In past years Iâ€™ve ranked the Royals minor league prospects by position but this year I thought Iâ€™d change things up. Iâ€™ve already got my Top Prospects List out so itâ€™s pretty apparent where I value each guy but I will be taking an open mind to Arizona with me from March 16-21. During that time the Royals have and off day and two night games so I will have ample time to take in the minor league fields and games and give you a Top 40 prior to the start of the minor league season on April 3rd.
1. Jorge Bonifacio – The Royals top outfield prospect has endured plenty of injuries in his short time in the Royals organization but despite those maladies the 21 year old will start the year in AA. Â Defensively Bonifacio has enough tools to play an average right field with slightly below average speed but a big arm and a knack for the game that allows him to play above his speed. Â The bat will be Boni’s calling card as he’ll remind some of Billy Butler with a lack of loft in his swing but solid power to the gaps and a swing that lends itself to right-center. Â While he doesn’t quite have the knack for hitting Billy does a good plate approach should lead him to become a .270ish hitter with 20 HR pop and plenty of doubles. Â With Aoki on the last year of his deal Bonifacio will need to push his way to the majors this year and prove the Royals won’t need to invest in a right fielder prior to the 2015 season.
2. Elier Hernandez – The Royals signed Hernandez for over $3M thinking that he could become a 5 tool talent. Â While Elier has lagged behind his international signee partner RA Mondesi he still shows the talent that could blossom into a multi-tooled player. Â After struggling in Idaho Falls in 2012 Hernandez bounced back with a solid performance showing a better hit tool and better feel for the game. Â The right fielder will need to work on his reads and paths in the outfield to earn an average to slightly above level which is possible with his average speed and above average arm. Â He’ll need to continue to work on his approach at the plate to unlock his potential at the plate that includes potential plus power.
3. Cristhian Vasquez -Â The Royals have altered their philosophy in the Dominican in terms of position players that aren’t up the middle players. Â With the signings of Samir Duenez and Cristhian Vasquez they signed less athletic players who already show signs of good hitting ability. Â Perhaps this new philosophy will help the Royals discover a true hitting dynamo, only time will tell. Â The likely future for Vasquez is left field where the Royals can hide his below average arm and average speed. Â Without an Arizona league affiliate the Royals could send him to Burlington or Idaho Falls if they feel his hit tool is truly up to par.
4. Alexis Rivera – Much like their recent international signees Rivera lacks speed and a multi-tool set but he has potential with the bat and a frame that suggest power as he ages. Â Despite that suggestion Rivera struggled mightily to show any power at Idaho Falls connecting on just 12 extra base hits in 240 PA’s. Â The bat is his calling card and will need to progress this season if he is to have a shot to carry it to the bigs.
1. Bubba Starling -Â This is a huge season for the local boy if he is to live up to his $7M signing expectations. Â The tools are there and he even flashed them late last season with an extremely strong August that included 11 extra base hits in 24 games. Â Was it the lasik? Â Was it the adjustment in his mechanics? Â Lets hope it is a little of both and Bubba can take that strong finish to Wilmington. Â If the bat comes along for the ride then the Royals have a tremendous talent as his defense and speed on the bases has already showed itself to be good enough for the bigs.
2. Lane Adams – The Royals hit with a late round multi-sport draftee in David Lough and that philosophy seems to be working with Adams after he bloomed last season earning the Royals minor league hitter of the year. Â The former Missouri State basketball recruit possesses good speed and above average raw power that could make him a solid 4th outfielder in the majors some day. Â For now he’ll go to AA and try to push his way to AAA.
3. Brett Eibner – Eibner much like Starling excelled in the second half of the season unlocking his power with a 8 home runs in the month of July. Â WIth plenty of arm in center and a knack for the correct path to the ball he could make for an average defensive center fielder or plus right fielder. He’ll head to Omaha to see if his hit tool has improved enough to challenge for the starting right field job in 2015. Â If Eibner’s .341/.442/.635 slash line against lefties is correct he could end up as a nice platoon option in the future.
Daniel Rockett – A big hustle college hitter excelled at Idaho Falls last season. Â Those who have seen him like his skill in the outfield and hit tool. Â He’ll get more of a challenge this season to see if last seasons performance was for real.
Dominque Taylor -Â Much like Rockett he performed well at Idaho Falls but like his outfield partner that should be expected for a college player. Â Average grades across the board could come in handy as he progresses.
Terrence Gore– His speed likely ranks in the Top 5 in all of baseball which lead to 68 steals in 76 attempts last season. Â He’ll need to hit better than .215 like he did a Lexington last season though to truly unlock that speed skill. Â Rumors of improved bunting skill in the Arizona League suggest he could do just that. Â He’ll likely join Bubba in Wilmington to make up 2/3 of the outfield.