KC Royals: Why the future is dimming for Seuly Matias

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The value of Seuly Matias to the KC Royals is not what it was in 2015, when they made him rich at 17 by signing him to a $2.25 international free agent contract, or what it soared to in 2019 when he blasted 31 home runs in the minor leagues.

Talk of Matias someday roaming the Kauffman Stadium outfield and launching towering homers over its deep walls has grown quiet. Seldom does his name enter the public right field discussion like it used to. The Royals probably haven’t given up on him, but his future with the club doesn’t seem bright.

The promise of his prodigious power isn’t enough. Too many other factors now complicate his narrowing path to the big leagues.

Seuly Matias doesn’t present a whole major league package to the KC Royals.

Matias’ power is striking, the most visible and irresistible part of his game. The Royals knew he had it when they signed him; he confirmed it for any doubters when he hit 15 homers in 103 Rookie level games over his first two professional seasons (2016-2017), then 31 in 94 at Low-A Lexington a year later.

But what happened to Matias after that 31-homer season, and again in 2021, casts doubt on his ability to play often enough to make the big league splash so many expected of him.

The Royals moved Matias up to High-A Wilmington in 2019, but he fractured a hand and played only 57 of the Blue Rocks’ 138 games. His production plummeted—he hit just four homers and his average was an ugly .148.

Little is known of his work at Kansas City’s Alternate Training Site as part of the club’s 2020 Player Pool, but injury struck again last season and he spent almost two months on High-A Quad Cities’ Injured List. He managed to play 59 games between the River Bandits, Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and a short five-game rehab assignment to the Arizona Complex League, and clubbed 18 homers.

Matias hit only .213, however, including .193 at Double-A; then, in the Arizona Fall League, and despite hitting six homers in only 22 contests, he batted just .188. Power frequently mitigates the inability to hit for average, but doesn’t guarantee sustained major league time. And that’s a problem for Matias, who ended 2021 with a five-year career minor league average of .217.

Strikeouts, at once a common characteristic and a bane of big hitters, also plague Matias. He’s fanned 36.27% of the time in the minors, including 34.84% in his 31-homer 2018 season and 37.63% at Double-A last year. Such numbers don’t bode well for success at the big league level.

Also clouding Matias’ future with Kansas City is the club’s decision not to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, which has been postponed indefinitely but will likely be held when the MLB lockout ends.

Does Seuly Matias have any chance to make it to the majors with the Royals?

This is, of course, the overriding question. Matias certainly has a chance to get to Kauffman Stadium, but how realistic that chance is depends on him. His power is sufficient. His injuries are a concern but, unlike Adalberto Mondesi’s injury history, not so much so that it casts serious doubt on his career. His unsightly batting averages aren’t impossible to improve—strikeouts are the main culprit, but plate discipline can be acquired through hard work and good coaching.

At the end of the day, however, patience with the bat is something Matias has lacked since turning professional. He’s still just 23, but time may not choose to wait for him.

Matias’ future with the Kansas City organization isn’t as bright as it was in 2018, when he peaked at No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s Royal prospect rankings. In fact, that future is clearly dimming.

Next. Can any Texas free agents help KC?. dark

Seuly Matias used to be a top Kansas City prospect. Whether he can regain that status is an open question.