A wave of young position players has arrived in Kansas City this season. Prospects who have dominated headlines over the past three or four years are now making their names known at the highest level and they are settling in as everyday players for the Royals.
The Royals still face questions with their pitching, but some of the young starters have shown progress this year, something the club hopes to build on in 2023. It seems that “the future” we’ve talked about for the past few years is finally starting to take shape.
This is the core group of players, with a few more on the way, that the Royals hope can bring them out of the rebuild and back into contention. But development doesn’t stop, and new names have entered the fray.
MLB Pipeline has done a midseason re-rank for Kansas City’s Top 30 prospects after the MLB Draft and Trade Deadline added new players to the organization. Keep in mind that some will graduate off this list soon; pitchers graduate after 50 innings or 45 days on the active MLB roster, and hitters graduate after 130 at-bats.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the preseason list:
Jump: Michael Massey, 2B (Preseason: 24 | Midseason: 3)
No one has improved their stock more than Massey has since he was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB Draft. Because of a back injury his final season at the University of Illinois that lingered into his first professional season, the second baseman wasn’t on many radars as he entered the Royals’ system. But that changed dramatically after 2020, once he was healthy and productive every day. Massey uncorked a ton of power with High-A Quad Cities in ’21, and he hit for average with a .289/.351/.531 slash line. A year later, he hasn’t stopped hitting as he’s ascended all the way to the big leagues. Massey has impressed with his approach at the plate and gap-to-gap power, and he is a reliable defender with good hands who very well could be the Royals’ second baseman of the future.
Fall: Erick Peña, OF (Preseason: 12 | Midseason: Unranked)
It’s been a tough road for the 19-year-old Peña after the Royals signed him for $3,897,500 during the 2019-20 international signing period. In two pro seasons since then, he’s slashed .154/.256/.298 and he has just a .545 OPS for Single-A Columbia this year. Peña is striking out 37.6% of the time with just a 12.1% walk rate, and swing-and-miss issues that have persisted in his young career. Strong and physical, Peña is still growing into his body, and he still possesses tools, but he’s yet to see those tools translate to skills on the field. There’s still time for the young outfielder, and the Royals are working with him on mechanical adjustments to unlock more production.
New to the list
Here are the players added to the Top 30 from outside the organization:
No. 1 Gavin Cross, OF (Draft -- No. 7 overall)
No. 5 Cayden Wallace, 3B (Draft -- No. 49 overall)
No. 9 Drew Waters, OF (Trade -- from the Braves for 2022 Draft pick)
No. 11 Beck Way, RHP (Trade -- from the Yankees for Andrew Benintendi)
No. 17 Max Castillo, RHP (Trade -- from the Blue Jays for Whit Merrifield)
No. 18 Andrew Hoffman, RHP (Trade -- from the Braves for 2022 Draft pick)
No. 20 T.J. Sikkema, LHP (Trade -- from the Yankees for Andrew Benintendi)
No. 22 Austin Charles, SS (Draft -- 20th round)
No. 26 Mason Barnett, RHP (Draft -- 3rd round)
No. 29 Samad Taylor, 2B/OF (Trade -- from the Blue Jays for Whit Merrifield)
No. 30 Chandler Champlain, RHP (Trade -- from the Yankees for Andrew Benintendi)
Impact callup: Drew Waters
Kansas City thinks it may have figured something out with Waters following his acquisition in a trade with the Braves last month. The switch-hitting outfielder has plugged himself well into the Royals' hitting system and he owns a .315/.411/.565 slash line at Triple-A Omaha. He's already matched his Triple-A Gwinnett home run total of five in 99 fewer at-bats. A plus runner and solid defender in center, Waters already has some Major League-ready tools, and the Royals might want to give his bat another test with a chance to join the youth movement in K.C.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 55 -- Gavin Cross (Michael Massey, Maikel Garcia)
Power: 60 -- Nick Pratto
Run: 70 -- Diego Hernandez
Arm: 70 -- Nate Eaton
Field: 70 -- Nick Pratto
Fastball: 60 -- Asa Lacy (Ben Kudrna, Beck Way, Alec Marsh)
Curveball: 60 -- Frank Mozzicato
Slider: 60 -- Asa Lacy
Changeup: 65 -- Ben Hernandez
Control: 55 -- Chandler Champlain (T.J. Sikkeman, Jonathan Bowlan)