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The Academy – Comparing Position Prospects

The similarities between the Royals current system and 2009 are eerie as I’ve written here before, so why not continue to compare the two teams in hopes that the new guys can recreate the parade the old guys did? This time, I’ll take a look at the position prospects. As we know, the ’19 Low-A players are coming off a championship like the ’09 players did, which means a large number of their top prospects will start their seasons in Wilmington at the High-A level. At least seven of the position players could play in Wilmington this upcoming season.

The Top 100 Prospects – The current crop doesn’t have a BA Top 100 prospect on the squad, nor do they have two prospects who were in the Top 25 the way Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were at the time. That ranking for Hosmer was built on reputation mostly after being the #3 overall draft pick in the ’08 draft, but playing just three games after getting caught up in the Pedro Alvarez draft mess, and a rough ’09 would see him fall out of the ranks before rebounding into the Top 10. The current group doesn’t have a former first round pick in the Top 3 but next year’s will. While not likely on the BA Top 100, we at BP are likely to comfortably rank Seuly Matias inside the Top 100 and should see Khalil Lee there also with the possibility of adding MJ Melendez. Both Melendez and Matias finished with better OPS numbers than Moustakas did at the same age and level, and if not for an injury, Matias had an excellent shot at leading all the minors in home runs. Both Moustakas and Hosmer made their way quickly to Kansas City after brief bumps in the road, but neither possessed the toolset that Matias does with his possible 80-grade power and arm. That said, neither of those hitters had a floor that might keep him from making the major leagues with his swing and miss capability, so advantage 2009.

The Top 10 – While we don’t know the prospects in the Royals current top 10, it wouldn’t take much to guess that they will likely have the top four names on the below list in some kind of order. While Kila’s big season made him a prospect to watch and got him a cup of coffee during the ’08 season, shortstop Nicky Lopez is also on the cusp of a major league career with a pair of roadblocks in Adalberto Mondesi and Whit Merrifield up the middle. It’s likely Lopez will have to wait until after the service clock has chimed for him to get up this season. Once in the majors, he should be able to establish a career Kila couldn’t with his quality defense, on-base skills and ability to hit.

The Best of the Rest – After struggling in the first half of the season, Nick Pratto led the Legends offense over the final two months. That improved hitting ability has a chance to push him into a long career in the league. It will be interesting to see if he recovers his prospect status, after that slow start hurt it somewhat. Should he do so he presents the only possibility to become a Royals Hall of Famer like Salvador Perez likely will be. Speaking of Perez, he is at the top on a catching position depth chart that is as deep as any in baseball with a possible Top 100 player in Melendez, a suitable backup like Cam Gallagher or Meibrys Viloria who flashed the capability to back up in the majors also. Don’t sleep on the fourth in that group, talented backstop Sebastian Rivero who was a South Atlantic League All-Star this past season. Additionally, the outfielders outside of Lee and Matias have plenty of tools to lean on with Isbel profiling as a major league starter by multiple scouts who I have spoken with, while Hicklen features a rare speed and power profile for an eighth-round college draftee. In Gigliotti and Perkins, the Royals have a pair of centerfielders who should be plus defenders with patient approaches at the plate. One player who didn’t appear on the past list was Jarrod Dyson, a late bloomer who showed his speed could make an impact in the field and on the bases. A similar player currently in the system is Nick Heath (25 yo this year) with his 80-grade speed, though his defense tends to waver with his concentration level. Should he prove more consistent in the field, he has a chance to provide value in a way that Dyson did in his Royals career.

I don’t know if there is as much talent as there was back in 2009, but I also don’t think that group reached their lofty ceiling as individual players despite back to back World Series appearances. This current edition will be hard pressed to match what those players did but as a group, but they are very talented and probably deeper in terms of the number of possible impact players. The front office added Wil Myers and Aaron Crow to that group which didn’t help much on the field, but did help them get over the hump after the Myers trade. This year the front office can make another impact with a large number of high draft picks including the #2 overall selection.

2009 Prospects Current Position Prospects
#1 Mike Moustakas (#13 BA)* Khalil Lee
#2 Eric Hosmer (#24 BA)* MJ Melendez
#9 Kila Ka’aihue Nicky Lopez
#11 Johnny Giavotella* Seuly Matias
#15 David Lough* Kyle Isbel
#16 Derrick Robinson* Nick Pratto
#17 Jason Taylor Meibrys Viloria
#19 Salvador Perez Brewer Hicklen
#22 Adrian Ortiz* Michael Gigliotti
#23 Mitch Maier Sebastian Rivero
#24 Joe Dickerson Frank Schwindel
#26 Jose Bonilla Nick Heath
#27 Kyle Martin Blake Perkins
#29 Yowil Espinal Kelvin Gutierrez
Erick Mejia
Jecksson Flores
Kort Peterson
Juan Carlos Negret
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