If you have the opportunity to visit any of the Royals’ minor-league affiliates this summer, I’d strongly recommend doing so. The system may not be as loaded as it once was, but there are plenty of intriguing prospects at every level, some of whom have loud tools, and some of whom are primed to have a breakout year. Plus, minor-league games are a fun and inexpensive way to spend a summer evening.
Over the next two days, I’ll give you some names of prospects to keep an eye on for each of the four full-season teams. Today we’ll look at the Low-A Lexington Legends and the High-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, and tomorrow will be the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers.
The Royals’ 25-man roster should be fully set tomorrow, and when those final decisions are made, we’ll have a much better idea of which prospect will be playing at which level. Those minor-league affiliates haven’t officially announced their rosters, so what you’ll read below is only educated speculation. But, educated speculation is what the internet was made for. Let’s get to that list.
Ashe Russell (RHP): As the Royals’ top draft choice last summer, Russell comes with some question marks, but his fastball/slider combo is electric, and if he can get his changeup to become even an average offering, he has top-of-the-rotation potential.
Nolan Watson (RHP): The other prep arm from Indiana taken by the Royals in the first round of last year’s draft. He has a bit more polish than Russell, a bit less risk, and a bit lower ceiling. It should be fun to watch both guys develop next to each other.
Chase Vallot (C): He has power to spare, along with a good eye at the plate, but a long swing has limited his overall production thus far. Still only 19, he’s got time to work on that, as well as refine his defensive chops behind the dish.
Amalani Fukofuka (OF): You should be rooting for him to make it to the show, if only to hear Rex Hudler attempt to say this 20-year old’s name on live television. He also has some impact potential if his power continues to blossom.
Marten Gasparini (SS): Only 18 years old, Gasparini has some developing to do. But the speed, arm, and patience are enough to see why the Royals handed him the largest bonus ever for a European prospect.
Josh Staumont (RHP): He throws the baseball really, really hard, and sometimes has no idea where it’s going. If that’s not a must-watch player, I don’t know what is.
Wilmington Blue Rocks
Scott Blewett (RHP): A second-round pick in 2014, Blewett is a big, strong righty with an intriguing fastball/curveball combination. The name may not be ideal for a pitcher, but he’s got huge upside.
Pedro Fernandez (RHP): I was really impressed by Fernandez at Spring Training last year, particularly with such a big fastball coming from a 6’0″ frame. Short dudes with fire are always fun. He got knocked around a bit in his first taste of the Carolina League, but I’m expecting a much better showing this time around.
Foster Griffin (LHP): At only 20 years old, Griffin has an advanced feel for his changeup, as well as a lively fastball despite less-than-overwhelming velocity. He struggled in Lexington last year, but this could be a chance to take a leap forward.
Alfredo Escalera (OF): The youngest player ever drafted (at the time), he has plenty of athleticism, as well as the potential to be a regular in the outfield, and a regular on the Good Name All-Stars. He’ll need to tone down his aggressiveness at the plate as he repeats a trip through High-A.
Elier Hernandez (OF): Once a big-time international signing, Hernandez has yet to develop quite like the Royals hoped. Luckily, he’s still only 21 years old, although other outfielders in the system have passed him by.
Anderson Miller (OF): Miller is toolsy, although still raw, partly due to spending some time on the mound in college. He has some potential pop from the left side, as well as above-average arm strength, suggesting a future in right field is plausible if he develops.
Eric Skoglund (LHP): He doesn’t have an overpowering arsenal, but the 6’7″ Skoglund gets good extension and controls his body well enough to repeat his delivery, allowing him to show solid command.
Photo credit: Bill Setliff