Blue Rocks starter Sean Manaea against Winston-Salem on July 27, 2014 (Jen Nevius).
For baseball fans who pay attention to prospects, this is an exciting time of year. Scouting publications are in the process of releasing their top prospect lists, and MLB.com did just that last night, naming their top 100 prospects in the minor leagues.
Five Royals prospects cracked the list, though none were ranked higher than Raul Mondesi at number 40. Sean Manaea was ranked 56th, Kyle Zimmer 58th, Brandon Finnegan 74th, and Miguel Almonte rounded out the organization’s top prospects at number 83.
Enough has been written about each of these players that I don’t need to go into too much detail. Mondesi’s numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but he is still so incredibly young for his level, and scouts simply raved about his current defensive ability and offensive potential. He hit 8 home runs in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League, and he didn’t turn 19 years old until late in the summer.
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I’m going to urge anyone who looks at his triple slash line and scoffs at his ranking to do some more research on his talent. Mondesi has big-time potential, and scouts weren’t turned away by his less-than-stellar performance at the plate. He’s a switch-hitter with plenty of time to develop into a star.
Manaea wowed scouts with his production in Wilmington, particularly with his fastball. Jim Callis said that Manaea possesses one of the best swing-and-miss fastballs in the minor leagues, along with Tyler Glasnow. Despite a hip injury in 2013, he started 25 games last year, with a 3.11 ERA and 10.8 strikeouts per 9 innings. Granted, it’s a pitcher-friendly environment, but lefties with mid-90s fastballs don’t grow on trees, and Manaea offers a ton of upside.
Zimmer is still looked at as a top of the rotation type of starter, even though he missed basically the entire 2014 season due to injury. He’s not even likely to start the 2015 season on time, but we’ve seen him pitch incredibly well when healthy, so his ranking seems to be a reflection of that.
As for Finnegan, one may be surprised to see a lower ranking for him, considering his success as a reliever for the Royals late last year. However, there are questions about his ability to start long-term, and like Manaea, he has a bit of a quirky delivery that could be an injury concern. If his changeup develops this season, I would expect the stocky lefty to make a quick climb up the rankings.
Almonte didn’t have an impressive ERA in 2014 (4.50), but he still showed off a terrific changeup and an explosive fastball to impress scouts. His ceiling is likely more as a mid-rotation starter, but because of his advanced feel for pitching, Almonte may be able to help the big league club as a reliever as early as this season. Plus, he won’t turn 22 until April.
The Royals may not have as much top-end talent as they did in 2011, but their system is still plenty deep. Five prospects in the top 100 is nothing to shake a stick at, and all five of them offer some upside beyond their current ranking. Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America will likely be releasing their top 100 lists soon as well, which will give us even more to discuss as Spring Training approaches.