Top Prospects: Kansas City Royals

Kiley continues the minor league organizational prospect lists with the Royals, led by potential frontline starter RHP Kyle Zimmer who is followed by a big group of potential impact prospects.

Links & Disclaimer

See the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos for every team in the league. For draft fans, here's my ranking of the top prep prospects for the draft. I'm currently doing an updated college rankings series right now but ranked my top 50 overall prospects for the draft back in August.

For an explanation about how to use asset values, how I grade players and their tools, what order I'll be breaking down each organization and what players are eligible to be ranked, see this primer of the minor league org prospect rankings series. Covered in that piece is the cut-off for players to qualify for this list. Among the young, MLB-ready pieces that will be included in the MLB rankings because they're too old/experienced for this list: LHPs Danny Duffy and Tim Collins, RHPs Kelvin Herrera and Louis Coleman along with standout young bats 1B Eric Hosmer, C Salvador Perez and 3B Mike Moustakas.

System Overview

The Royals system is clearly above average, due in part to a number of big domestic bonuses that almost always correlate to prospect status (at least early in their pro careers) along with a crazy fruitful Latin program. Kansas City has a reputation of going with raw athletes and projectable arms but in the past two years have gone more the college route in the top two rounds (Zimmer, Dozier, Manaea, Reed, Selman) with solid early returns. The Latin program has spent it's share of money (Hernandez, Mondesi, Cuthbert, Gasparini, Calixte all seven figure bonuses) but also has found more than it's share of steals under $150,000 (Ventura, Almonte, Bonifacio, Yambati, Baez).

The last system I analyzed, the Phillies, was worth almost exactly $200 million by my calculations while the Royals top 6 prospects beat that mark by a decent margin. I have the whole Royals system coming in at about $340 million, which should be good for a top 10 system. Click on a player's bold/hyperlinked name to see previous articles, including scouting reports and video. Here's a quick look at the top 10 with dollar values for those above the 50 FV cut-off. See the series primer for more details.

1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, $42.7 million

2. Yordano Ventura, RHP, $41.7 million

3. Raul Mondesi, SS, $37.7 million

4. Miguel Almonte, RHP, $31.3 million

5. Sean Manaea, LHP, $30.4 million

6. Hunter Dozier, 3B, $27.2 million

7. Jorge Bonifacio, RF, $27.0 million

8. Bubba Starling, CF

9. Orlando Calixte, SS

10. Jason Adam, RHP

And the cumulative top 10 of all the 50 FV+ players covered so far:

1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, KC, $42.7 million

2. Yordano Ventura, RHP, KC, $41.7 million

3. Maikel Franco, 3B, PHI, $40.7 million

4. Raul Mondesi, SS, KC, $37.7 million

5. J.P. Crawford, SS, PHI, $35.6 million

6. Miguel Almonte, RHP, KC, $31.3 million

7. Sean Manaea, LHP, KC, $30.4 million

8. Hunter Dozier, 3B, KC, $27.2 million

9. Jorge Bonifacio, RF, KC, $27.0 million

10. Jesse Biddle, LHP, PHI, $21.9 million

1. Kyle Zimmer, RHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.6/AA, 6'3/215, R/R

Drafted: 5th overall (1st round) out of San Francisco in 2012 for $3,000,000 bonus

PV/FV: 40/65, Asset Value: $42.0 million

Fastball: 65/65, Curveball: 60/65, Slider: 45/50+, Changeup: 50/55, Command: 45/50+

Zimmer may not be quite as dynamic as the fireballing Ventura ranked below him, but Zimmer has a more well-rounded repertoire along with better size. Zimmer's fastball ranges from 93-96 and has been as high as 99 mph and he's a great athlete whose little brother, right fielder Bradley, is a top draft prospect for 2014 also at San Francisco. The elder Zimmer has a plus breaking ball that some scouts have tossed a future 70 on along with a changeup that's progressed to get regular 55 future grades from scouts. Not a lot of athletic 6'3 righties have a chance for two 70's and possibly above average command, but Zimmer has a few things to worry about. He is still relatively new to pitching, had bone spurs in his elbow after signing and was shut down with shoulder tightness late in 2013. His delivery could be too clean, giving hitters an easy look at what's coming, but the performance has been very good in the minors (11.6 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 with above average GB rate in 2013) and the ceiling here is a prototypical frontline starter; there aren't many of those out there.

2. Yordano Ventura, PRHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.8/AAA, 5'11/180, R/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 17 for $28,000 bonus

PV/FV: 45/60, Asset Value: $39.0 million

Fastball: 80/80, Curveball: 55/60, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50

Ventura delivered for the Royals at the big league level in a September showcase after they moved him aggressively through the system, armed with a super loose arm and a fastball that regularly hits 100 mph. His command has progressed to be average and he's learned to dial down arm speed at times, though his fastball is often in the upper 90's with life, but now with better command and a plus curveball as the secondary weapon. Ventura's changeup has also improved, flashing solid-average potential to where #3 starter may be underselling his upside a bit.

3. Raul Mondesi, SS

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 18.7/Hi-A, 6'1/165, B/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 16 for $2,000,000 bonus

PV/FV: 20/60, Asset Value: $38.5 million

Hit: 20/55, Power: 40/45, Speed: 55, Defense: 55+, Arm: 55

The son of the more famous Raul Mondesi (current mayor of a city in the Dominican) chose to go by his dad's first name rather than Adalberto this season an impressive effort for a 17 year old shortstop in a full season league (94 wRC+). The Royals surprised the industry a bit, who felt they overbid on a famous name that wasn't an everyday player, but Mondesi has rewarded the Royals' faith. There's some similarities here between Mondesi and Francisco Lindor, the Indians top prospect, as a plus glove, above average speed, below average power but advanced bat and feel to hit everyday shortstop prospect. Mondesi isn't quite as dynamic as Lindor yet, but the potential is there as he will move to Hi-A at age 18 this spring.

4. Miguel Almonte, RHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 21.0/Hi-A, 6'2/180, R/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 17 for $25,000 bonus

PV/FV: 20/60, Asset Value: $31.3 million

Fastball: 55/60, Curveball: 45/50+, Changeup: 55/60, Command: 45/50

Here's yet another of the low bonus, overage finds of the Royals in Latin America and they may have found a #3 starter in Almonte, who has steadily improved each year since signing. He works in the low 90's and bumps 96 on occasion with a fastball that's plus at it's best and has some arm side life to it, but the separator here is the plus changeup that will be his bread and butter in the big leagues. His breaking ball has improved over the past few years to a solid-average pitch and now the loose athlete could be on the fast track to Kauffman Stadium.

5. Sean Manaea, LHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.2/Hi-A, 6'5/235, R/L

Drafted: 34th overall (sandwich round) out of Indiana State in 2013 for $3,550,000 bonus

PV/FV: 20/60, Asset Value: $30.4 million

Fastball: 50/60+, Slider: 50/60, Changeup: 50/60, Command: 45/50

Manaea went from unknown to favorite to go #1 overall in the 2013 draft with a dominating Cape Cod League stay, where the athletic 6'5 lefty hit 98 with life, flashing a plus slider and a plus changeup. His draft year spring was a complete disaster, often working 88-91 with average stuff and multiple injuries to blame. Manaea signed for top 5 money as the first pick of the sandwich round, quickly had surgery on his hip and will be ready to throw in the spring, with expectations that he'll regain his form from that Cape season, but some skepticism that he'll never be the same.

6. Hunter Dozier, 3B

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.6/Lo-A, 6'4/220, R/R

Drafted: 8th overall (1st round) out of Stephen F. Austin in 2013 for $2,200,000 bonus

PV/FV: 45/55, Asset Value: $28.8 million

Hit: 20/55, Power: 50/55+, Speed: 45, Defense: 50+, Arm: 55

There's a couple guys in each draft class that the media underrates for whatever reason and clubs are cagey about their interest, hoping they're the only team that's high on the player. Last year, Dozier was that guy, as multiple teams in the 15-25 range were hoping he'd slip to them and quietly applauded when the Royals plucked him at the 8th pick for an under slot bonus. Dozier is a big athlete that was a late-blooming 6'4 college shortstop and will be old for his level throughout the minors, but could move quickly now. He has a classic third base profile, with above average arm strength, hands and raw power, along with the feel to hit, bat speed and plate discipline that could make his bat a fourth above average tool. He didn't face great competition in college, so Dozier is still a bit of an unknown, but he checks all the boxes and could take off this year.

7. Jorge Bonifacio, RF

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 20.8/AA, 6'1/205, R/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 16 for $135,000 bonus

PV/FV: 20/50, Asset Value: $27.6 million

Hit: 20/50+, Power: 50/60, Speed: 45, Defense: 50, Arm: 55

Bonifacio isn't a guy that stands out in a uniform or even really in batting practice, as the body isn't great and while he'll show you raw power, I wasn't sold that it would play in games since you want the swing to be looser. That said, he has plus raw power and made it to AA at age 20, so something is working better than I'd expect at first glance. He runs better underway than you'd think and has the above average arm for right field, so the profile is an easy one. The plate discipline is fine but the power hasn't showed up in games yet--not that weird for a 20 year old power hitter that's been thrown in the deep end of the pool, assignment-wise; that's the question for him to address before KC can consider him the right fielder of the future.

45 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $8 - $14 million)

8. Bubba Starling, CF

2014 OD Age/Level: 21.7/Hi-A, 6'4/180, R/R

Drafted: 5th overall (1st round) out of Kansas HS in 2011 for $7,500,000 bonus

Quick Take: Starling is easy to fall in love with, as his bonus indicates and he was the prototypical dual-sport athletic phenom, with above average raw power, plus arm strength along with plus-plus speed, a pro body and a nice-looking swing. Unfortunately, the length of the his arms creates big holes in his swing and Starling's total lack of pitch recognition is holding back this tantalizing package to the point that many doubt he has a big league future, but the ceiling is so high you have to give him a shot.

9. Orlando Calixte, SS (Video)

2014 OD Age/Level: 22.2/AA, 5'11/175, R/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 18 for $1,000,000 bonus

Quick Take: Calixte had an age/identity change just before signing but still got seven figures due to his advanced glove and power for his age and size. He'll show you average raw power in BP, a rarity for a true shortstop and Calixte has enough ability to be average at the position long-term. Calixte's approach at the plate is aggressive and at times out of control while his hitting mechanics are unusual. The offensive package has the raw tools to succeed but seems destined to be below average with a fringe regular to utility man the likely outcome here.

10. Jason Adam, RHP

2014 OD Age/Level: 22.7/AAA, 6'4/220, R/R

Drafted: 149th overall (5th round) out of Kansas HS in 2010 for $800,000 bonus

Quick Take: Adam has flashed big time stuff in the past, topping out at 98 mph in instructional league after signing, but his stuff has been a notch below that in the springs since. He sits in the low 90's and runs it up to 95 mph with an above average curveball and changeup that is solid-average at times. There's some inconsistency to his stuff, partly from his mechanics, which also affects his command, so Adam isn't a slam dunk to realize his league average starter ceiling.

11. Christian Colon, 2B

2014 OD Age/Level: 24.9/AAA, 5'10/185, R/R

Drafted: 4th overall (1st round) out of Cal St. Fullerton in 2010 for $2,750,000 bonus

Quick Take: In light of where he was drafted, Colon may be called a bust since he'll likely end up a utility player, but he will be a solid big leaguer that still has a chance to crack regular status with guys like Darwin Barney getting there. Colon's lateral quickness and arm strength are lacking a bit for shortstop, but he could play in a pinch due to his instincts, which also help his solid-average speed play up. He has below average power but an advanced bat control and very low strikeout numbers, despite not having standout bat speed.

12. Elier Hernandez, RF

2014 OD Age/Level: 19.4/Lo-A, 6'3/200, R/R

Signed: IFA, Dominican Republic at age 16 for $3,050,000 bonus

Quick Take: Hernandez was yet another high profile, high bonus signing on this list, receiving one of the biggest bonuses in his July 2nd class at $3.05 million. He's a classic right field profile with average speed, above average arm strength. Hernandez is a loose athlete with plus bat speed, feel to hit gap-to-gap and above average power potential, though he's still young enough that it will take a little time for his stats to show it. He can be a little aggressive as many talented young hitters are at first, so the question is how well he can adjust with experience.

40 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $3 - $6 million)

12. Chris Dwyer, LHP: Dwyer is a 6'3 lefty that is yet another prospect on this list that received a big bonus: $1.45 million as a rare draft-eligible freshman from Clemson in 2009. His stuff has backed up a bit since signing but is still average to above depending on the day, while his flyable tendency doesn't help and his command is often fringy enough to undermine the raw stuff. The 26 year old was solid in AAA as a starter in 2013 and there's still back-end starter potential with some adjustments.

13. Bryan Brickhouse, RHP: Brickhouse has a great name, easy intro song and was fortunate yet again to come out of powerhouse The Woodlands HS in Houston the last year of the prior CBA, where clubs could still spend however they wanted in the draft, as he got $1.5 million in the 3rd round. The 6'0 righty flashed above average stuff and ground ball rate at times in his 2012 full-season debut, showing starter traits though he's still young and the stuff and command will come and go.

14. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B (Video): Cuthbert entered the system with much fanfare, signing out of the remote Corn Islands of Nicaragua for $1.5 million on July 2nd, 2009. His body and athleticism have backed up a bit in the past few years, an experiment at second base was abandoned, his standout bat speed is closer to average now, and he seems to be trying too hard to get to his above average raw power in games. He'll be just 21 in AA this season and has everyday tools, so there is still hope to recouping his value, but the star has dimmed some here.

15. Donnie Joseph, LHP: Joseph was acquired in the Jonathan Broxton trade and the 6'2/175 lefty is a bit of a late-bloomer, turning 26 recently and spending most of the last two seasons learning to harness his power stuff in AAA. His command and delivery will upend his (at times) plus fastball-slider combination, but he should be able to achieve at least a solid situational lefty role if not better, and possibly in 2014.

16. Christian Binford, RHP: Binford signed for $575,000 in the 30th round in the 2011 draft out of a Pennsylvania high school, a benefactor of the last draft where the clubs were free to spend like drunken sailors in the later rounds. The 6'6/220 righty is a solid athlete with feel for pitching, good plane, a solid-average fastball-curveball combination and a usable changeup with more left in the tank.

17. Sam Selman, LHP (Video): Selman went in the 2nd round in 2012 after an up and down career at Vanderbilt ended on an upswing, but his minor league career has continued the uneven progression. At his best, Selman has an above-average to plus fastball-slider combination and a usable changeup, but the crispness of his stuff and command vary enough that the realistic upside is composing himself in short stints as a setup guy.

18. Cody Reed, LHP (Video): Reed was one of the most interesting popup guys in the 2013 draft, coming from out of nowhere to, like Selman ranked above him, become a Southeastern power lefty the Royals took in the second round that some feel will end up in the bullpen. Reed was sitting 88-90 in short stints early in his spring, then started sitting 91-94, hitting 95 mph for the first few innings of every start late in the spring, with more still in his 6'5/220 frame. Reed also has a slider that flashed above average and a changeup that was average at times, but still has a lot of polish to add.

19. Robinson Yambati, RHP: Yambati is one of many relievers in the minors of his type and will enter 2014 as a 23 year old in AA, so he needs to continue progressing. At his best, he throws lively heater at 92-96 mph with a solid-average slider, though his slider, velocity and command all come and go at times.

20. Marten Gasparini, SS: Gasparini was the biggest challenge to rank as he's impossible to compare to anyone else on the list. He's a 16-year-old Italian shortstop who nearly doubled the biggest ever prior European bonus, receiving $1.5 million this past July 2nd. He's a 6'0/165 plus-running switch hitter with some feel to hit and hands that could fit in the infield, but he's a LONG way off.

21. Angel Baez, RHP (Video): Baez has been starting in the past but began relieving in the AFL, which will be his ultimate pro fit. There's effort to the delivery but his fastball sat 93-96 mph over multiple innings and his curveball flashed above average potential along with just enough command to make it work. If Baez can develop consistent feel for his delivery and curveball in short stints, he could carve out a big league role.

22. Lane Adams, OF (Video): Adams stood out in the AFL for his tools, with above average raw power and solid-average speed from a 6'2/200 frame. The bat is fringy and he's needs to hit this year at 24 in AA, but one scout compared him to another solid 4th outfielder from the Royals system, David Lough.

Short Season Sleeper: Alexis Rivera, RF

Rivera signed for $125,000 in the 10th round of the 2012 draft out of Montverde HS in Florida, where he was teammates with current Indians top prospect SS Francisco Lindor. Rivera is a deceptively good athlete, with a first base type body at 6'2/225 but above average raw power from the left side along with average to slightly above arm strength and underway speed. There's some feel to hit that could help him emerge in his full-season debut this spring.

Reclamation Project: Brett Eibner, RHP

Eibner was a two-way standout at Arkansas that the Royals took in the 2nd round in 2010 and made a hitter, while some scouts preferred his power arsenal on the mound at draft time. 1314 plate appearances later, Eibner will be 25 entering 2014 and has a career .218/.321/.417 line with a 30.7% strikeout rate. Scouts' most common answer when I asked about Eibner was "is he pitching yet?" and I have a feeling the answer will be yes soon. At his best in college, he sat 92-94, peaking at 96 mph with an above average to plus slider and usable changeup, but his velo and command came and went, so the bullpen is likely the fit.