The Royals were delighted to grab Florida right-hander Brady Singer, MLB Pipeline's No. 2-rated 2018 Draft prospect, with the 18th overall pick in June. But while the other five college arms they landed in the first five rounds all saw extensive action in their pro debuts, Singer didn't take the
The Royals were delighted to grab Florida right-hander Brady Singer, MLB Pipeline's No. 2-rated 2018 Draft prospect, with the 18th overall pick in June. But while the other five college arms they landed in the first five rounds all saw extensive action in their pro debuts, Singer didn't take the mound after signing for $4,247,500, a franchise-record for a pitcher.
Instructional league rosters
Singer dealt with a minor left hamstring injury at the end of his career with the Gators, so Kansas City shut him down for about a month after he signed in July. Rather than ramp him back up quickly to get him into some Minor League games, they decided instead to wait until instructional league.
The Royals opened their instructional league program Sept. 17 at their training base in Surprise, Ariz., and Singer has pitched two innings every Monday since they began playing games a week later. He'll make one final appearance next Monday before the camp ends on Oct. 19.
"He's been outstanding," Kansas City vice president and assistant GM for player personnel J.J. Picollo said. "He's been really good with his fastball, with his command maybe off a tick, and his slider has been very good. He's trying to bring his changeup along, and last Monday he threw three changeups in one sequence that all were above average.
"All three of his pitches are good and there's a lot of deception in what he does. Once he locates his pitches, he's going to be very, very good."
Rather than having Singer hang around their facility and watch Rookie-level Arizona League action in August, the Royals sent him to low Class A Lexington for a week to work with Legends pitching coach Mitch Stetter and pitching coordinator Larry Carter. He also spent a week at Rookie-level Idaho Falls to learn from Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan. He'll likely make his pro debut in Lexington next April, though opening 2018 at high Class A Wilmington also is a possibility.
Kansas City's top pick from the 2017 Draft, first baseman Nick Pratto, also is in instructional league. A pure hitter who earned some Joey Votto comparisons before the Royals selected him 14th overall, Pratto started slowly in his first full pro season before hitting .357/.436/.630 in the final month and a half at Lexington to finish at .280/.343/.443. His main emphasis in Surprise is refining his approach at the plate.
"He's so selective at the plate that sometimes it works to his disadvantage," Picollo said. "We want him to focus on how many times he gets to a two-strike count because he struck out more than he should based on his swing and pitch selection. We want him to be selective but not overly selective.
"If you see a ball up in the zone early in the count, we want you on that. He did that more in the second half. And defensively, he's just outstanding."
Pratto also stood out in the postseason, batting .333/.481/.667 with two homers in six games as the Legends won the South Atlantic League title. Several other members of Lexington's championship clubs are in Surprise, including two more of the system's top prospects in outfielder Seuly Matias and catcher M.J. Melendez.
Signed for $2.25 million in 2015, Matias led the Minors in home run rate (one per 12.1 plate appearances) and ranked sixth with 31 homers in just 94 games before missing the end of the season when he cut his right thumb on the cargo door of the team bus while loading his luggage in mid-August. Healthy again, he left camp Saturday along with shortstop Jeison Guzman to play for a 23-and-under Dominican team in an international tournament in Colombia. Before departing, Matias focused on making more contact after striking out in 35 percent of his plate appearances this season.
"He's learning how to use the right side of the field better," Picollo said. "He has a tendency to chase breaking balls but he's showing signals that he's figuring it out. He's able to self-evaluate, knows what he's able do to well and what he's not able to do well and what he needs to do to fix it.
"He's working constantly on the breaking ball. He's the only hitter in the system who during batting practice asks for breaking balls. He doesn't try to hit home runs, he just stays back and hits balls to right field. He wants to be a better hitter."
A 2018 second-rounder, Melendez smashed 19 homers, led SAL catchers by throwing out 42 percent of basestealers and improved as a receiver during his first full season. He's working on polishing his offense and defense during instructional league.
"His arm strength is excellent but he likes to throw from his knees and we're trying to gradually wean him off of that and sync up his exchange," Picollo said. "We thought coming into the year he was more of an offensive catcher, but he came a long way with his receiving, his pitcher/catcher relationships and his game-calling too.
"He has the highest hard-hit-ball rate in our system, but his strikeouts need to come down a little bit. He can get rotational a bit and deep with his hands, so he can get beat with fastballs in on his hands sometimes. He just needs to control his load and be a little more directional. We're really happy with him."
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.