A teenager signed on July 2, 2019 jumped from the number 23 prospect in the KC Royals system to 5th in essentially half a year. Let that sink in.
The comparisons to Carlos Beltran have already been tossed around for young outfielder Erick Pena. We should not put that much pressure him, but the fact he leaped so far in the KC Royals’ 2020 top prospects list shows the impact he could have while only playing instructional league ball on American soil last fall.
"“I would hesitate to put comparisons to someone like Carlos Beltran — we’re talking about someone who probably is going to the Hall of Fame,” Royals assistant general manager of international operations Rene Francisco said by phone. “But we’re very excited to have [Pena]. We have been following him for three years now, and he is a very skilled and athletic player.“He is very smart and from a great family. He speaks fluent English, and just a very bright young man who plays the game with intelligence.” — mlb.com"
The GM of international operations says they have followed Pena for three years…since he was 13. Most of us only have our parents watching us play baseball when we are in junior high.
The Royals handed Pena nearly $4 million which makes the expectations higher than normal for young international players signed out of the Dominican Republic. We know the team is fairly, uh, frugal when it comes to doling out money. The fact they would invest that much into a 16-year-old makes this a deal that must work out.
Pena does become the next Beltran, or at least a close resemblance. It will be several years before we see him grace a major league ball diamond though. Beltran took the American League by storm as a 21-year-old and won the Rookie of the Year. He played in 341 minor leagues games and never sniffed Triple-A going straight from the Wichita Wranglers to the Royals.
If Pena can follow a similar time frame, he would be on track to play in Kansas City by 2024. Depending on if any baseball is played this summer, that could be pushed back a year. He is left-handed outfielder who should show a lot of pop while also producing consistent contact. Hopefully he will be a perennial All-Star in the outfield for many years and the team will not be forced to trade him due to money concerns.
From the video above there is a lot going on with that swing. Whether that is a hindrance or not remains to be seen. Of course there will be many years to work on that if the Royals feel it needs adjusted.
The worry is that despite the years of scouting he could not work out and toil in the minors for many years. Four million is not a huge sum in the grand scheme of things when it comes to the finances of Major League Baseball. However, if he never sees time in Kansas City this will be a huge reach.
Most Likely Outcome:
Pena will debut in Kansas City sometime in 2025 or 2026. We have already pointed out the outfield is ripe for young players to take the bull by the horn. The first wave should have had a few years to stake their claim on positions. If they falter, Pena could step in and secure a spot. With average speed and skills that point more to right field than center, he would be a nice power hitter in the five or six spot in the lineup.