2014 Minor League Keeper Thoughts: Kansas City Royals

Jamie Squire

The prospect staff at Fake Teams continues their fantasy prospect rankings and system reviews with an in-depth look at the Kansas City Royals.

The prospect staff here at Fake Teams will be taking an in-depth look at each major league organization, including our top 10 fantasy prospects, an overview of the organization's minor league system as a whole and potential opportunities for playing time in 2014. Our goal is to provide you with more information as you prepare for minor league drafts for dynasty and keeper leagues, as well as look at players that could potentially be worth watching during the spring, as they could be in line to potentially help your fantasy team. We will be reviewing two teams per week until we are through all 30 teams, and you can see the schedule of when your favorite team will be reviewed below.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore

Chicago

Houston
(11/18)

Atlanta
(12/5)

Chicago
(12/23)

Arizona
(1/9)

Boston

Cleveland

Los Angeles
(11/21)

Miami
(12/9)

Cincinnati
(12/26)

Colorado
(1/13)

New York

Detroit

Oakland
(11/25)

New York
(12/12)

Milwaukee
(12/30)

Los Angeles
(1/16)

Tampa Bay

Kansas City
(Today)

Seattle
(11/28)

Philadelphia
(12/16)

Pittsburgh
(1/2)

San Diego
(1/20)

Toronto

Minnesota
(11/14)

Texas
(12/2)

Washington
(12/19)

St. Louis
(1/6)

San Francisco
(1/23)

Organizational Overview
By Brian Creagh(@briancreagh)

2013 was a big step forward for the Kansas City Royals, as years of promise and potential finally realized into a competitive product on the diamond. The Royals finished the year with an 86-76 record, only 5.5 games short of a wild card berth. That's a 14 win improvement from the previous season and their first time finishing over .500 since 2003 (the magic of Jose Lima had a lot to do with that season). This year, the team was led by unbelievable pitching as James Shields, Greg Holland, and the rest of the Kansas City pitching staff combined for the second highest ERA+ in the MLB at 120. The offense struggled with a 6th-worst OPS+ of 89, but the emergence of Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer have a lot to do with the Royals' optimistic outlook on 2014.

The minor league affiliations for the Royals also made huge strides in 2013, and despite trading away two Top-10 players in Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, the system hasn't lost a step. With a break out season of sorts from Miguel Almonte and excellent progression from Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, and Adalberto Mondesi, the Royals are beginning to buck the trend of unfortunate development stories. It's been said before, but the group of talent the Royals have in the farm system could make a significant impact on the big stage within a few years.

The 2013 draft was also a boon to the Royals organization by adding two first round talents in Hunter Dozier and Sean Manaea. Dozier, a college shortstop from Stephen F. Austin University, has already begun his transition to third base where he will soon compete to oust incumbent third basemen Mike Moustakas. Despite appearing to be a reach at 8th overall, he's been extremely impressive his brief 69 game sample, showing some pop and excellent on-base skills. The Indiana State product, Sean Manaea, is a big lefty selected 34th overall, but was previously viewed as a potential number one overall pick before a hip injury caused his stock to slide. He has yet to throw his first professional pitch and has instead been rehabbing from hip surgery in June. Manaea will be ready for Spring Training and will be ready to pitch without any further restrictions on his workload. The Royals may have pulled a fast one here by signing Dozier for $1 million below slot and re-allocating the money to sign Sean Manaea for just under $2 million above slot. In a few years we could be looking back and figure Dozier to be a steal for signing below slot and Manaea for being selected as a competitive-balance pick.

Kansas City's largest hurdle is maintaining this momentum across multiple years, since many of their top prospects have yet to even reach Hi-A. Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Miguel Almonte, Bubba Starling, Sean Manaea, and Elier Hernandez still have a few years of development left, which is a double-edged sword since progress could raise their ceilings even higher but promotion could expose some flaws and suppress their stock. It will be extremely fun to watch all these players with legit impact potential develop and settle into their ultimate roles.

2013 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time prior to September 1st of this year.

David Lough (at bats)

Major League Opportunities in 2014
By Brian Creagh(@briancreagh)

The 2014 Royals will look very similar to the 2013 thanks to little rollover and a lot of on-field success. Only Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen are free agents this offseason, so look for some fresh arms in the rotation, one of which is likely to be Yordano Ventura. Chris Getz is the only regular to play his way out of a starting role, and an in-house replacement is already set up in Christian Colon. A former 4th overall draft pick, I'd love to see Colon get a shot, but with the Royals in a good position to win now, 2B and RF could be filled by free agent signings. I'd also love to see Justin Maxwell get a full-time job in RF. He played extremely well in 35 games to end the year after coming over from Houston in exchange for Kyle Smith.

I don't expect the Royals to make a big splash in the free agent market with their payroll already approaching $80 million prior to exercising any player options. Instead they will likely target some cheap starting pitchers to round out the rotation, and some utility infielder types that might fit into various platoon situations. The Royals Review recently wrote a 3 part series on the Royals off-season plans, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

With new opportunities few and far between for next season, the Royals will rely on some positive regression to get them over the hump and into the playoffs. Both Moustakas and Escobar ran into some BABIP blips last season and a return back to career averages should lift the KC offense up. Billy Butler also had a disappointing season following a power surge in 2012, and while we might not see 29 home runs again from Country Breakfast, there's more power in the bat than the 15 he hit last season. I'm not a fan of teams standing still, especially if they didn't make the playoffs the previous year, but the Royals can build a decent case for complacency. Both the Tigers and Indians appear headed for quiet off-seasons as well, so if the Royals can splurge this might be the time to over-spend for 2 or 3 extra wins and finally get over that hump.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
By Andrew Ball(@andrew_ball)

Our top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are based upon standard 5x5 fantasy baseball leagues, with a balancing of ceiling and present value. While we are having discussions regarding these lists as a collective group, the top 10 fantasy prospect rankings are finalized by the writer listed above. Players are no longer considered prospects once they exceed either 130 at bats, 50 innings pitched, or 45 days of service time in the Majors prior to September 1st.

20130221_ajw_ar5_228.0
Photo Credit: Jake Roth - USA Today Sports

#1 Yordano Ventura (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

8

0

3.19

1.28

166

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

150

0.6

0.96

9.4%

26.4%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

On 40 Man Roster (3 Options Remaining)

AA, AAA, MLB

Ventura is a prime example that good scouting in Latin America is of the utmost importance. When the Royals signed the Dominican righty for $28,000 in 2008, he was a 5-foot-10, 140 pound, 17-year-old kid throwing a fastball in the upper 80's without much of a secondary pitch. Now, he's added 20 pounds of muscle, refined his delivery, and he has a chance to open 2014 in the Royals' rotation thanks to one of the best two-pitch combos in the minors.

A personal favorite of mine for some time (how I love those short, hard-throwing pitchers), Ventura has really boosted his stock after last season. Beginning the year in Double-A, the right-hander showed little difficulty with Texas League hitters, registering a 2.34 ERA in 11 starts and striking out more than 30% of the batters he faced. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Omaha in the hitter-friendly PCL, where he more than held his own. He finished with a 3.74 ERA (3.14 FIP) and more than a strikeout per inning, earning himself a late season callup to the Royals. Unsurprisingly, he was impressive in his three starts for Kansas City, allowing six runs in 15.1 innings.

Despite his slight frame, Ventura throws as hard as nearly anyone in professional baseball, sitting in the upper 90's with his four-seamer and routinely touching triple digits. According to PITCHf/x, in his brief big league stint, Ventura threw 185 four-seam fastballs and 25.4% of those were clocked at 98 mph or better. That was the fifth highest percentage among all major league pitchers and it ranked ahead of the likes of Trevor Rosenthall (24.5%), Craig Kimbrel (12.7%), and Gerrit Cole (6.4%). That's some serious heat, and he did it while starting, not in limited usage out of the bullpen. He pairs that with a plus curveball, a swing and miss multi-plane hook that gives him a second out pitch. His changeup, while not in the same class as the fastball or the curve, has developed nicely into an average third offering and he actually struck out a higher percentage of lefties than righties in the minors this past year.

Of course, measuring under six-foot tall and possessing a dynamite one-two punch leads many to slap the reliever tag on Ventura with all the usual concerns -- His fastball will lack plane, he'll become too homer prone, and he won't hold up with a starter's workload. To that I submit that he's given up just 26 long balls in 415.1 minor league innings, he's increased his inning load for three straight seasons, and an 80-grade fastball allows him to miss up in the zone more frequently than most pitchers. Not only do I think that he'll be a starter, but I also believe that he'll be a top-of-the rotation arm capable of producing ERA's in the low-3.00's and striking out more than a batter per inning, beginning sometime in 2014.

#2 Raul Adalberto Mondesi (SS)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.261

61

7

47

24

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

536

0.311

0.361

6.3%

22.0%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

S/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

A

Although he didn't come at the discount that Ventura did, Raul Adalberto Mondesi was also acquired as an international free agent when he inked a $2 million contract with the Royals in July of 2011. Mondesi is the son of former National League Rookie of the Year Raul Mondesi, but as a player he bears little resemblance to his father. The youngest Mondesi is one of the most exhilarating players in the minors, an athletic, switch-hitting shortstop with outstanding instincts and feel for the game.

Sent to the Pioneer League for his age-16 season, Mondesi didn't just hold his own against competition four to five years his senior; he excelled, hitting .290/.346/.386 with 11 steals in 50 games. Still, it was only natural to expect some struggles in his full season debut this year, considering he would play the majority of the season as a 17-year-old. Again, however, Mondesi outplayed expectations as he hit .261 with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases as the second youngest player in the circuit.

Tools-wise, there's much to like about the shortstop. Mondesi likes to swing the bat and his approach to hitting can be described as controlled aggression, but he displays a knack for finding the barrel with difficult pitches and exudes confidence at the plate. There is a growing contingent of evaluators that think he'll be a plus hitter in the big leagues, regularly hitting over .290 thanks to his hitting mechanics and speed down the line. Presently his power is nothing more than the gap variety, though at just 165 pounds he has plenty of room to fill out and add strength in the next few years. As he mature and adds some loft to his swing, he could very well turn into a 20-25 home run hitter with more than one scout calling for 30+ in his prime. He's also a well above average runner that should have no problem approaching 30 steals in his first few years.

Despite the lofty offensive ceiling, it's his defense that truly stands out. His range, hands, and arm strength are all considered plus and there is little doubt that he will be an above average glove as a big league shortstop. Add in high marks for his maturity, makeup, and work ethic and it's no stretch to consider Mondesi one of the elite shortstop prospects in the game, even taking into account the talent at the position around the minors. The Royals may choose to slow things down and send him back to Lexington to start 2014, but if he advances a level a year from here on out Mondesi will be KC's everyday shortstop at 21-years-old.

#3 Kyle Zimmer (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

6

0

4.33

1.17

140

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

108.1

0.92

1.52

7.9%

30.8%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2015 Season)

A+, AA

After pitching sparingly in high school and throwing only five innings his freshman year at San Francisco, Kyle Zimmer was far from a premiere draft prospect entering his sophomore season. That began to change when he defeated Gerrit Cole and UCLA in the regionals that season, but he still wasn't viewed as a consensus first rounder entering the spring of 2012. Then, in his first start of the year, Zimmer hit 99 mph on the radar gun and began the game with 22 consecutive strikes in front of a slew of scouts, immediately putting him in the conversation for the top selection. Ultimately, he landed in KC with the fifth pick in the draft, signing for a slot-friendly $3 million bonus.

Zimmer started off his pro career with a fine showing in the Arizona and South Atlantic Leagues until bone chips in his elbow ended his first season early. Offseason surgery took care of that, however, and Zimmer was back on the mound to begin the 2013 season, starting in Hi-A Wilmington and finishing the campaign with a brief stint in Double-A. For a college pitcher, Zimmer is relatively young and he pitched the entire season as a 21-year-old with outstanding results. Between the two levels, Zimmer struck out 30.8% of the batters he faced, walked just 7.9% of hitters, and recorded a 4.32 ERA. That number isn't completely reflective of how he pitched either, as his FIP was significantly lower at 3.07. And most impressively, he really stood out when he was bumped to Northwest Arkansas, allowing just four earned runs and striking out 27 in his four starts.

Stuff-wise, Zimmer has a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. He throws a four and two-seam variety of the heater, working anywhere from 91-96, though the pitch is more hittable than it should be given the velocity and life. The curve is a real bat-misser, a potential 70-grade offering with depth and some serious bite to it. The slider and the change are both erratic pitches, but he throws both in the strike zone and shows confidence in throwing either pitch in hitters' counts and the change has a chance to be very good as he uses it more frequently.

Initially recruited by San Francisco to play third base and the son of two Division I athletes, Zimmer is extremely athletic for his 6-foot-3, 220 pound frame which helps him to effortlessly and robotically repeat his delivery. He also has a bit of a nasty streak on the mound -- a trait that is welcome in starting pitching prospects. His ceiling is that of a number two starter, though it's more realistic that he'll be a quality number three because the fastball is a little too hittable. Either way, he's a very safe pitching prospect that should only need a little time in the high minors before making his big league debut next year.

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Photo Credit: Ed Zurga

#4 Hunter Dozier (SS/3B)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.308

49

7

52

3

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

317

0.397

0.495

12.0%

11.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

R/R

Not on 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

Rk, A

When the Royals selected Dozier eighth overall in this year's draft, it enabled them to take and sign left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea (number seven on our list) with the 34th overall selection. While Manaea may indeed turn out to be a great pick for KC, those that think Dozier was simply a pick to save money need to re-think that stance. This past spring, Dozier led all Division I hitters in park adjusted and schedule adjusted wOBA (.551) and ranked second in OPS (1.330), just a single point behind Cubs' first rounder Kris Bryant. He carried that hitting success right into his pro debut, posting a triple-slash of .312/.403/.502 between the Pioneer and South Atlantic Leagues.

A shortstop in college, Dozier has already moved to third base even though some scouts felt he could stay at short for at least a few years due to his athleticism. At the hot corner, he should be a quality defender with easy actions and a plus arm that produced 90 mph heaters as a reliever in his sophomore season at Stephen F. Austin.

The Royals didn't take him because of his defense, however, and the bat has a chance to be special. Dozier has strong hands and he does a great job of incorporating his lower half into his swing to generate power. For a right-handed hitter, he does an extremely good job driving the ball to the opposite field and if he starts to pull the ball with the same tenacity he may just end up a 30+ home run player. He also has the bat speed and control to handle quality velocity and his offensive profile plays up a bit as well because he's patient and doesn't extend the zone.

Baseball America called him a Jeff Kent-style player in a Drew Stubbs body, which I mostly wanted to mention because it's a somewhat awesome way to describe a player. With Mike Moustakas under contract through 2016 the team can afford to take it slow with Dozier, but he's an advanced hitter that can move quickly if they choose to do so. He'll make his full season debut in 2014, and I'd say we can look forward to a bunch of .280, 25 home run seasons in his future.

#5 Miguel Almonte (RHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

6

0

3.11

1.16

132

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

130.2

0.41

1.06

6.7%

24.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

R/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

A

Another example of fantastic international scouting by the Royals' staff, Miguel Almonte was signed in 2010 for a paltry $25,000. He entered 2013 without much fanfare, ranking as nothing more than a sleeper prospect in most places, but his full-season debut should take care of that. The 20-year-old made 25 starts for Low-A Lexington, pitching to a 3.10 ERA with 132 strikeouts and 32 walks in 130.2 innings.

For his age and experience, Almonte has advanced pitchability and command of his fastball. He pitches off of the four-seamer, working in the above average to plus range with general consistency. His best secondary offering, and what some consider his best pitch, is his changeup. The cambio has good separation and it looks identical to his fastball until it gets to the plate and fades away from hitters. Lagging behind is the breaking ball, a fringe-average curve that flashes average potential. Despite being a right-hander his arsenal has actually given him a bit of a reverse platoon split. In 2013, his FIP was a half run lower against lefties and he struck out nearly 5% more of the left-handed hitters that he faced. His improvement against same-sided batters will depend on the curveball, a pitch that he will throw with more regularity as he moves up the chain.

Typically, Lo-A pitchers are not as polished as Almonte, nor do they have the command profile that he does. It's been said that he has shown the ability to quickly find and fix mechanical issues in his delivery, a rare trait for a youngster. While he doesn't share the ace potential of Ventura and Zimmer, Almonte has a better than average chance to develop into a high-end mid-rotation starter if the breaking ball continues to make strides. Look for him to start the season in Wilmington and potentially earn a callup to Double-A before season's end, making this the prime time to acquire him if you still can.

#6 Bubba Starling (OF)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.241

51

13

63

22

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

498

0.329

0.398

10.6%

25.7%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

22

S/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2015 Season)

A

The toughest player to place on this list, and quite possibly the toughest player to rank in any system, Bubba Starling poses a philosophical question regarding tools and actual baseball skills. His tools are somewhat undeniable, and they caused Kansas City to give him a $7.5 million signing bonus as the fifth pick in the 2011 draft to convince him to pass on a football scholarship from Nebraska. The $7.5 million figure represents the largest bonus ever given to a high school player and it's also more money than any player in the 2012 or 2013 draft received thanks to the new slotting restrictions.

When signed, it was no secret that Starling was extremely raw as a prospect largely due to the amount of time he spent on the gridiron as an amateur, but the uber-athleticism and five-tool potential made him a highly touted player regardless. Two years into his career, however, the fanfare has subsided significantly with his up and down performance to this point.

The biggest apprehension in projecting his future revolves around his hit tool. Starling has hit just .252 thus far and he's struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances, struggling mightily with pitch recognition (the ability to pick the ball up out of the pitcher's hand). More often than not, I don't get too enamored with swing paths because hitters hit, simple as that. That said, I do worry a bit because Starling has a loading mechanism that actually takes his hands down and towards the catcher, adding a great deal of unnecessary length to his swing. The unsettling combination of poor recognition and flawed hitting mechanics leaves him susceptible to upper echelon velocity and breaking stuff, while also limiting the utility of his above average raw power. At best, with a great deal of work, Starling may become an average hitter, though that should not be considered the most probable outcome.

Still, I remain cautiously optimistic. By no means has he come close to figuring things out at the plate and yet he's produced 23 home runs and 32 steals in 635 professional at bats, so you can only imagine what he's capable of if it does click. And small sample size and arbitrary endpoints aside, he hit .316/.397/.522 with five homers and ten steals in his final 156 plate appearances of the season, giving hope for his development heading into 2014.

Anyone that includes Starling in the conversation with other top-shelf outfield prospects should probably pump the brakes right about now. Then again, those that have already given up hope on him ever developing into an above average regular should reconsider as well. Sure he's imperfect, but the athleticism and tools set him apart, and if he can make the necessary adjustments, all bets are off on just what he can become.

#7 Sean Manaea (LHP)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

W

SV

ERA

WHIP

K

0

0

0.00

0.00

0

SECONDARY STATISTICS

IP

HR/9

GO/AO

BB%

K%

0

0.00

0.00

0.00%

0.00%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

21

L/L

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2016 Season)

DNP

Undrafted out high school, Manaea pitched well enough during his freshman and sophomore seasons at Indiana State, but still didn't garner much real attention from scouts. Then, following his sophomore season he headed off to the Cape Cod league and returned on everyone's radar after fanning 85 and walking just 7 in 51.2 innings that summer.

As a 6-foot-4 southpaw that touches 96, Manaea entered this past spring a legitimate contender for the top overall pick. Injuries quickly derailed that from happening, however, as he rolled an ankle while celebrating a win against Minnesota in mid-March, and the overcompensation from the ankle led to a torn hip labrum. With the injuries, his velocity dropped into the mid-80's at times and he never quite looked like the pitcher that stood out in the Cape just months earlier. To his credit, Manaea managed to pitch well despite the injuries and diminished stuff, ranking among the leaders in Division I in ERA at 1.47 and striking out well over a batter per inning.

The injuries and ensuing signability concerns were enough to slide him out of the first round, but the Royals pounced to take him with the 34th overall pick and signed him to a $3.55 million bonus, a record for a supplemental pick. He did not pitch after signing because of surgery to repair the hip injury, which will be fully healed in time for spring training.

In the Cape, Manaea sat 91-94 with life and deception from a low three-quarters slot. He throws a slider and a split/change, both potential average pitches that played up because of his fastball control and command. The question that now must be answered is which version of Manaea did the Royals draft? Without a doubt, his regression in stuff and command can be at least partially credited to the injuries, but we have only seen him really dominate for a short time in his amateur career. Because he's done it before, the potential is there for a front end starter -- though the risk is evidenced by the fact that so many teams passed on him in a draft that wasn't exactly loaded with high-end talent. The Royals have said that Manaea will go to a full season league, and all eyes will be on him when gets back into game action this spring.

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports

#8 Jorge Bonifacio (OF)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.298

51

4

54

3

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

374

0.372

0.429

10.2%

18.4%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

20

R/R

Not on 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2014 Season)

Rk, A+, AA

Jorge Bonifacio has baseball bloodlines in the form of older brother Emilio Bonifcaio, and much like Mondesi and his father, the relatives' games couldn't be more different. The older Bonifcaio is a speedster that plays all over the diamond, while Jorge is a stocky, power-hitting corner outfielder. The fourth member of our list signed from the Dominican, Bonifacio has cemented himself as the best pure hitter in the system since coming stateside. He's hit .289 in his minor league career, including a .296 total between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas this year as a 20-year-old. He has excellent bat to ball skills and though his swing has some length to it, he didn't seem to mind velocity in Double-A this year, leading many to believe he'll hit for high averages in the big leagues.

Already quite thick, especially in the lower half, Bonifacio is a below average runner that won't steal bases or run down balls in the outfield. Instead, his value is tied to his power. Scouts have called his raw power a plus tool for years, but he has yet to tap into it, hitting only 22 home runs in 324 professional games. Part of the problem is that he is so inclined to take what the pitcher gives him and use the opposite field that Bonifacio rarely pulls a ball with much authority. He still has plenty of time to turn that raw power into big home run totals, but there's a chance he's just a 15-20 homer player. He should return to Double-A to start the season and a September callup isn't out of the question if he plays well.

#9 Elier Hernandez (OF)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.301

44

3

44

9

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

319

0.350

0.439

5.6%

19.4%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

19

R/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Protect After 2015 Season)

Rk

Rated by most as the top international free agent in the 2011 signing period that included Adalberto Mondesi, the Royals snagged Hernandez for a $3.05 million bonus. Kansas City tried the same development path as Mondesi, sending Hernandez to the Pioneer League in 2012, but he just wasn't ready to compete at that level, barely hitting over the Mendoza line and striking out in a quarter of his trips to the plate. This past year, he repeated the level with much better results and set himself up for a full-season debut as a 19-year-old this season.

Still a teen, his baseball skills are raw, and he spent most of the past year getting rid of the bad habits he developed in 2012. That season he tried with all his might to push balls to the opposite field rather than using the quick wrists that made him a standout amateur to turn on pitches on the inner half of the plate. His power requires a great deal of projection, but he has the frame and bat speed to do some damage at maturation. He's also a quality athlete and runner, so the potential is there for a power-speed corner outfielder -- if he can close the large gap between present and future.

#10 Cheslor Cuthbert (3B)

FANTASY STATISTICS (ALL LEVELS)

AVG

R

HR

RBI

SB

0.247

57

8

59

6

SECONDARY STATISTICS

PA

OBP%

SLG%

BB%

K%

518

0.316

0.387

9.1%

17.0%

OTHER INFORMATION

AGE ON 1/1/2014

B/T

ROSTER STATUS

LEVELS

21

R/R

Not On 40-Man Roster (Must Protect This Offseason)

A+, AA

A native of Big Corn Island, 40 miles off the coast of Nicaragua, Cuthbert signed with Kansas City as an international free agent in 2009. His performance has been inconsistent throughout his career, but the organization remains optimistic about his future given his relative youth. In 2011, Cuthbert posted a .742 OPS as the youngest position player in the Midwest League, even more impressive when you take into account that the figure was .866 entering August before a poor final month of the season. The following season though, Cuthbert looked lost, hitting .240/.296/.322 in Wilmington. In 2013, he started off hot in his return to the Carolina league, but upon his promotion to Double-A he once again appeared overmatched.

In 2011 scouts thought of him as a patient, calculated hitter, but now he deploys more of a "see ball, hit ball" approach and chases pitches outside of the zone. He also has yet to show power at really any level. At third, he fields what's hit to him and his arm is one of the strongest in the system; his feet may get too heavy to stay at the hot corner though, putting even more pressure on a bat that may not handle a positional move.

For his minor league career, Cuthbert has hit just .249/.316/.370 and the ceiling isn't nearly what it once was. Even so, he reached Double-A as a 20-year-old and it's a bit premature to write him off. Either way, he needs to finally start producing in 2014 or he'll have a tough time staying on this list a year from now.

Other Interesting Prospects
By Andrew Ball (@andrew_ball)

Sam Selman, LHP - A lanky southpaw, Selman has one of the most electric arms in the system, evidenced by his 9.19 K/9 in the Carolina League this year. Unfortunately, he struggles to control his stuff, walking more than 6.00 per nine as well. The control needs drastic improvement for him to remain in the rotation, but if it does, he might be better than Manaea.

Jason Adam, RHP - Adam had a tough 2013, logging a 5.19 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in Double-A. He has good size, mechanics, and feel for pitching, but the lack of an above average pitch limits his ceiling to a mid to back-of-the rotation starter, with a chance he ends up in relief.

Bryan Brickhouse, RHP - In the midst of a breakout season in Lo-A (2.25 ERA in 11 starts), Brickhouse had his season cut short due to Tommy John surgery that will likely keep him out until the midway point of next year. When he returns, he'll look to get back on track towards becoming a back of the rotation starter with some strikeout upside.

Christian Binford, RHP - A bit of a personal favorite in the system and a growing "trendy" sleeper, Binford has been absolutely fantastic since signing in 2011, posting a 2.57 ERA and a 161/29 K/BB ratio. He's a bulldog on the mound, a 6-foot-6, 225 pound competitor with quite possibly the best control in the system. The only drawback is that he lacks much remaining projection, but he's very safe for an A-ball pitcher and should settle in nicely as a quality number four in a few years.

For more on the Royals, be sure to check out SBNation's Royals Review. For more on the minor leagues and prospects in general, check out SBNation's Minor League Ball.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects.
Follow him on Twitter

Andrew Ball is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score and Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Brian Creagh is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Matt Mattingly is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in fantasy baseball and the minor leagues.
Follow him on Twitter

Sources

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Baseball Reference
Fangraphs
Royals Review
Vimeo
Youtube

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