Two days before the KC Royals wind up their 2022 season Oct. 5 in Cleveland, seven of their prospects will open a few weeks of extra baseball. That’s when the Arizona Fall League, the game’s special bridge from the minor league campaign to the offseason, begins.
Six recently announced AFL teams, each featuring minor leaguers from five different organizations, are slated for almost two months of action. The seven Kansas City players include three ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 KC prospects and will play for the Surprise Saguaros, a club headquartered at the franchise’s training complex. They’ll be joined by prospects from the Astros, Phillies, Rangers, and Pirates.
A trio of top KC Royals minor league prospects will be playing for Surprise.
The MLB Pipeline Top 30 club prospects headlining Kansas City’s Fall League contingent are outfielder Tyler Gentry (No. 8), pitcher T.J. Sikkema (No. 18), and infielder-outfielder Samad Taylor (No. 27).
Gentry, who the Royals took in the third round of the 2020 amateur draft, opened this season at High-A Quad Cities and slashed .336/.434/.516 with five home runs before moving up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in mid-June. The transition was seamless—he belted 16 homers, drove in 63 runs and slashed .321/.417/.555 in 73 games for the Naturals, whose season ended Sunday. He should start next season at Triple-A Omaha; don’t be shocked if the Royals give him a taste of the big leagues in 2023.
Sikkema, a lefthander, came to the organization via the July trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees. He’d pitched only four times in the minors after New York chose him in the first round of the 2019 draft—the pandemic canceled the 2020 season and injuries robbed him of the 2021 campaign. Owner of a good 1-1 record and 2.48 ERA in High-A when the Benintendi deal was made, he was 0-5, 7.44 in eight starts at Northwest Arkansas.
Like Sikkema, a midseason trade brought Taylor to the Royals; part of the Whit Merrifield deal with Toronto, he was hitting .258 with nine homers at Triple-A Buffalo. But he began a long stint on the Injury List just before the trade and hasn’t played since. Taylor has appeared everywhere on the field except behind the plate, on the mound, and at first base.
Three other KC Royals minor league pitchers are on Surprise’s fall roster.
Joining Sikkema on the Saguaros’ pitching staff will be relievers Christian Chamberlain, Jonah DiPoto and Walter Pennington. All three are homegrown prospects: Kansas City selected Chamberlain in the 4th round of the 2020 draft and DiPoto a year before in the 35th round, and signed Pennington as an undrafted free agent in 2020.
Lefty Chamberlain, splitting this season between Quad Cities and Northwest Arkansas, was 3-1 with a 6.24 ERA over 49 innings; righthander DiPoto was 3-0, 3.68 with three saves for the Naturals; and southpaw Pennington finished the campaign 6-3, 5.19 over 33 games at Northwest Arkansas and three with Quad Cities.
Chamberlain and DiPoto need to address control issues this fall. Chamberlain walked 47 in his 49 innings this year (8.63 BB/9) and DiPoto walked 52 in 63.2 (7.35 BB/9).
An outfield prospect rounds out this year’s KC Royals AFL contingent.
Outfielder John Rave, drafted by Kansas City in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, had a decent 2022 season at the plate. Playing 111 games at Northwest Arkansas and 11 for Omaha, he hit 16 homers with 79 RBIs, a .353 OBP and a .256 average. He also stole 23 bases.
Seven Kansas City prospects are set to play in the Arizona Fall League.