The KC Royals had a huge influx of young, promising talent during the 2022 season. Top prospects like shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., catcher MJ Melendez, and more made their major-league debuts amidst the disappointing 2022 campaign. This young core of players reminds fans of better days, when a group of homegrown talent carried the Royals to the World Series twice. That group dissolved, and so did Kansas City as a postseason contender. Fans have suffered through the terms "rebuilding" and "retooling" for years, before seeing some patience pay off in the form of a new-look team heading into 2023.
But, the promotions caused a negative ripple effect throughout the organization. The Royals have boasted a top-10 farm system since the 2020 season, according to MLB. After promoting so many prospects for 2022, MLB.com dropped Kansas City's farm system down to 21st overall. Several outlets, including Bleacher Report and Prospects1500, peg the Royals' farm system in the league's bottom 10. The 2022 9th overall pick Gavin Cross and first baseman Nick Pratto still carry prospect status and could be in Kansas City later this season. MLB.com maintains baseball's premiere prospect list, with Cross ranking as their 62nd-best prospect. But, FanGraphs has a very different outlook on Cross and the Royals farm system.
Not everything is okay in the KC Royals farm system.
FanGraphs released their top 100 prospects list ahead of the 2023 season, and the Royals did not have a single prospect on it. Cross, Pratto, or even the recently injured Drew Waters do not appear. Only Kansas City and the Atlanta Braves achieved that feat, but those two teams are on very different trajectories.
The Braves recently won a World Series, handed most of their young talent contract extensions, and will be a contender in the NL. It's understandable that they don't appear on the list. However, the Royals have been losing, and losing badly, for years. It would make sense that the Royals' farm system would still boast some of baseball's best talent. That can change once the 2023 starts, of course, but this list adds more concern to the team's future.
FanGraphs is a solid resource for advanced metrics and statistics on many baseball players. Their evaluations are not uneducated, with so many tools at their disposal. They will release team-specific top 30 lists ahead of the season, and Cross will likely be their top option. FanGraphs could have similar scouting reports as other outlets, but I doubt Cross' high-impact potential in the major leagues. Cross has powered through minor-league opponents, after posting a 1.019 OPS and seven HRs in 26 minor-league games in 2022. His 18% walk rate shows his patient approach at the plate, while a 25% strikeout rate shows how polished Cross is as a prospect.
This list, and omitting the Royals entirely, may appear foolish at the end of the 2023 season. There are plenty of MLB-ready prospects, such as infielders Michael Massey and Maikel Garcia, who can be everyday starters for the Royals soon. The farm system may not have elite-level prospects now, but not every top prospect is a future All-Star. Plus, the Royals' lack of pitching development has hampered the farm system for years now. With a new-look front office and coaching changes, there is optimism for pitching prospects. Pitchers like Asa Lacy, Ben Kudrna, and Frank Mozzicato have the draft pedigree to be the next wave of Royals rookie pitchers. If they and other pitchers start showing progress, that will raise the Royals' prospects and the farm system's rankings.