KANSAS CITY -- When Royals power-hitting prospect Seuly Matias was in Kansas City near the end of the season to be recognized alongside other organizational Minor League award winners, he scanned the spacious dimensions of Kauffman Stadium.As Matias did so, he was asked if he would have any problem hitting
KANSAS CITY -- When Royals power-hitting prospect Seuly Matias was in Kansas City near the end of the season to be recognized alongside other organizational Minor League award winners, he scanned the spacious dimensions of Kauffman Stadium.
As Matias did so, he was asked if he would have any problem hitting home runs in such a huge ballpark.
"Nah, I don't think so," Matias said, smiling.:: Complete prospect coverage ::
It would be hard to doubt him. Matias, 20, belted 31 home runs in just 338 at-bats at Class A Lexington this season. Clearly, no ballpark can contain him.
And that's why Matias, the Royals' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has been named MLB Pipeline's Royals Minor League Player of the Year. Left-hander Richard Lovelady, the club's No. 13 prospect, was named MLB Pipeline's Pitcher of the Year in the organization.
"He's just a kid with tremendous talent," Royals assistant general manager of player personnel J.J. Picollo said by phone. "Very toolsy. Obviously, tremendous power, and he can run and he may have the best outfield arm in the system."
Matias' season was cut short by a freak accident in August, when he suffered a deep gash on his right thumb after it got caught on exposed metal while he was loading his luggage into the team bus' storage compartment. The injury has healed 100 percent, and Matias is now in the Royals' instructional league in Arizona.
"He's one of those players who really is eager to learn," Picollo said. "It's interesting that when he takes batting practice, he'll always instruct the thrower to throw as many breaking balls as possible just because he wants to identify the spin.
"There obviously is a very high ceiling with him. There are things he can work on. We'd like for him to cut down his strikeouts (131 this season) -- not in half, or anything, but just cut them down. Like a lot of young hitters, he needs to know the situation, like man on third and less than two out, he's got to get the ball in play and drive in runs. He's a run producer. That's his job."
Matias, who had an .853 OPS, is also a player that Picollo believes can run well enough to steal 20 bases a year. It is a skill set similar to and perhaps a cross between Jermaine Dye and Jorge Soler.
"Just a really good athlete," Picollo said.
Lovelady, 23, had another dominant Minor League season, posting a 2.47 ERA in a career-high 46 games. He struck out 71 in 73 innings and walked just 21 in his full season spent at Triple-A Omaha. The lefty was also named the Storm Chasers' Pitcher of the Year this season.
Lovelady, who could project as a closer at the big league level, has a fastball that can touch 96-97 mph, but usually sits around 93-94. He complements it with a slider that Picollo said hitters cannot ignore.
"He hasn't needed a changeup at the Minor League level," Picollo said. "But that's a pitch he is working on. Right now, he would project as a late-inning guy. We've been trying to use him at the Minor League level on back-to-back days, much like you would at the Major League level. He just continues to improve."
Lovelady does not have to go on the 40-man roster this fall to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, but one could assume that Lovelady will get a long look in Spring Training and have a taste of the big leagues next season.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.