A young KC Royals prospect exploded with 31 home runs in Class A ball in 2018. He had a miserable 2019 campaign, but the club hasn’t given up on him.
The KC Royals haven’t lost faith in Seuly Matias.
The team made that abundantly clear Sunday by including the 21-year old outfielder in its Player Pool, the initial 60-member group eligible to play for the big league club this season and work out regularly while the minor leagues suffer a pandemic-forced shutdown.
The Royals could have been excused for not including Matias in their Pool. The organization teems with outfielders–Alex Gordon, Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier will begin the season in the major league outfield, Bubba Starling and Brett Phillips are waging war for a reserve spot, and Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, Kyle Isbel and Erick Mejia are all rattling Kauffman Stadium’s gates. All nine are in the Player Pool.
Not in the Pool, but hot outfield prospects nonetheless, are recent draftees Nick Loftin and Tyler Gentry. Although Loftin is a shortstop, the Royals’ stellar inventory there (Adalberto Mondesi and Bobby Witt Jr.) and his collegiate and Team USA outfield experience fuel speculation that Loftin may end up in left, center or right (or in a utility role). Gentry, a collegian drafted out of Alabama, is a good hitter with power.
The club also needed to make sure the Pool had room for everyone else it needs and players it wants to keep close during a baseball season without minor league play.
And Matias’ underwhelming 2019 performance at High A Wilmington didn’t commend him to the Pool. He slashed a horrific .148/.259/.307, hit just four home runs and struck out a remarkable 98 times in 221 plate appearances, an alarming 44.34% rate.
That season must, however, be put in proper context to understand why the Royals chose Matias for what will hopefully be the only Player Pool in the game’s history.
Wilmington played 138 games, but Matias appeared in only 57 and his season ended in mid-June with the discovery he had a hand fracture. Derailed was a potential encore of the breakout campaign he had the year before at Class A Lexington–although he hadn’t demonstrated much power in two seasons in rookie ball (15 home runs total), he exploded with 31 homers for the Legends. He struck out far too often (almost 35 percent of the time) but the homers were impossible to ignore.
But his 2019 effort was just as impossible to ignore. How long Matias played injured may not be clear, but his abysmal slash line came with just a home run in every 55.25 plate appearances as opposed to the homer every 12.12 PAs of the season before.
Baseball can be a cruel business, one that occasionally thins its abundance of minor league ranks for reasons not discernible from stat sheets alone. Although it may not happen often, count among those reasons decisions to cut players for injuries having no long-term implications.
The KC Royals could have jettisoned Matias after last season; after all, the organization isn’t short on outfield talent, and Matias’ poor 2019, together with his disconcerting four-season minor league slash of .218/.298/.449 and 36.27% strikeout rate don’t, on the surface, provide much hope for his reaching Kansas City. But his prodigious power potential keeps him on Royal Radar and within striking distance of the big leagues.
Matias participated in 2019’s Fall Instructional League, which means he’s healthy and ready to play. He didn’t get a spring training invitation, but his selection to the Player Pool may be an even better sign. It bodes well for his future with the club–he’s among the 20 players not on the 40-man roster who are initially eligible to see big league action this season and he’ll be working out regularly under the watchful eyes of the KC staff while most minor leaguers are on their own.
And it proves the KC Royals still have faith in Seuly Matias.
Time will tell whether Seuly Matias will make it to the majors with the KC Royals. But it’s clear that the club hasn’t given up on him.