KANSAS CITY -- So much of the focus this season was on the Royals’ young core of players graduating from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues and establishing themselves in Kansas City.
But good things continued to happen at all four of the Royals’ Minor League affiliates. More hitters emerged. Key pitchers stayed healthy. Some young players flashed a lot of potential.
Here’s a brief Minors report from down on the Royals’ farm system.
3 players who forced their way onto the radar this year
OF Tyler Gentry: The Royals didn’t quite know what they had in Gentry, their third-round Draft pick in the 2020 Draft, after his first pro season because of injuries that cut his ’21 season short. By the end of ’22, they now know they have a legitimate corner outfield prospect, their No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Gentry crushed 21 home runs between High-A Quad Cities and Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year while posting a .964 OPS on the year. That production is continuing in the Arizona Fall League now, and Gentry is a name to know in Kansas City next season.
C Luca Tresh: It felt like a steal when the Royals selected Tresh all the way down in the 17th round in 2021, and he proved them right in his first full pro season. Like Gentry, Tresh moved from Quad Cities to Northwest Arkansas this year and continued his production, finishing the year with an .828 OPS and 19 home runs. He impressed the organization with his receiving skills and ability to lead a staff. Along with local product Carter Jensen, Tresh -- Kansas City's No. 15 prospect -- gives the Royals another power-hitting catcher for their future.
OF Tucker Bradley: The Royals’ No. 23 prospect, Bradley signed with the Royals as an undrafted free agent after the shortened 2020 Draft and has done nothing but hit since. Bradley spent the whole year in Double-A and slashed .293/.382/.455 with 22 doubles and 12 homers, a 12% walk rate and 18.3% strikeout rate, which he lowered this season from 21.4% the previous year. The 24-year-old is a consistent and reliable player, one who emerged as an outfield depth candidate in the coming years with his strong baseball IQ and situational hitting.
Possible breakout players to watch in 2023
RHP Jonathan Bowlan: A great sight to see this summer was Bowlan back on the mound, a year removed from Tommy John surgery. The Royals' No. 11 prospect, Bowlan logged 62 1/3 innings, 39 of those in Northwest Arkansas, with a 6.92 ERA in nine starts there. Like many returning from elbow surgery, he struggled with command when back on the mound, but he still struck out 62 while walking 22. The 25-year-old has always been a strike-thrower, so he could be on track for a breakout year now that he’s fully recovered.
LHP Noah Cameron: Similar to Bowlan, this was Cameron’s first year removed from Tommy John surgery. The Royals selected him in the seventh round last year and got him into rehab, and he was dominant in his first full season of pro ball. The 23-year-old, the club's No. 28 prospect, struck out 33.6% of batters in Single-A Columbia and then upped that to 41.4% in High-A. He walked just 7.8% in Single-A -- and lowered that to 5.5% in High-A. He missed some time with a shoulder issue this summer, so his health is still a question mark. But his 3.56 ERA and ability to pound the zone give him tons of potential moving forward.
1 big question for next season: Can Asa Lacy progress?
The Royals were hoping 2022 could be a fresh year for Lacy, the No. 4 overall Draft pick in ’20, after he threw just 58 innings in his debut season. Instead, it was another injury-riddled year for the 6-foot-4 right-hander, and he managed only 28 innings with a 10.61 ERA, 42 walks and 35 strikeouts. Lacy dealt with a back injury all year; at one point, the Royals moved him to the bullpen in Double-A Northwest Arkansas to limit his workload. They shut him down in mid-August, and he had begun to throw again in Arizona at the end of September.
Time hasn’t run out for Lacy, who is only 23. But the injuries, low workload and lack of command are concerning for the Royals’ No. 10 prospect.