lack of stuff is sure to be tested.

    Ceiling (Overall Future Potential): 50 (No. 4 or 5 starter)—Low risk

9. Scott Blewett, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/10/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2014 (Baker HS, New York)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats (Rk): 8 G/7 GS, 28 IP, 4.82 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .262 BAA, 1.0 HR/9, 4.8 BB/9, 9.3 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    At 6’6”, 210 pounds, Scott Blewett has a big workhorse body that could make him an innings eater at the highest level. The 18-year-old right-hander’s fastball is his only average pitch at present, but it can play too straight at times and overly hittable. Blewett generates above-average velocity, touching 95 mph, though maintaining that has been an issue due to limited workload as an amateur. However, there’s a ton of projection in his body and arm, so the velocity should tick up in a year or two with pro coaching. 

    Blewett's curveball will flash above-average potential with top-to-bottom downer action, but he’ll also struggle at times to repeat his release point and throw it with consistent shape. Blewett's changeup is an extremely raw offering and basically all projection, as he tends to throw it too firmly, basically turning into a batting practice fastball.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 4 starter/late-inning reliever)—Extreme risk

8. Jorge Bonifacio, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 06/04/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2009 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 7

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats (AA): 132 G, 566 PA, .230/.302/.309, 24.1 XBH%, 4 HR, 8 SB, 8.8 BB%, 22.4 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):


    Scouting Report

    A broken hamate bone limited Jorge Bonifacio to only 88 games in 2013, but he finished the season on a positive note with an .812 OPS over 105 Double-A plate appearances. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old outfielder took a step back this year over a full season at the level, struggling to make consistent contact, let alone drive the ball.

    Bonifacio possesses above-average bat speed and laces the ball to all fields thanks to his combination of quick wrists and a line-drive stroke. He shows the potential for a solid-average hit tool at maturity, though that will also depend on whether he can make swift adjustments in his approach. The right-handed batter’s power hasn’t emerged as many believed it would have by now, but there’s still some thump in his bat yet to be harvested. Meanwhile, his power frequency will likely improve as he becomes more comfortable turning on the ball.

    Bonifacio is an average runner with similar range in right field as well as above-average arm strength that’s suitable for the position. His reads are still fringy but should improve with additional experience. The only question is whether his bat (especially power) will develop enough to make him an everyday player.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (average major leaguer)—Medium risk

7. Foster Griffin, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 07/27/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Orlando HS, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats (Rk): 11 GS, 28 IP, 3.21 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .186 BAA, 0.6 HR/9, 3.9 BB/9, 6.1 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    At 6’3”, 200 pounds, Foster Griffin is a long, lanky left-hander who, despite his size, has good athleticism and a feel for repeating his delivery.Griffin's fastball can be enigmatic at times, ranging anywhere from the high 80s to low 90s, but should begin to sit more in the latter category as his frame fills out. His long arm action also hides the ball, helping his heater play up despite the lack of elite velocity.

    Griffin's curveball can have good tight spin and downer action, but there are many times his arm action prevents him from staying over the top of the ball to get the shape it needs. The left-hander’s changeup is his best secondary weapon, thrown with excellent arm speed and deception, and he has a natural feel for turning it over so as to generate late fading action.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter)—High risk

6. Miguel Almonte, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 04/04/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A+): 23 G/22 GS, 110.1 IP, 4.49 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .259 BAA, 0.7 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    Coming off an impressive full-season debut in 2013, Miguel Almonte moved up to High-A Wilmington last year, where his weaknesses were exposed by more advanced hitters.

    The 21-year-old right-hander’s fastball is a plus offering that works consistently in the 91-95 mph range with above-average life. The changeup is a plus offering and highly developed for his age, though his execution of the pitch was challenged in the Carolina League. Almonte also throws a curveball that’s largely inconsistent but flashes average, and he generally has a good feel for changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance.

    Almonte may continue to hit some road bumps between the High- and Double-A levels and be forced to develop a more consistent (and effective) breaking ball, but the right-hander still has all the makings of a mid-rotation starter in the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter)—Medium risk

5. Hunter Dozier, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 08/22/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 220 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Stephen F. Austin State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A+/AA): 130 G, 534 PA, .251/.350/.369, 33.0 XBH%, 8 HR, 10 SB, 12.4 BB%, 23.6 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):


    Scouting Report

    Hunter Dozier showed a promising hit tool and mature approach during an impressive first half of the season at High-A Wilmington, but the 23-year-old’s offensive development came to a halt following a midseason promotion to Double-A.

    Dozier’s bat is a carrying tool, as he shows solid bat speed and average power potential. In general, he is quick to the ball and possesses a mature feel for hitting. That being said, some elements of his swing, such as a load that limits in-game power and his struggles to get extended against inner-half velocity, will need refinement moving forward.

    Defensively, the 6’4”, 220-pounder has good lateral range and footwork at third base, while his above-average arm strength is a clean fit at the position. However, Dozier is still learning the nuances of the position after moving from shortstop to the hot corner upon turning pro.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (Solid-average regular)—Medium risk

4. Brandon Finnegan, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 04/14/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 185 lbs

    Bats/Throws: L/L

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Texas Christian)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats (A+/AA): 13 G/5 GS, 27 IP, 1.33 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, .200 BAA, 1.0 HR/9, 1.3 BB/9, 8.7 K/9

    2014 MLB Stats: 7 G, 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .222 BAA, 0.0 HR/9, 1.3 BB/9, 12.9 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    Brandon Finnegan was one of the best storylines of the 2014 postseason, as he became the first pitcher to pitch in the College World Series and World Series in the same year. After being selected with the No. 17 overall pick in the draft, the 21-year-old left-hander logged just 27 innings (13 appearances/five starts) in the minor leagues before getting the call.

    Finnegan works in the 90-95 mph range with his fastball as a starter and hits the mid-90s more consistently out of the bullpen, and his feel for locating pitches to all strike zone quadrants while changing hitters’ eye levels should make him valuable in either role.

    The left-hander’s slider can be an above-average offering and highly effective when used off his fastball, thrown with good depth and late diving action out of the zone. Finnegan’s changeup lacks significant movement but is masked with deceptive, near-fastball arm speed. The pitch will be crucial toward his development as a starter but also a potential non-factor should he move to the bullpen.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter/late-inning reliever)—Low risk

3. Kyle Zimmer, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 09/13/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2012 (San Francisco)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats (Rk): 6 G/5 GS, 4.2 IP, 5 H, ER, 4 BB, 5 K

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    Shoulder tightness and a lat injury delayed Kyle Zimmer's season debut until mid-August, but the right-hander was able to work his way up to Triple-A Omaha in early September and ultimately pitched out of the bullpen in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

    Zimmer went to the Arizona Fall League to make up for the lost time and looked sharp in his first two AFL starts, but he left his third outing, on Oct. 21, after only one inning after re-injuring his right shoulder. Zimmer subsequently underwent a debridement procedure to repair his labrum and rotator cuff, per Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star, though he is expected to be ready for games by late April.

    Employing a clean and repeatable delivery, Zimmer’s fastball works comfortably in the mid-90s with late life, and he has the ability to reach back for something in the 96-98 mph range as needed.

    His curveball is a second plus pitch with excellent pace and a sharp downer break, and it should work nicely as his out pitch in the major leagues. He’ll also mix in an average slider with tight spin and decent depth, as well as a changeup with late fading action out of the zone.

    Zimmer’s impact with the Royals will come down to whether he can stay healthy for an extended period of time. The right-hander’s combination of stuff and command gives him front-of-the-rotation potential, and he could also be a weapon out of the bullpen should his injuries persist.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60/65 (No. 2 or 3 starter)—High risk

2. Sean Manaea, LHP

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    Position: LHP

    DOB: 02/01/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 235 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/L

    Drafted: First round supplemental, 2013 (Indiana State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats (A+): 25 GS, 121.2 IP, 3.11 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .228 BAA, 0.4 HR/9, 4.0 BB/9, 10.8 K/9

    Future Pitch Grades:


    Scouting Report

    There was an argument that Sean Manaea was the top college pitcher in the 2013 draft before a hip injury caused him to drop to the 34th overall pick. The Royals showed faith in the left-hander with a $3.55 million bonus, and he rewarded them in his professional debut with a 3.11 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 121.2 innings (25 starts) at High-A Wilmington.

    Manaea, 22, was especially dominant over his final eight outings, with a 1.23 ERA and 55-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 51.1 innings, and he capped his pro debut with 12 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in his final start.

    Manaea’s fastball works comfortably in the low 90s, occasionally reaching 94-95 mph, and he uses his height and long arms to create plane. The southpaw’s slider is potentially an above-average pitch, thrown with tilt and late biting action, while his changeup should settle in around average but with a chance to play up with improved fastball command.

    His overall command profile is fringy due to some of the effort in his delivery, but at the same time, that effort is also why he’s so deceptive. Plus, I’m willing to bet his command will improve naturally with experience.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter)—Medium risk

1. Raul Mondesi, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 07/27/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 165 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats (A+): 110 G, 472 PA, .211/.256/.354, 40.0 XBH%, 8 HR, 17 SB, 5.1 BB%, 25.8 K%

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):


    Scouting Report

    Raul Mondesi's promising full-season debut convinced the Royals to move him up to High-A Wilmington of the Carolina League to begin 2014, where he was the youngest everyday player in his league on Opening Day for the second straight year. However, the 19-year-old didn’t progress offensively as most expected he would and finished the season with a .211 batting average and .256 on-base percentage.

    The switch-hitter has a clean swing from both sides of the plate (batting practice video), with bat speed and barrel awareness that suggest a future above-average hit tool. It’s hard to get a read on Mondesi’s true power potential at the moment, as he’s still figuring out his identity as a hitter, but he definitely showed more raw power in 2014, especially from the left side of the plate. He’s still growing into his wiry, 6’1”, 165-pound frame, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he blows past his 45 overall power projection.

    Defensively, Mondesi’s athleticism and tools are always on display at shortstop, and he has the instincts to develop into an impact player at the position. The youngster will need a few more years in the minors to refine his skills on both sides of the ball, but his ceiling of an All-Star shortstop should make it worth the wait.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (First-division player/potential All-Star)—High risk


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