In 2013 we finally saw the Royals shed that “potential surprise team” label, make good on that talented roster, and well…surprise. They fell short of the playoffs, but after an 86 win season there’s hope that the team can do more than just knock on the door to the playoffs next season. And a farm system that is stupid with talent, including some potential impact guys getting ready to graduate, could be the perfect compliment to that young, talented team who’s ready to give fans something more to cheer about other than just good barbecue. The system has it all from a fantasy perspective: guys who could break camp with the team or possibly be called up later in the year, high upside bats and arms, and some higher floor guys who should at least end up solid major league regulars if not occasional all stars.
1. Yordano Ventura/RHP
Outside of Taijuan Walker, if you were gonna put your trust in one rookie pitcher this year that pitcher just might be Ventura. We got a taste of his electric stuff at the Futures Game and then again for 15 innings in the majors at the end of the year, and now he’s ready to bring that same electricity full time to the Royals rotation. He will show 3 plus pitches: fastball, curveball, change up, and that should allow him to miss plenty of bats even this year. The only question remaining about his long term projection is his size. At 5’11″/180, most scouts wonder if he’ll be able to hold up to the rigors of a 200 inning season, but thus far he’s shown the ability to hold his velocity and sharpness of his secondary offerings late into games. If that proves to be true at the major league level, he can be the top of the rotation horse you look for your Dynasty team.
ETA: Should start year in rotation
2. Kyle Zimmer/RHP
Zimmer could be the ideal combination of stuff and polish if he continues to progress. He, like Ventura, has the potential for three plus pitches including a lights out curveball and fastball that may one day lead him to be among the league leaders in strikeouts. He also has good command of his arsenal, so some solid ERA’s and WHIPS should be expected as well. He’ll likely return to AA for some refinement, but it’s possible he could be helping the team make a playoff push later in the year.
ETA: Late 2014
3. Sean Manaea/LHP
Manaea has just as much–if not more–upside than any pitcher on this list, and when you consider the fact that he’s a southpaw, he could end up being one of the better pitchers in the game. He’s had some injury trouble in the past, but when healthy he can be a true power arm from the left hand side with a fastball that can reach upper 90’s, a wipeout slider, and a potential plus change up. And, at 6’5″/235 he’s built to pitch deep into games and should have no trouble pitching 200+ innings, provided he can stay healthy that is. And that’s the kicker for Manaea; he’ll need to prove he’s healthy entering the 2014 season, and if he is he should shoot up prospect ranks and could be a fast mover through the system.
4. Raul Mondesi/SS
Mondesi is without a doubt a better real life prospect than fake one, but with his skill set he should develop into a low end of the top 10-type of player. He has good speed as well as a smooth, easy stroke from both sides of the plate, which could make him a standout in the AVG and stolen base categories. Additionally, while he’ll likely never develop much power, he could chip in 8-10 HR’s/year when he matures. And while it means very little for fantasy, his glove could be a great asset for owners as you won’t have to worry about him having to move off the position like you do with other top shortstop prospects. The Bogaerts-like upside doesn’t exist, but his high floor and no doubt ability to stick at the position are what land him at #4. He’ll likely spend all of 2014 at High A.
5. Bubba Starling/OF
There’s no sugar coating it, Starling has struggled mightily thus far in his pro career. But, struggles aside his scouting report is still dripping with milk and honey, and his upside is probably somewhere just south of Byron Buxton territory. He’ll probably never reach it and he’ll probably always have a good amount of swing and miss, but even if he doesn’t he still has the tools to end up a pretty good fantasy player. The hit tool will likely get in the way of the power truly playing to it’s potential, but he does have power enough for 25+ bombs/year at maturity. You add to that elite speed, and you have the makings of a top 20 outfielder. Look, he could never hit above .250–and that will sting–but his upside makes him still worth rostering. He’s a rare athlete, and that’s worth holding out hope for. Even if it’s just a fool’s hope. It’s possible he could repeat Low A in 2014.
6. Miguel Almonte/RHP
Almonte doesn’t quite have the upside that Ventura, Zimmer, and Manaea have, but his fastball/change up combination will still make him a quality fantasy starter. He’s also shown fairly good command as evidenced by his 36 BB’s in just over 130 innings at Low A. He’ll move to High A to start the year, but the true test for him may not come until he reaches AA which could come by year’s end. Ideal size (6’2″/180), two plus pitches, and good command could make him a solid #2/#3 fantasy starter.
7. Jorge Bonifacio/OF
Power will be the calling card for Bonifacio, and by all accounts he has a lot of it…it just hasn’t shown up in games yet. And to make things worse, the hamate bone injury he suffered last year could continue to sap his power even into this year. The good news for fantasy owners, is that the injury may cause him to be a nice buy low option in dynasty leagues. And outside of power he’s shown to have a good plan at the plate and could help out in AVG and OBP as well. He has 25+ HR/year potential, and 2014 should go a long way in telling us if can be reach it or not. He’ll probably start out the season in AA but should reach AAA, and potentially the majors before the year’s out.
ETA: Late 2014
8. Orlando Calixte/SS
Plus power from a short stop always makes “it” move for fantasy owners, so for that alone Calixte is worth rostering, but buyer beware because his aggressive approach could limit that power potential. Some more time in AA in 2014 could answer some questions about his approach going forward, and if he improves his fantasy stock could really take a jump especially since he’ll be close to the show. He has 20+ HR potential with the chance for 15+ steals at his peak.
9. Hunter Dozier/SS
Most of the talk surrounding Dozier consists of whether or not the Royals reached for him in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. Regardless of whether they did or didn’t, he projects to be solid major league player; he has average or better tools across the board and that should allow him to contribute but not shine in any category. Scouts question his range at short stop, so a move to 3rd base will likely come, but a 3rd baseman who can hit for a decent average, steal a few bases, and hit for a little pop can still be a solid fantasy option. At his peak, he could see a few top 10 seasons at the hot corner, but he won’t ever reach elite levels. High A will be his destination to start 2014, and he should have a shot at AA before the year’s out.
10. Elier Hernandez/OF
Hernandez is more someone to dream on right now, but at only 19 he’s already showing a strong feel for hitting to go along with raw power for days, making him a good bet to a strong 2 category contributor at the highest level. He’ll jump to full season ball this next year so obviously he not anywhere close to the majors, but he’s still someone to have on your radar. If he continues to impress he could be in the top 5 of this list by this time next season.
The Royals have it made in the shade. They have a young, competitive ball club that will contend for a playoff spot in 2014, plus all those years of high draft picks have netted them talent that will only help to make sure this isn’t just a fling. They’re especially strong in pitching, but there’s some promising bats moving through the system as well, and if guys like Starling, Calixte, and Hernandez take steps forward this year then the system could be even more potent heading in to 2015. There probably isn’t a superstar lurking on the farm since the team parted ways with Wil Myers, but top to bottom there’s plenty to satisfy dynasty owners for the next several years.