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Pratto draws flattering comparisons to Hosmer

Royals' 2017 first-round pick named No. 4 first-base prospect by MLB Pipeline
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have tried their best to shy away from making any comparisons of Nick Pratto, their first-round pick in the Draft in 2017, to another first baseman and former first-round pick, Eric Hosmer.

But from the moment Pratto was selected, the comparisons nonetheless leaped out. Both were high school players drafted at 18 years old. Both bat left-handed and throw left-handed. Both were known as gap hitters with high defensive ceilings.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have tried their best to shy away from making any comparisons of Nick Pratto, their first-round pick in the Draft in 2017, to another first baseman and former first-round pick, Eric Hosmer.

But from the moment Pratto was selected, the comparisons nonetheless leaped out. Both were high school players drafted at 18 years old. Both bat left-handed and throw left-handed. Both were known as gap hitters with high defensive ceilings.

And like Hosmer was at the time, Pratto now is one of the top prospects at his position in all of baseball. In fact, Pratto is the No. 4 prospect at first base, per MLB Pipeline.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

The top three are Tampa Bay's Brendan McKay, Colorado's Ryan McMahon and Arizona's Pavin Smith.

Pratto impressed the Royals in his first season as a pro. In 52 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, Pratto slashed .247/.330/.414 with 15 doubles and four home runs and 10 stolen bases.

"We were very pleased with what he did," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "We liked his swing and we liked his approach at the plate. He has a very good awareness of the strike zone, very advanced for his age."

Pratto's defense also caught the Royals' eyes.

"You know, we don't like making comparisons [to Hosmer]," Picollo said, "but it's really eerie how similar they are when you look at them defensively. Nick has soft hands, he has the footwork around the base, a strong arm. It's definitely a little eerie."

Video: Callis on potential of the Royals' prospects

That would be high praise, given that Hosmer has accumulated four Gold Glove Awards -- only eight first basemen in history have garnered more.

The Royals would expect Pratto to start this season at Class A Lexington.

"We haven't set anything in stone," Picollo said, "but there's no reason he can't start there."

And if all goes well, perhaps Pratto will follow a similar path to the big leagues as Hosmer, who debuted by his fourth professional season.

"All players develop a little differently," Picollo said. "But certainly he has the skill set to move through the system quickly.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

KC names non-roster invitees, ST report dates

Seven of Royals' Top 30 Prospects get call to big league camp
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' list of 19 non-roster players who will be invited to Spring Training includes seven on the team's Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

Included on the list: left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 6 prospect), right-hander Josh Staumont (No. 9), infielder Nicky Lopez (No. 11), catcher Chase Vallot (No. 12), first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (No. 14) outfielder Donnie Dewees (No. 18) and left-hander Richard Lovelady (No. 25).

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' list of 19 non-roster players who will be invited to Spring Training includes seven on the team's Top 30 Prospects list, per MLB Pipeline.

Included on the list: left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 6 prospect), right-hander Josh Staumont (No. 9), infielder Nicky Lopez (No. 11), catcher Chase Vallot (No. 12), first baseman Ryan O'Hearn (No. 14) outfielder Donnie Dewees (No. 18) and left-hander Richard Lovelady (No. 25).

Other non-roster invites: right-handers Glenn Sparkman, Mike Broadway, Kevin Lenik and Seth Maness, catchers Nicholas Dini and Parker Morin, infielders Cody Asche, Jack Lopez, Humberto Arteaga, Erick Mejia and Frank Schwindel and outfielder Terrance Gore.

Video: KC@SD: Staumont fans five over three scoreless frames

Maness was in the Royals' organization last season and was recently re-signed to a Minor League deal.

Pitchers and catchers will report to Surprise, Ariz., on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The remainder of the squad will report on Sunday, Feb. 18.

FanFest appearances

The Royals released a tentative list of the players scheduled to appear at the Royals FanFest on Jan. 26 and 27 at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City: Scott Barlow, Ryan Buchter, Billy Burns, Drew Butera, Hunter Dozier, Danny Duffy, Brian Flynn, Cam Gallagher, Alex Gordon, Jakob Junis, Nate Karns, Ian Kennedy, Kevin McCarthy, Whit Merrifield, Brandon Moss, Salvador Perez, Eric Skoglund and Kyle Zimmer.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Oaks begins Royals career at rookie program

Pitching prospect dealt from Dodgers on cusp of big leagues
MLB.com

When he got the call, right-hander Trevor Oaks was in the middle of MLB's Rookie Career Development Program, preparing to begin his Major League career with the Dodgers. Once the call was over, he started preparing for his career with the Royals.

Oaks was traded Thursday night to Kansas City as part of a three-team deal, ending a four-year stint in the Dodgers' organization just as he was on the cusp of the big leagues.

When he got the call, right-hander Trevor Oaks was in the middle of MLB's Rookie Career Development Program, preparing to begin his Major League career with the Dodgers. Once the call was over, he started preparing for his career with the Royals.

Oaks was traded Thursday night to Kansas City as part of a three-team deal, ending a four-year stint in the Dodgers' organization just as he was on the cusp of the big leagues.

Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi broke the news to Oaks through a phone call that came during dinner of the pitcher's first day at the RCDP.

"I didn't know what they were calling about," Oaks told MLB.com. "I thought they were asking if everyone showed up or something like that, because one of the guys wasn't able to make it. It was Farhan, our GM, and he just said, 'Hey Trevor, we traded you today to the Kansas City Royals.'"

Oaks was added to the Dodgers' 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and it appeared he would reach the Majors during the 2018 season. To prepare him, the Dodgers sent him to the RCDP.

Located in Leesburg, Va., just outside Washington, the program is a joint effort between MLB and the MLB Players Association to prepare players nearing the Majors for the challenges they will face off the field, such as media training and financial planning.

Video: Royals adds potential starters in Oaks, Mejia

Now ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the Royals' system by MLB Pipeline, Oaks is already seeing changes at the program. He was soon moved to the American League Central group of players, and he has selected 34 as his jersey number with Kansas City. That number is a step up from what he had while in camp with Los Angeles.

"With the Dodgers, it was 88, so I thought it was like a batboy. So I'll probably not pick that number again," Oaks said with a laugh.

Oaks will soon report to his first Spring Training with the Royals, where he hopes to improve on his numbers from last season.

Oaks posted a 3.64 ERA in 84 innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City, striking out 72 and walking 18. He missed large chunks of July and August with an oblique injury. He said his most important thing to work on is staying healthy, but there are things on the mound he wants to improve as well.

"Last year, I kind of had some troubles with my sinker, that's been my bread-and-butter for my career," Oaks said. "This offseason, it's been really good and I've made some good adjustments and really figured it out again. So I'm excited to show up to Spring Training with a fresh start in a new organization and show them what I'm all about."

Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Kansas City Royals, Trevor Oaks

Royals trade Soria, Alexander for prospects

Oaks ranked 14th in Dodgers' system; Mejia a 'plus-plus defender'
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' rebuilding process kick-started Thursday when they traded veteran right-hander Joakim Soria and emerging bullpen star left-hander Scott Alexander in a three-team deal with the Dodgers and White Sox while acquiring right-handed prospect Trevor Oaks and infielder Erick Mejia.

Alexander, 28, pitched in 58 games with the Royals last season and posted a 2.48 ERA. He was sent to the Dodgers.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' rebuilding process kick-started Thursday when they traded veteran right-hander Joakim Soria and emerging bullpen star left-hander Scott Alexander in a three-team deal with the Dodgers and White Sox while acquiring right-handed prospect Trevor Oaks and infielder Erick Mejia.

Alexander, 28, pitched in 58 games with the Royals last season and posted a 2.48 ERA. He was sent to the Dodgers.

Hot Stove Tracker

"I'm really going to miss Kansas City and the fans," Alexander told MLB.com. "I wish I could have done better when they were rising to the World Series. But I'm so thankful to the organization. It's all I've known since I was 20 years old."

Video: Oaks discusses being traded to Royals

Soria was in the final year of a three-year, $25 million deal and was owed $10 million. He was sent to the White Sox. A source told MLB.com that the Royals only had to pick up his $1 million buyout for 2019; thus the Royals saved $9 million on payroll by trading him. Soria had a 3.70 ERA in 59 games last season.

"It was hard to let those guys go," Royals general manager Dayton Moore told MLB.com. "But it's the process we're in."

Oaks, 24, was immediately added to the Royals' 40-man roster and Moore said he expects him to compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training.

Oaks pitched for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City in 2017, going 4-3 with a 3.64 ERA over 15 starts and one relief appearance. He allowed only 18 walks in 84 innings while striking out 72. Oaks was the Dodgers' seventh-round pick in the 2014 Draft out of California Baptist University and was No. 14 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 list of Dodgers prospects.

Oaks recently was added to the Dodgers' 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

"As you know, the Dodgers have a pretty deep system and yet they thought to protect him," Moore said. "We believe he is a guy with great makeup and is a great competitor who can compete for a spot in our rotation."

Video: Royals adds potential starters in Oaks, Mejia

Mejia, 23, is a switch-hitting middle infielder who can play outfield, though Moore indicated the Royals likely will keep Mejia on the infield for now. He played mostly at Double-A Tulsa last season and hit .289 with 17 doubles, three triples and seven home runs while stealing 25 bases in 29 attempts.

"He's a guy who fits our makeup of players," Moore said. "He's a plus-plus runner who is a good defender. We've got a guy in Nicky Lopez and he is somewhat like him."

Soria had seven blown saves last season but also had 20 holds in an up-and-down season.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Erick Mejia, Trevor Oaks

KC adds pair of high picks in Rule 5 Draft

Royals send cash to Reds (No. 5), Mets (No. 6) for righties Keller, Smith
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Royals did not leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

While the Royals did not make any trades or free-agent signings, they were active in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, acquiring the Reds' No. 5 pick, right-hander Brad Keller, and the Mets' No. 6 pick, right-hander Burch Smith, both for cash ($100,000 each). The Royals passed with their selection at No. 13.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Royals did not leave the Winter Meetings empty-handed.

While the Royals did not make any trades or free-agent signings, they were active in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, acquiring the Reds' No. 5 pick, right-hander Brad Keller, and the Mets' No. 6 pick, right-hander Burch Smith, both for cash ($100,000 each). The Royals passed with their selection at No. 13.

Both players must remain on the 25-man roster the entire season or be offered back to their original club -- Keller (Arizona) and Smith (Tampa Bay).

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

The Royals did not lose anyone in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Royals assistant general manager of baseball operations Scott Sharp said Keller is a possible starter, and Smith could be a power reliever.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Keller was an 8th-round pick in 2013 out of Flowery Branch High School in Georgia. The 22-year-old went 10-9 with a 4.68 ERA in Double-A last year and had 111 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings.

Keller was the D-backs' No. 12 prospect, per MLBPipeline.com.

"He is a high upside pitcher who can start," Sharp said. "We had him ranked among the top two picks for this Draft."

Smith, 27, was an 11th-round pick by the Padres in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder later was dealt to Tampa Bay in the Wil Myers trade.

Smith also missed 2015-16 because of Tommy John surgery but dominated at Class A Advanced and Triple-A last season, posting a 2.40 ERA and striking out 56 in 56 1/3 innings.

"He is the most advanced guy in the Draft," Sharp said. "Can get up to a 100 [mph]. Power stuff. Good changeup. Can go multiple innings or late-inning guy -- a variety of stuff.

"He has had some injuries in his past, but nothing we weren't comfortable with."

The Royals also took right-hander Daniel Duarte from Texas in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Duarte went 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in 37 relief outings last season in the Mexican League (on loan from the Rangers).

"Throws three pitches, throws strikes," Royals Minor League director Ronnie Richardson said. "Our scouts liked him. We're excited to have him."

The Royals lost right-hander Andrew Ferguson from Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Boston and infielder Wander Franco from Class A Wilmington to San Francisco in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Brad Keller, Burch Smith

Royals ink former Atlanta prospect Negret

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals continue to pluck Braves players now available after the Atlanta organization was found guilty by Major League Baseball of circumventing international signing guidelines.

After signing 18-year-old right-hander Yefri Del Rosario on Tuesday, the Royals agreed to terms with outfield prospect Juan Carlos Negret, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The club has not confirmed.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals continue to pluck Braves players now available after the Atlanta organization was found guilty by Major League Baseball of circumventing international signing guidelines.

After signing 18-year-old right-hander Yefri Del Rosario on Tuesday, the Royals agreed to terms with outfield prospect Juan Carlos Negret, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. The club has not confirmed.

Negret, 18, is 6-feet-1, 180 pounds, and hit .264 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 50 games in the Dominican Summer League last year. He is right-handed.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Hosmer to impact Royals' direction at Meetings

Decision on free-agent bopper could determine whether club retools or rebuilds
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Get ready for a potential wild ride at the Winter Meetings with the Royals.

They don't know what direction they will go -- will they try to contend for a playoff spot in 2018 or will they pivot toward a total rebuild? Or something in between? Depending on how things go over the next seven to 10 days, that could mean dealing such familiar players as Danny Duffy, Whit Merrifield, Kelvin Herrera and even Salvador Perez.

KANSAS CITY -- Get ready for a potential wild ride at the Winter Meetings with the Royals.

They don't know what direction they will go -- will they try to contend for a playoff spot in 2018 or will they pivot toward a total rebuild? Or something in between? Depending on how things go over the next seven to 10 days, that could mean dealing such familiar players as Danny Duffy, Whit Merrifield, Kelvin Herrera and even Salvador Perez.

Hot Stove Tracker

The domino effect will start with first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Royals could re-sign Hosmer for a figure that would be unprecedented in team history. Rumors suggest Hosmer could get as much as $175 million to $200 million in a multiyear deal.

The biggest contract the Royals have handed out was to Alex Gordon -- four years for $72 million -- prior to the 2016 season.

But the Royals believe Hosmer could be worth the stretch. He is a fantastic clubhouse presence and is coming off a career year -- .318 average, 25 homers, 94 RBIs and an American League Gold Glove Award. Hosmer also is general manager Dayton Moore's type of player -- active in the community, a major presence with younger players and a dynamic force on the field.

But if Hosmer signs elsewhere during the Winter Meetings, the Royals' approach could change dramatically. Moore has told MLB.com he would consider trading virtually anyone on the 25-man roster for prospects who could improve the team's outlook going forward.

It might all depend on what happens with Hosmer.

If the Royals were able to sign Hosmer, they could go virtually all in again toward a playoff run in a division in which only the Indians and Twins are legitimate contenders. Or if Hosmer signs elsewhere, Kansas City could back up the truck do a full rebuild aimed at making another pennant run in 2020-21.

"We just have to see what the market dictates," Moore said. "We're prepared for all possibilities."

The Royals have nine free agents who could potentially walk, including Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit a franchise-record 38 home runs in 2017.

Video: Moustakas is Players Choice for AL Comeback Player

Club needs

First base: If the Royals cannot land Hosmer, they will probably look internally to find a replacement, and that could be an opening for Hunter Dozier, the club's third-ranked prospect. They do have Brandon Moss for one more year, but club officials believe Dozier has far greater upside defensively than Moss, who obviously is more of a DH type. There's a slim chance the Royals would look to the free-agent market to replace Hosmer with someone like Logan Morrison, who is a Kansas City native, is coming off a career year with the Rays and has expressed a desire to return to his roots.

Closer: The Royals were not optimistic that they would be able to sign left-handed reliever Mike Minor, who emerged in September as the team's closer in place of Herrera. Minor was 6-for-6 in save opportunities and wowed scouts with his 96-97 mph fastball and dominant cutter, but he recently signed a multiyear deal with the Rangers. Who will close in 2018 is now up in the air. Even in down years, Moore always has placed great value on a shutdown bullpen, his philosophy being that you better win the games that you have in hand. The Royals could be in the market for a promising young arm with closer-type stuff.

Video: Maurer looks to be fixture in Royals bullpen

Who they can trade if necessary

Anyone: Royals fans shouldn't be alarmed by this, but Moore has made it clear that if they go the course of a total rebuild, any player could be dealt for the right price. And that includes Duffy, Herrera, Perez, Merrifield -- anyone who can bring value back for a future run at the postseason. "Honestly, we have to explore all possibilities in our situation," Moore said.

Top prospects

Raul Mondesi was once a top prospect and now is expected to contribute. Dozier had an injury-filled 2017, but the organization believes he could contribute on the big league level in '18. In a rebuild, you'll likely see hard-thrower Josh Staumont (No. 9) or crafty left-hander Foster Griffin (No. 6) at some point in '18. And certainly keep an eye on shortstop Nicky Lopez (No. 11) -- who tore up the Arizona Fall League this year -- as a potential middle infielder very soon.

Video: Lopez earns Fall League Player of the Week honors

Rule 5 Draft

The Royals' 40-man roster sits at 37 after they non-tendered speedy outfielder Terrance Gore, though they re-signed him to a Minor League deal. For one of the rare times in the last six or seven years, the Royals could be in position to grab a Rule 5 pick and keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire season, especially if they go into total rebuild mode.

Big contracts they might unload

As mentioned, Moore is keeping all of his options open, and one might be gutting his payroll in a total rebuild. That might mean finding takers for right-hander Ian Kennedy (still owed $48.5 million), Duffy (owed $60 million), right-hander Jason Hammel (owed $11 million), reliever Joakim Soria (owned $10 million), etc. The Royals are at a crossroads between trying to compete or going for the rebuild.

Payroll summary

The Royals gambled that in 2016-17 they still had enough talent and energy to make more postseason runs, so owner David Glass approved record payrolls each season. The '17 payroll exceeded $150 million, per club sources. Those payrolls were approved on faith that the Royals would make some postseason revenue, which didn't happen. Now the bill comes due. Glass has caught pennant fever the last four years and he may roll the dice again in '18, but he won't subsidize huge losses year after year. A lot of this depends on the possible signing of Hosmer.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Ex-Braves prospect Del Rosario signed by KC

Right-hander was one of 13 Atlanta farmhands granted free agency
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have signed former Braves right-handed prospect Yefri Del Rosario, general manager Dayton Moore confirmed on Tuesday.

The deal is worth $650,000, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals have signed former Braves right-handed prospect Yefri Del Rosario, general manager Dayton Moore confirmed on Tuesday.

The deal is worth $650,000, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

Del Rosario, 18, is one of 13 Atlanta prospects who were granted free agency after an MLB investigation determined the Braves circumvented the international signing guidelines.

• Hot Stove Tracker

According to Sanchez, Del Rosario, who is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, turned down more lucrative offers elsewhere to sign with the Royals because his idol, the late Yordano Ventura, pitched with Kansas City.

Del Rosario pitched in the Dominican Summer League last year and posted a 1.80 ERA in two starts. He also pitched for the Braves' Rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League and posted a 3.90 ERA in 11 games, with 29 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.

Royals vice president of international operations Rene Francisco said of Del Rosario: "Power arm with a very projectable body. He loves to compete. He was 92-96 [mph] with his fastball last summer with an average breaking ball."

Francisco credits Albert Gonzalez, recently hired as the assistant general manager of international operations, for selling the organization to Del Rosario.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Royals' Lopez continues to rake in Fall League

MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nicky Lopez has made a name for himself in this year's Arizona Fall League with his pure hitting ability. On Tuesday afternoon, however, it was the shortstop's power which stood out most as he helped lead Surprise to a 6-1 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch.

Lopez, Kansas City's No. 11 prospect, belted the third pitch he saw from Glendale starting pitcher Andrew Sopko over the wall in right field for a leadoff home run, his first homer in the Fall League.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nicky Lopez has made a name for himself in this year's Arizona Fall League with his pure hitting ability. On Tuesday afternoon, however, it was the shortstop's power which stood out most as he helped lead Surprise to a 6-1 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch.

Lopez, Kansas City's No. 11 prospect, belted the third pitch he saw from Glendale starting pitcher Andrew Sopko over the wall in right field for a leadoff home run, his first homer in the Fall League.

"I haven't had [a leadoff home run] in a while, so when I hit that it felt pretty good," said Lopez, who hit two home runs during the regular season while slashing .279/.348/.356 in 129 games between Class A Advanced Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

Box score

The left-handed-hitting shortstop would later add a line-drive single to the opposite field before finishing 2-for-5 with two runs scored. He improved his AFL average to .385 in the process, while the pair of hits gives him a league-leading 25 through 16 games with Surprise.

Lopez's leadoff shot ignited what would be a four-run top of the first for the Saguaros, who capitalized on a pair of walks and two errors in the frame while also receiving RBI singles from Yanio Perez (Rangers' No. 11) and Edmundo Sosa (Cards' No. 12).

"I just try to get on base and let my team do the rest of the work," noted the 22-year-old Lopez. "We had a pretty good first inning, and I'm just happy that I was a part of it."

Surprise didn't score again until the seventh inning, when, after loading the bases with one out, Oscar Mercado (Cardinals' No. 18) walked to force in a run, and Brett Sullivan (Rays) followed with an RBI on a fielder's choice.

That run support proved more than enough for Burch Smith, as the Saguaros starter tossed four scoreless innings to record the win in what was easily his best performance in the Fall League.

The 27-year-old right-hander, a Rays farmhand who reached the Major Leagues with the Padres in 2013, allowed two hits and struck out four in the performance. More significant, he did not issue a walk for the first time in five AFL starts, ultimately throwing 36 of his 50 pitches for strikes.

"It's easy to play defense behind a pitcher who throws strikes and is around the zone," said Lopez. "You don't stand flatfooted on the infield and you're in the game.

"[Smith] kept a good tempo and threw strikes and let them put the ball in play. That's easy to play behind."

The Desert Dogs produced their only run of the game in their final at-bat, courtesy of a Yusniel Diaz RBI single. The Dodgers' No. 5 prospect (No. 76 overall) collected one-third of his team's hits in the contest, finishing 2-for-4. On the mound for Glendale, right-hander J.T. Brubaker (Pirates) impressed by throwing 2 1/3 scoreless frames with four strikeouts and three ground-ball outs in relief of Sopko.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Kansas City Royals

Hard-throwing Lenik an arm to watch in '18

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- One prospect Royals fans may want to keep an eye on next Spring Training is right-hander Kevin Lenik, who could be one of the more intriguing bullpen candidates for the 2018 season.

The Royals signed Lenik out of the independent Frontier League (where they found Balbino Fuenmayor) last June, and the 26-year-old shot through the low Minors all the way to Triple-A Omaha in less than two months. Lenik, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, posted a 1.88 ERA in 12 relief outings for the Storm Chasers, striking out 24 batters in 24 innings.

KANSAS CITY -- One prospect Royals fans may want to keep an eye on next Spring Training is right-hander Kevin Lenik, who could be one of the more intriguing bullpen candidates for the 2018 season.

The Royals signed Lenik out of the independent Frontier League (where they found Balbino Fuenmayor) last June, and the 26-year-old shot through the low Minors all the way to Triple-A Omaha in less than two months. Lenik, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, posted a 1.88 ERA in 12 relief outings for the Storm Chasers, striking out 24 batters in 24 innings.

"He was just really impressive," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. "Mid-to-upper 90s fastball."

Lenik started out as an outfielder in college at Cal-State Dominguez Hills. But in the last two months of his college career, he transitioned to the mound. The Rangers signed him to a deal in 2016 after an open tryout. But they released him after a short stint with Class A Spokane.

Lenik started this season in independent ball with the Windy City Thunderbolts and went 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in 11 appearances. The Royals noticed his high-velocity fastball, which was touching 98 mph.

"He worked hard," T-Bolts manager Ron Biga said at the time. "He's putting up high-velocity numbers. He's deserving of the opportunity."

The Royals sent Lenik to the Dominican League for winter ball, but his season was cut short after getting hit in the face with a line drive.

"The severity of the injury wasn't as bad as we anticipated," Picollo said. "It wasn't surgical. He'll just have six weeks of no lifting, no conditioning. He's got facial fractures. Just let it heal.

"He did a great job this year. He'll be ready for Spring Training. He's a great story. Shortstop/outfielder in college until the last months of his college career. Then went to open tryout and got signed by Texas. ... He dominated Triple-A. He could be a factor in 2018."

Picollo said he would expect Lenik to get a Spring Training invite.

"More than likely," Picollo said. "We haven't had those discussions yet."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015.

 

Kansas City Royals

Lopez's 'mature approach' impressing Royals

Kansas City's No. 11 prospect rising quickly through Minor League system
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- While all eyes have been on Raul Mondesi the past few years as the Royals' potential shortstop of the future, the Royals also have a rising prospect at the position that continues to impress the team's Minor League staff: Nicky Lopez.

Lopez, 22, was a fifth-round pick out of Creighton in 2016, and he has risen through the system quickly. In just his second season as a professional, Lopez was promoted to Class A Advanced Wilmington, then to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in '17.

KANSAS CITY -- While all eyes have been on Raul Mondesi the past few years as the Royals' potential shortstop of the future, the Royals also have a rising prospect at the position that continues to impress the team's Minor League staff: Nicky Lopez.

Lopez, 22, was a fifth-round pick out of Creighton in 2016, and he has risen through the system quickly. In just his second season as a professional, Lopez was promoted to Class A Advanced Wilmington, then to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in '17.

Lopez, a left-handed hitter who is the Royals' No. 11 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, was also assigned to the Arizona Fall League last month, where he is hitting .412 with a .972 OPS through nine games.

"Defense is what has gotten him there this fast," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told MLB.com. "Offensively, he does a really good job with his at-bats. He has an advanced, mature approach to hitting. He rarely swings early in counts, but when he does go early, he gets a good pitch. His pitch selection is good. He handles the fastball well. He can situational-hit."

Video: Royals prospect Lopez on weird experience in Minors

Lopez has a .363 on-base percentage through two Minor League seasons. He also has 45 stolen bases.

"We see him as a top-of-the-order guy," Picollo said.

Unlike shortstop Alcides Escobar, a pending free agent whose lack of plate discipline frustrated fans and the coaching staff, and Mondesi, another free-swinger, Lopez could someday offer the Royals a different look at the position: an excellent defender who places a premium on getting on base.

"He understands what his strengths are," Picollo said of Lopez. "He's been like that since we drafted him.

"He can run and he's got some pop. But I don't think [power] is ever going to be a big part of his game. He's going to be an on-base guy."

What really impresses the Royals is Lopez's defensive instincts.

Video: Lopez discusses his progress at Arizona Fall League

"He makes the really tough plays," Picollo said. "His sense of timing as a shortstop is something you really can't teach. He knows when he can take time to throw, when he can't. He knows the runners.

"Off the bat, you can just sense the wheels [in his head] are spinning and he knows what he has to do. Impressive kid."

While Mondesi would appear the logical replacement for Escobar if the latter opts to sign elsewhere this offseason, the Royals also know that Lopez is not that far away. And that insurance could be valuable if they ever decide to transition Mondesi to center field, a notion that has been discussed internally.

"When you have a kid that rises that fast through the system," Picollo said of Lopez, "there's a reason. He's got talent and awareness."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Nicky Lopez

Royals have plan for Dozier if free agents leave

KC considering playing club's No. 3 prospect at first or third base
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Of the many backup plans that Royals officials have discussed in the event first baseman Eric Hosmer, a pending free agent, signs with another team, one involves former first-round pick Hunter Dozier.

Dozier, 26, has been mostly a third baseman since being drafted No. 8 in 2013, although he has played some outfield and some first base.

KANSAS CITY -- Of the many backup plans that Royals officials have discussed in the event first baseman Eric Hosmer, a pending free agent, signs with another team, one involves former first-round pick Hunter Dozier.

Dozier, 26, has been mostly a third baseman since being drafted No. 8 in 2013, although he has played some outfield and some first base.

One plan going forward in the event of losing Hosmer is having Cheslor Cuthbert play third base next season (assuming pending free agent Mike Moustakas also signs elsewhere) with Dozier potentially at first base.

That scenario, of course, depends on how much Dozier impresses the coaching staff next spring. Dozier has just 19 big league at-bats under his belt, but the Royals have made it clear they could be in position for a rebuild.

Another scenario would have Dozier at third base and Cuthbert at first base. Cuthbert impressed the coaching staff last Spring Training with his athleticism at first base in limited appearances there.

"If both of those guys earn a spot on the team, it's a matter of how we line up best defensively," Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told MLB.com. "If Cuthbert is the better defender at third, and to get Dozier on the team, Dozier could play first."

Dozier, the Royals' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, presently is playing in the Mexican League where he has three home runs in nine games with an .894 OPS.

Dozier is playing mostly third base there.

"The plan is to primarily play him at third base with some first base," Picollo said. "The goal is just about at-bats.

"He's been playing [first base] enough over the past couple of years that we're not overly concerned if he gets work at first base down there. It's more just about drill work at first base for him, working on footwork, being on the bag, off the bag. That is more about practice than game situations.

"There is something to be said about game experience but he needs more drill work than anything."

Dozier has intriguing potential as a first baseman -- at 6 feet 4, he has a large wing span, much like Hosmer.

"And he's very athletic with very good hands," Picollo said. "And he has range."

Dozier likely won't play much more outfield. That was an experiment based on the possibility of Alex Gordon leaving for free agency two years ago. And the emergence of Jorge Bonifacio has secured the right-field position in the minds of club officials.

Dozier is coming off an almost wasted season: He suffered an oblique strain coming out of Spring Training and missed April and May. Then in early June, he suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand and missed six more weeks.

That is the principal reason Dozier is playing Winter Ball.

"Just trying to get him some at-bats so he's ready for Spring Training," Picollo said.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals, Hunter Dozier

Moore pleased by 'next wave' of KC prospects

GM visits instructional league group that includes Pratto, Melendez, Matias
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' 2017 regular season was over less than 24 hours when general manager Dayton Moore boarded a plane to Phoenix to check out his next wave of prospects in the instructional league.

Moore saw players such as 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto, a first baseman who is ranked No. 1 in the organization by MLBPipeline.com; '17 second-round pick M.J. Melendez, a catcher (No. 10); and outfielder Seuly Matias, a non-drafted free-agent signing ($2.5 million) in '15 out of the Dominican Republic (No. 4).

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' 2017 regular season was over less than 24 hours when general manager Dayton Moore boarded a plane to Phoenix to check out his next wave of prospects in the instructional league.

Moore saw players such as 2017 first-round pick Nick Pratto, a first baseman who is ranked No. 1 in the organization by MLBPipeline.com; '17 second-round pick M.J. Melendez, a catcher (No. 10); and outfielder Seuly Matias, a non-drafted free-agent signing ($2.5 million) in '15 out of the Dominican Republic (No. 4).

Moore said he was impressed with everything he saw.

"Everybody feels really good about this next wave of players," Moore said. "The important thing is that there's a high level of energy among them. And the work is being done properly with a plan by the coaching staff.

"We are very pleased with the Draft class of 2017 and look forward to adding to that group."

Though there are no official statistics for the instructional league, the Royals do keep track. For example, in Pratto's first 17 at-bats, he had two doubles, a triple, a home run and was hitting .412.

"Pratto has a very advanced approach at the plate, an approach that will continue to serve him well as he advances through Minor Leagues," Moore said. "He has an easiness to him in the field and has the ability to be an above-average defender. He looks good and he's right where he should be."

MLB Pipeline.com described Melendez as the best defensive catcher in the 2017 Draft.

"Melendez can really throw and he has power in his bat," Moore said.

Moore also was eager to check in on Matias, whom MLB Pipeline.com described as "one of the toolsiest" players during the 2015-16 international signing period.

"Oh, yes," Moore said. "Saw Matias make an incredible throw from right field from the base of the track and threw a runner out at second base. One quick step and the throw was right on line. He has tremendous tools."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

 

Kansas City Royals

Royals' Arizona Fall League overview

No. 11 prospect Lopez off to hot start in AFL after tough Double-A debut
MLB.com

If Alcides Escobar departs as a free agent, the Royals will need a new shortstop for the first time in eight seasons. Nicky Lopez, their best middle-infield prospect, isn't ready. He also isn't too far away after reaching Double-A in his first full pro season.

To continue to expedite his development, Kansas City has sent Lopez to the Arizona Fall League. He's off to a fast start with the Surprise Saguaros, going 6-for-15 (.400) in his first four games.

If Alcides Escobar departs as a free agent, the Royals will need a new shortstop for the first time in eight seasons. Nicky Lopez, their best middle-infield prospect, isn't ready. He also isn't too far away after reaching Double-A in his first full pro season.

To continue to expedite his development, Kansas City has sent Lopez to the Arizona Fall League. He's off to a fast start with the Surprise Saguaros, going 6-for-15 (.400) in his first four games.

Lopez's progress at the plate will determine when he'll join the Royals and whether he'll ultimately be an everyday player or a utilityman. When Kansas City selected him in the fifth round out of Creighton, he was one of the better college defenders available in the 2016 Draft.

Lopez, 22, has lived up to that reputation in pro ball. With soft hands, a strong arm and a nifty internal clock, he can make all of the plays at shortstop. He's also reliable, making just eight errors in 99 games at short and one error in 25 games at second base this season.

"Lopez reminds me of Nick Ahmed, that same kind of competitiveness with more bat," said Royals farm director Ronnie Richardson, who was with the Braves when they drafted Ahmed in 2011. "He's a plus defender with a chance to hit more than Ahmed. He sprays the ball around, has a good approach and he'll develop his bat as he gets stronger."

At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, Lopez will never be a power hitter but understands that. He concentrates on making contact from the left side of the plate and can use his solid speed to steal an occasional base.

Lopez led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 54 runs in his pro debut and batted .289 with more walks than strikeouts in his first two pro stops. But when he made the jump to Double-A, he hit just .259/.312/.293 in 59 games. He looked worn down in the final month, batting .220 with just one extra-base hit.

Lopez said the pitchers in Double-A were more advanced than he was accustomed to.

"They throw any pitch they want at any time," Lopez said. "I saw a lot more 3-1, 2-0 changeups, 3-2 sliders, you see it all. They're a lot more confident with their pitches. The hitters have more of an approach, too. You kind of have to develop more of an approach, you have to develop your game more."

The AFL gives him another opportunity to do so. He said he was excited when the Royals asked him to come to Arizona.

"It means a lot," Lopez said. "You see the competition here and see how they've done, their résumés and stuff like that, and you come here and see what they're like and how they compete. It's the best of the best right now and I'm just happy to be a part of it and happy to compete with them on the field."

Royals hitters in the Fall League

Nick Dini, C
Elier Hernandez, OF

A career .308 hitter since signing as a 14th-round pick out of Wagner in 2015, Dini batted .302/.364/.403 in 88 games between low Class A and Double-A this year. Defensively, he has an average arm that plays up thanks to a quick release and he frames pitches well.

Video: Nick Dini on looking forward to Arizona Fall League

One of the top prospects on the international market in 2011, Hernandez signed for $3.05 million out of the Dominican Republic. His aggressive approach has prevented him from fully tapping into his power potential, though he did hit .317/.355/.489 with 19 extra-base hits in 46 games between high Class A and Double-A before a groin injury cost him the last three months of the season.

Royals pitchers in the Fall League

Jacob Bodner, RHP
Zach Lovvorn, RHP
Jared Ruxer, RHP
Matt Tenuta, LHP

The hardest thrower among Kansas City's AFL pitchers, Bodner usually operates at 92-94 mph and also possesses a hard slider. The 27th-rounder from Xavier in 2015 went 5-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 54 2/3 innings in high Class A.

A 2012 sixth-rounder from an Alabama high school, Lovvorn spent three seasons in Rookie ball and finally reached Double-A this year, going 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 117 1/3 innings as a swingman. He mainly works off a low-90s fastball and a curveball.

Coming out of Louisville, Ruxer might have gone in the first five rounds of the 2014 Draft if he hadn't had Tommy John surgery shortly beforehand. The Angels took him in the 12th round and dealt him to the Royals last December for Brooks Pounders. Employing a 90-93 mph fastball and using a changeup as his primary secondary pitch, Ruxer went 5-7 with a 4.12 ERA and an 85/36 K/BB ratio in 115 2/3 innings, mostly in high Class A.

Tenuta, a 25th-rounder out of a North Carolina high school in 2012, has a repertoire similar to Ruxer's. He recorded a 6-4 record and 4.11 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Kansas City Royals

Recent Royals draftees represent potential building blocks

MLB.com

The Royals enjoyed a banner Draft in 2007, grabbing Mike Moustakas with the second overall choice, Danny Duffy in the third round and Greg Holland in the 10th. That trio matriculated to Kansas City by 2011 and helped the franchise win an American League pennant in 2014 and a World Series championship the following October.

Though they've made astute picks since then -- 2008 first-rounder Eric Hosmer, 2009 third-rounder Wil Myers, 2010 ninth-rounder Whit Merrifield, and 2013 supplemental first-rounder Sean Manaea -- the Royals haven't had as much success since they stopped picking toward the top of the Draft and bonus-pool rules restricted spending.

The Royals enjoyed a banner Draft in 2007, grabbing Mike Moustakas with the second overall choice, Danny Duffy in the third round and Greg Holland in the 10th. That trio matriculated to Kansas City by 2011 and helped the franchise win an American League pennant in 2014 and a World Series championship the following October.

Though they've made astute picks since then -- 2008 first-rounder Eric Hosmer, 2009 third-rounder Wil Myers, 2010 ninth-rounder Whit Merrifield, and 2013 supplemental first-rounder Sean Manaea -- the Royals haven't had as much success since they stopped picking toward the top of the Draft and bonus-pool rules restricted spending.

It's still very early, but their 2017 Draft crop has the potential to be their best in a decade. Their top five selections -- California high school first baseman Nick Pratto (first round), Florida prep catcher M.J. Melendez (second), Chipola (Fla.) JC left-hander Evan Steele (supplemental second), Iowa Western CC lefty Daniel Tillo (third) and Lipscomb outfielder Michael Gigliotti (fourth) -- are potential building blocks as Kansas City likely will begin to rebuild after an expected free-agent exodus this offseason.

Royals' Top 30 prospects

All five are participating in the Royals' five-week advanced instructional league program in Surprise, Ariz., which concludes Oct. 20. We broke down Pratto in a Thursday story on the organization's best prospects. Here's how the other four players have fared in their introduction to pro ball:

Arguably the best defensive catcher available in the 2017 Draft, Melendez is a potential Gold Glover thanks to his combination of throwing, receiving and athleticism. He's more polished than most 18-year-old backstops because he grew up around the game as the son of college coach Mervyl Melendez, who's now at Florida International. Add in his left-handed power potential, and the Royals were thrilled to get him with the 52nd overall choice in a Draft thin on catchers.

Signed for a well over slot $2,097,500, Melendez batted .262/.374/.417 in 47 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He threw out 26 percent of basestealers, while the other catchers on the AZL Royals nabbed just 17 percent.

"His defensive talent stands out with his arm strength, agility and athleticism behind the plate," Royals farm director Ronnie Richardson said. "His offense is going to take some time, but his power numbers in the Arizona League were impressive. We're very happy with the progress he's made with our catching coordinator, J.C. Boscan. He takes pride in his catching and he embraces that."

Video: 2017 Draft: Royals draft LHP Evan Steele No. 73

Steele hasn't pitched much in the last two seasons, working just 11 2/3 innings on a stacked Vanderbilt staff in 2016, 40 1/3 this spring while dealing with a blood clot in his arm at Chipola and eight in his pro debut as the Royals decided to handle him with care. The Most Valuable Pitcher at the 2017 Junior College World Series, where Chipola won its second national championship, he gets a lot of life on two- and four-seam fastballs in the low 90s by using his 6-foot-5 frame and a low arm slot. His breaking ball and changeup also show signs of becoming solid offerings once he becomes more consistent with them.

"We're just giving him a chance to adjust and to get into rhythm as he transitions into pro ball," Richardson said. "He's getting a good foundation. He's done well here. He competes, he's a physical guy and it's a tough look for left-handers with his angle. There are a lot of arms and legs coming at you, so he's deceptive."

Like Steele, Tillo is a juco southpaw who would have gone earlier in the Draft had he not experienced physical issues during the spring. Iowa's Mr. Basketball in 2015, he didn't pitch much in high school while dividing his time between two sports, and he got just 7 1/3 innings as a Kentucky freshman last year. An increased workload at Iowa Western resulted in a dead-arm period and he also came down with a minor lat injury.

Video: Draft 2017: Royals draft LHP Daniel Tillo No. 90</