As the Royals begin their spring training in Arizona, only the biggest Royals nerds know the new and most talented prospects. As one of those nerds, I’m here to dumb down all of this information.
The Royals were unsuccessful last year (81-81) compared to their 2015 World Series win season because they lost some star players and didn’t have anyone to completely replace them. Some of the World Series traitors are Ben Zobrist, Alex Rios and Jeremy Guthrie. Difficulties with a solid squad of pitchers, both starters and the bullpen, were the core issues.
My first and most highly-anticipated prospect is left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm. During his first Major League games with the Royals Strahm shined with a 1.23 ERA — the mean of earned runs given up by a pitcher per game — pitched in 22 innings out of the pen, according to www.royalsreview.com. In Keith Law’s ESPN story about Royals prospects, he noted that Strahm “just missed” his Top 100 Prospect list, because “he just hasn’t pitched that much and because his ceiling may just not be high enough.”
Strahm is a godsend in the lineup. After Yordano Ventura’s unexpected and tragic death, the Royals are in desperate need of an ace, and Strahm is perfect for that role with his pitching variety and 96 mph fastball.
In addition to Strahm, the Royals’ starter pitcher hole is being filled by young prospects Josh Staumont and Ashe Russell as well as new Cubs signings, Jason Hammel and Travis Wood.
Staumont has been heavily noticed and promoted by the Royals general manager with his average 100 mph fastball and overall power arm. He posted a 4.23 ERA in 123 innings in Double-A/Triple-A with just 104 hits according to minorleagueball.com. To compare these superb numbers, last year’s Cy Young award winner, Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox’s career ERA is 4.20.
His strikeouts, low hit-rates and curveballs speak for themselves; the right hand pitcher should soon be a regular in the Royals bullpen as a reliever and starter. Staumont’s arm has me dreaming of the 2014-2015 bullpen with Kelvin Herrera and others who would destroy any opponents’ hopes of coming back into the game.
Picked up in the first round of the 2015 draft, Ashe Russell is another exciting starting pitcher from Indianapolis. Russell made his debut last year against Arizona with a .200 average. Russell, Staumont, Hammel and Wood should be enough to fill the pitching hole left by the 2016 team, that is counting on that they live up to their hype and do their job. Although, Law noted Russell had the “yips” — an involuntary jerk — last year which saw his velocity drop to the mid-80s.
Finally moving on from the all-important pitchers, Hunter Dozier is an upcoming third basemen and outfielder who has destroyed the minor league and is now moving up to play real ball. The 25-year-old hit 44 doubles and 23 homers in 486 at-bats in Double-A/Triple-A, saving his career after poor performances in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. With the best hitting record out of anyone in this list, Dozier’s revamped hitting mechanics and a better eye restored his play which made him a first round pick in 2013, according to www.minorleagueball.com. Although Dozier is on the older side of prospects, his great arm and vision should make him a great backup for Moustakas at third base.
Another notable outfielder prospect is Jorge Bonifacio. He could become a back-up right-fielder if he improves his game heavily in these coming years, with his 60-grade arm and average range are. At 23, Bonifacio, is in prime age to learn and develop as he transitions from the minors to the majors. According to minorleagueball.com, he has 19 homers, 51 walks and 130 strikeouts in 495 at-bats in Triple-A.
He has finally learned to tap into his raw power more consistently, but contact and batting average are going to be issues when he reaches the majors, because those strikeouts will only become more frequent when he faces harder and faster pitchers. I hope Alex Gordon can lead this youngin’ and make him similar to himself.
The final and youngest prospect is 20-year-old catcher Chase Vallot. He is definitely no Salvy, but Vallot still has time to live up to Perez’s huge reputation. His defense remains troublesome, as he threw out 33 percent of runners, but had a very high passed ball and error rates. Vallot also has a high ceiling power bat but is a long way off a power hitter (bats around fourth in the lineup and is counted on for RBIs and homers), according to minorleagueball.com.
These prospects are by no means expected to become the next starting squad of players that won us the World Series, they are exciting young players with many learning years ahead of them needed to make them stars. However, do not count them out just yet, they are all extremely talented and be on the look out for the names mentioned in this article at your next Royals game.