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Kansas City Royals 2015 Top 10 Fantasy Prospects

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

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Just like last year, 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 2015. 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. if we have already reviewed the team, a link to the post, along with the team's top prospect is noted.

System Schedule

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Baltimore
(3/11)

Chicago
(Rodon)

Houston
(Correa)

Atlanta
(Sims)

Chicago
(Bryant)

Arizona
(Bradley)

Boston
(3/14)

Cleveland
(Lindor)

Los Angeles
(Heaney)

Miami
(Kolek)

Cincinnati
(Stephenson)

Colorado
(Gray)

New York
(3/18)

Detroit
(Hill)

Oakland
(Olson)

New York
(Syndergaard)

Milwaukee
(Taylor)

Los Angeles
(Pederson)

Tampa Bay
(3/21)

Kansas City
(Today)

Seattle
(Jackson)

Philadelphia
(Crawford)

Pittsburgh
(Glasnow)

San Diego
(Renfroe)

Toronto
(3/25)

Minnesota
(2/28)

Texas
(Gallo)

Washington
(Giolito)

St. Louis
(Piscotty)

San Francisco
(Crick)

Organizational Overview
by Brian Creagh

What a year it was for the Kansas City Royals. Building off the monumental jump the franchise took in 2013, the Royals continued their success with a World Series appearance in 2014. Last season was one for the ages and it was a blast watching this team fight it's way through the playoffs. At times, they seemed to be a team of destiny winning their first 8 playoff games until they hit a buzzsaw in Madison Bumgarner. In many ways, the 2014 season vindicated Royals General Manager, Dayton Moore who had long been ridiculed for questionable decisions and failure to turn a highly-regarded prospect class into elite MLB talent. Much of the criticism may have been misguided, but the results during Moore's tenure up until 2013 certainly opened him up to questions.

Looking now to 2015, the Royals aim to repeat as AL pennant winners. The task has not been made easier with the departure of key pieces: James Shields, Billy Butler, and Nori Aoki. Consider also that the Royals Pythagorean W-L last year was 84-78 compared to their true 89-73 record. Luck was certainly on their side and recapturing that magic will prove to be a difficult task. The club did add some interesting pieces with the acquisitions of Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales. Edinson Volquez was also signed to hopefully shore up the back end of the rotation. The off-season moves appear to be a net loss from a talent perspective, but there is still enough talent on the roster to secure another wild card playoff berth. The bullpen is going to be an elite group again headlined by Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera so they will end up winning their fair share of tight ballgames.

The Royals have done well to restock their farm system after a recent wave of promotions to the MLB. Most of the impact talent is currently in the lower levels like 1st Round picks Chase Vallot and Foster Griffin while top prospect Raul Mondesi hasn't even hit AA yet. The talent in the upper levels is good enough to succeed at the next level, but it lacks a truly impact talent. Hunter Dozier is a power-only guy, Brandon Finnegan appears destined for a bullpen role, and Sean Manaea and Kyle Zimmer come with legit injury/durability concerns. Up and down the system there is a lot of talent, but in a fantasy context, the guys you want will come with a multi-year waiting period as they fully develop.


2014 Graduates

The following players have surpassed their rookie maximums of 130 AB, 50 IP, or 45 days of service time.

Yordano Ventura (IP), Michael Mariot (ST)

Major League Opportunities in 2015
by Brian Creagh

As one might expect from a World Series participant, there was not a lot of turnover on the roster for the Kansas City Royals. As a result, there are not many opportunities for top prospects to break into starters roles. A large part of this is the lack of talent ready to make that jump to the big leagues. The name really worth keeping an eye on this year is Brandon Finnegan and whether the Royals push him as a starter or keep him in the bullpen role he thrived in during last year's playoff push. Two other names I'm interested in are Christian Colon and Brian Flynn. Omar Infante is the current second basemen for the Royals, but Colon looked good in his brief stint in 2014 and could take the job over if an aging Infante struggles at any point. Flynn is a guy who could sneak into the backend of the rotation out of Spring Training. Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy and Edinson Volquez aren't the most reliable (or healthy) arms and Flynn is ready for a shot. His strikeout upside is minimal, but he'll pitch well and won't kill your ratios so AL-only owners should put him on your radar.

Top 10 Fantasy Prospects
by Jason Hunt

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.


1. Sean Manaea (LHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
7 0 3.11 1.28 146
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
121.2 0.400 1.110 10.51% 28.40%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 L L A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

Manaea came into his draft year with a ton of buzz, after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League the previous summer. There was talk of him potentially be the first overall pick, but a torn labrum led him to fall in the draft. The Royals had taken Hunter Dozier with their first draft pick in 2013, and were able to take the savings with that draft slot to help bring in Manaea with the 34th overall pick. Manaea did not pitch again after signing in 2013, and was sent directly to High-A Wilmington for the 2014 season. He pitched well there, striking out 146 over 121 innings, but walked 54 batters as well. He finished extremely strongly, striking out 44 and walking just 8 batters over his last 39 innings pitched, and going at least seven innings in four of his last six starts.

Manaea features a three pitch repertoire consisting of a fastball, slider and changeup. The fastball is easily his best offering, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, and can potentially be a strikeout offering in the majors. The slider is considered above-average, and gives him another pitch to help notch strikeouts. His changeup is a little more developed than you usually see from a pitcher in his first professional season, but it should still serve him well and may develop beyond an average offering. His delivery is deceptive, and helps all three pitches to play up slightly from their raw grades as well.

Manaea will head to AA to start the 2015 season, and could be in line for a callup by the end of the year if he pitches well at Northwest Arkansas. The upside is that he is a #2 starter for fantasy owners, providing high strikeouts and solid ratios in spite of the potential for an above-average walk rate.

2. Raul Mondesi (SS)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.211 54 8 33 17
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
472 0.256 0.354 5.08% 25.85%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 S R A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

With the same first name as his former All-Star father, we have been hearing about Raul A. Mondesi since he signed with the Royals back in 2011, and with good reason. He made his professional debut in the Pioneer League in 2012, hitting .290 with 11 stolen bases in 50 games at the age of 16. The Royals have continue to move him aggressively ever since, sending him to full-season ball as a 17-year old in 2013 and moving him up to High-A in 2014. The performance there doesn't look all that great, but this was the third straight season where he was nearly five years younger than the average player in the league.

Mondesi is expected to be an above-average defender at shortstop, which bodes well for his ability to stay at the position as he continues to move up through the minors. It also tends to cause him to be ranked higher on regular prospect lists as opposed to fantasy-skewed ones, but he's still no slouch at the plate. He features both an above-average hit tool and excellent speed, both of which should help out fantasy owners a lot. There are questions right now with his overall approach, as he tends to be too aggressive and strikes out a lot more than you'd like to see from a top of the order type hitter. The speed can translate into 30+ stolen bases on a fairly regular basis, assuming that he's hitting in the .270+ range. He has shown some power potential already, but he's probably most likely to top out around 10 home runs per season.

It's possible that the Royals return Mondesi to High-A in order to see him show more success there, and he would still be young for the level as a 19-year old in 2015. The Royals will need to protect him on the 40-man roster this upcoming offseason, which will be an easy decision for them. I would not expect to see him in the majors until 2017 at the absolute soonest, with 2018 a more likely option.

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3. Brandon Finnegan (LHP)

Photo Credit: Bill Streicher - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 1.32 0.91 36
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
34 0.79 1.35 3.76% 27.07%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 L L A+,AA, MLB
Roster Status: On 40-Man Roster (3 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016

The top draft pick of the Royals in 2014, we have already seen some of the potential that Finnegan can provide for fantasy owners. He worked exclusively out of the bullpen down the stretch, earning a call up to the majors and becoming the first player to appear in the College and Major League World Series in the same season.

Finnegan has the repertoire to start, led by a plus fastball which generates a lot of swings and misses. He also throws a slider and changeup, both of which can potentially be slightly above-average. There are questions about his long-term role, which are based in part on his delivery (a bit high-effort) and in part due to his size (5'11", 185 lbs.)

He'll head into Spring Training being stretched out as a starter, but we saw the kind of impact he can potentially have in the back-end of the Royals' bullpen. As a starter, he's capable of provide solid strikeout totals to go along with good ratios. If he ends up a reliever, it's very possible that he ends up pitching in the closer's role down the line. He's likely headed to AAA Omaha this year, and could be called upon if a spot start is needed.

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4. Kyle Zimmer (RHP)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 1.93 1.93 5
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
4.2 0.00 1.25 17.39% 21.74%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

This wasn't supposed to be how it went for Zimmer. Signed out of the University of San Francisco in 2012, Zimmer moved quickly in his first two professional seasons, reaching AA for four starts to end his 2013 season. It was expected that he would get a shot potentially at a rotation spot in 2014, but injuries derailed his season. He only ended up throwing 4 innings in the 2014 regular season, along with another 9 innings in the Arizona Fall League before being shut down with another injury.

Zimmer's upside is probably higher than anyone else in the system at this point, but health concerns keep him further down the list. When he's healthy, he features a fastball in the mid-90s, pairs it with a curveball capable of getting a lot of strikeouts, and a changeup which can potentially be above-average. The makings are all there for a fantasy #2 or potentially ace starter depending on the year, but until he proves he can stay healthy, he'll remain ranked down lower than a couple of other pitchers in the system.

5. Hunter Dozier (3B)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.251 69 8 60 10
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
534 0.350 0.369 12.36% 23.60%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
22 R R AA-A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2016 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

The Royals surprised a lot of people on draft day in 2013 by taking Dozier with the 8th overall pick, but that decision has worked out well for the team so far. He signed for a bonus of $2.2 million, well below slot, which allowed the team to also sign our #1 fantasy prospect, Sean Manaea. He split his draft year between the Pioneer League and the Sally League, and was moved straight to High-A Wilmington to start the 2014 season. Dozier was considered a fairly advanced college bat out of the draft, and performed well at High-A before a promotion to AA in mid-June. He wasn't able to carry the performance at the same level there, although with the exception of his strikeout rate, his peripherals appear somewhat similar.

Dozier can potentially be a slugging third baseman, capable of providing 20-25 home runs a year on the strength of his above-average raw power. There are more questions this year than last about how well he can translate that power as a result of his batting average and approach, but it seems like there is still the potential for him to provide a decent batting average to go along with a good on-base percentage. While he played shortstop primarily in college, the Royals have already converted him to third base and it sounds like he should be at least solid there defensively.

The second half of the 2014 season was the first time he really struggled as a professional, so I will be very interested to see how he does in a return trip to AA Northwest Arkansas. If we see him return to the .270+ hitter he has shown so far, he could very well be a top 10 third base candidate in the future. If he ends up in the .240-.250 range, it should negatively impact his power somewhat and limit him a bit more to deeper formats. We could see him in Kansas City by the end of the 2016 season.

6. Miguel Almonte (RHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
6 0 4.50 1.26 101
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
110 0.700 1.020 6.91% 21.81%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A+
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2017

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in late 2010, Almonte made his full season debut in 2012 after throwing 27 innings in the Arizona rookie league the year before. His performance at full-season Low-A in 2013 was excellent, striking out 132 and walking just 36 in 130 innings pitched, and shot up top prospect lists. He moved up to High-A in 2014, and while the overall performance looked reasonable (8.3 K/9, 3.16 K/BB), but there were some concerns.

Almonte features a three pitch repertoire which if it develops can be a mid-rotation starting profile. Both his fastball and changeup are considered above-average already, and while his curveball remains a work-in-progress, it is anticipated to be an average offering as well. His delivery is very loose, throwing from a lower arm slot, but is considered inconsistent at this point. There are questions about his long-term role if the curve doesn't develop, as he may end up in the bullpen as a result.

Almonte is an interesting name at this point, as he can potentially be a starter in all formats if he improves his command and his curveball. Those remain big questions right now though, which isn't a huge surprise for a pitcher who just finished up at High-A. He'll likely head to AA for the 2015 season, and should hopefully give us a better idea of whether he can reach that starting ceiling, or end up in a bullpen role instead.

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7. Jorge Bonifacio (OF)

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.230 49 4 51 8
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
566 0.302 0.309 8.83% 22.44%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R AA
Roster Status: On 40 Man Roster (2 Options Left)
ETA to Majors: 2016

Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2009, Bonifacio can potentially be a more interesting player to own for fantasy than his brother Emilio, but there are a lot more question marks about him at this point. Strong seasons in 2012 at Low-A and 2013 between High-A and AA vaulted him into the discussion for the top five in this system. He returned to AA for the 2014 season, but as is the case with a lot of prospects, struggled with the adjustment to this level. He hit just .230/.302/.309 with four home runs over 130 games, and the reports on how that performance happened don't really point to bad luck.

Bonifacio has above-average raw power, but has struggled to this point in his career to translate that in-game. The potential is there for a 20-25 home run hitter, but his swing seems to lend itself less to home run power and more to line drives. The questions from the 2014 season stem from his struggles with offspeed pitches, and specifically how he approaches trying to hit them. There is potential for an above-average hitter in terms of batting average, but it sounds like he'll likely only be above-average in batting average OR power, not both. The best case scenario for Bonifacio seems to be either a .250 hitter with 15-20 home runs or a .275-.285 hitter with 10-15 home runs. Both have value, but it is more dependent upon your league depth.

Bonifacio could return to AA again to start the 2015 season, and potentially be in line for a September call up depending on how he hits this year. The Royals have Alex Rios currently holding down right field, although with a mutual option for the 2016 season it seems unlikely he is blocking Bonifacio by then.

8. Chase Vallot (C)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
AVG R HR RBI SB
0.215 29 7 27 0
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
PA OBP% SLG% BB% K%
222 0.329 0.403 11.71% 36.49%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
17 R R Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2020

A supplemental first round pick in last year's draft, Vallot can be a very interesting fantasy prospect provided you have the time to let him develop while sitting on your roster. He was drafted out of a Louisiana high school, in part on the strength of his raw power potential. The Royals sent him to their short-season affiliate in Burlington after signing, where he hit seven home runs but with a .215 batting average.

Vallot profiles right now as a bat-first catcher, who can potentially provide above-average production in both batting average and power. Baseball America rated him as having the best power potential in the system in their 2015 rankings, and could potentially be a 25+ home run hitter on an annual basis. The part that will likely slow his path to the majors is his development on defense. There are questions specifically about his receiving skills behind the plate, which are likely going to just take time and repetitions to improve.

The value with Vallot will be with how long he can stay behind the plate. It doesn't sound like it is a matter where it's impossible he stays behind the plate, but it may take four or more seasons to get to the majors if he is slow to develop there. Right now he's a lottery ticket except in the deepest of formats, but a strong showing in 2015 could move him up this list pretty quickly.

9. Foster Griffin (LHP)

2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
0 0 3.21 1.11 19
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
28 0.600 1.370 10.43% 16.52%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
18 R L Rk
Roster Status: Protect after 2018 Season
ETA to Majors: 2019

Drafted with the 28th pick in the 2014 draft, Griffin is currently almost entirely projection, which isn't unexpected for a high school pitcher. He signed for a $2 million bonus fairly quickly, and was sent to the Royals' Appy League affiliate for the rest of the year. He was kept on a fairly tight innings limit, never throwing more than 3 innings in any start and only notching a total of 28 innings pitched.

Griffin currently features a three-pitch repertoire with a fastball, changeup and curveball. None of the pitches currently show as major league average, but all three are expected to develop to that level in the future. He is very athletic, and the potential is that he can be a mid-rotation starter if he develops as anticipated. He's likely at least three full seasons, if not more from the majors, but can be an interesting choice in deeper formats where you can wait for him to continue to develop.

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10. Christian Binford (RHP)

Photo Credit: Jerry Lai - USA Today Sports
2014 FANTASY STATISTICS
W SV ERA WHIP K
8 0 2.88 1.102 139
2014 SECONDARY STATISTICS
IP HR/9 GO/AO BB% K%
140.2 0.60 1.04 3.83% 24.17%
OTHER INFORMATION
AGE Bats Throws 2014 Levels
21 R R A+-AA-AAA
Roster Status: Protect after 2015 Season
ETA to Majors: 2016

The Royals may have found a very nice value late in the 2011 draft with Binford, who they took in the 30th round and gave a bonus of $575K to keep him from college. He was viewed as a project in part because he did not pitch his junior year of high school due to Tommy John surgery, but it has worked out well for the Royals so far. After a 2013 season where he struck out nearly a batter per inning at Low-A, the Royals moved him quickly last year, starting him at High-A, giving him eight starts at AA and finishing his year up in AAA Omaha as a reliever.

The scouting reports on Binford point to a pitcher who may be more useful for the Royals than fantasy owners. He features three pitches, a fastball and changeup which are considered average offerings, along with a curveball that is not as developed. He commands all his pitches well, which helps them play up a bit more than the raw grades would imply. That said, Binford is likely a back-end of the rotation type starter, which makes him more of an AL-only or deeper mixed leagues option, as he's not necessarily going to provide enough strikeouts to own him in other formats. He'll likely be ready for a call up at some point during the 2015 season, but will probably spend most of the year in Omaha.

Other Interesting Prospects
by Jason Hunt

Bubba Starling - We keep waiting for the raw tools to manifest themselves in the game, and it just doesn't appear likely that it happens to the extent anyone was hoping for. If there's no cost to hold him, you might as well, but there's probably going to be at least 150 prospects I'd rather own than him at this point.

Elier Hernandez - One of the top international free agent signings back in 2011, Hernandez made his full season debut in 2014. He has some of the best raw tools in the system, but remains a long way from the majors and with a very wide range of potential outcomes as a prospect at this point.

John Lamb - Already added to the 40-man roster, Lamb had a decent but not spectacular season at AAA Omaha in 2014. He's no longer the prospect that was ranked in the top 20 overall from a few years ago, but is a name worth filing away in AL-only leagues as a reserve pick in case you want to hold a starter.

Christian Colon - The 4th overall pick back in 2010, Colon has posted decent numbers in the minors at each stop, but the overall profile doesn't necessarily show a fantasy contributor except in the deepest of formats. He seems like a player that will be more useful to the Royals than your fantasy team.

Scott Blewett - A second round pick last year, Blewett has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter, but there are enough questions about whether his changeup will develop to keep him just outside the top 10. If it doesn't develop, we're likely looking at a reliever that may not be a closer, but the profile is interesting enough to take a shot in very deep formats now.

About the Authors

Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects
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