A Preview to the “Top 50 Royals Prospects” List (And Who Didn’t Make the Cut)

Every year, I publish a “Top Royals Prospects” list of some sort. In 2020, I did the “20 in 20” Prospects-to-Watch list. Last season, I started out with a “21 in 21”, but then eventually expanded the list to a Top-40 Royals Prospects list (which I discussed on the Royals Farm Report podcast).

This year now that the blog is in its three-year anniversary, essentially, I decided to expand my annual “Royals Prospects” list to 50, which makes it my most ambitious Royals prospect rankings yet.

I will release my list after New Year’s, so that is in line with 2022. Furthermore, I will start breaking down the prospects in small posts, since I have found it more effective to discuss the prospects in small groupings than in just individual profiles. Lastly, there will be a new section on the “Royals Prospects Lists” page, which will also contain a full list of the “Top 50 Prospects to Watch for 2022”.

If you want to see who rose and fell from last year’s Top-40 rankings, you can find out in the following posts, listed below:

In addition, to tease out the “Top 50” a little bit more, I am going to list the Royals “prospects” from last year who didn’t exactly make the cut in the most recent edition which will be published next week.

Royals Prospects Not on the “Top 50 Watch” for 2022

The MLB “Graduates”

  • Daniel Lynch, LHP (No. 2 in 2021)
  • Jackson Kowar, RHP (No. 4 in 2021)
  • Kyle Isbel, OF (No. 6 in 2021)
  • Emmanuel Rivera, 3B (No. 26 in 2021)

Lynch and Kowar certainly still have plenty to prove at the Major League level, and they’re not exactly “locks” to make the Royals rotation on Opening Day. However, despite their struggles, I am not sure they really have anything to work on in the Minor Leagues, which effectively eliminates them from being considered “prospects” in my mind.

The same also rings true with Isbel and Rivera on a position player end. Isbel probably has a better shot to make the Opening Day roster (and maybe lineup) than Rivera, but I am not sure if further development in Omaha is what they need. They pretty much are what they are in terms of “projection”, it’s just a matter of whether or not they will get a shot in Kansas City in 2022 to prove they belong regularly in the outfield and hot corner, respectively.

No Longer in the Royals Organization

  • Lucius Fox, MI/OF (No. 19 in 2021)

Fox was a toolsy prospect who was acquired from the Rays organization in the Brett Phillips trade back in 2020. A product from the Bahamas, Fox showed some patience at the plate (0.54 BB/K ratio) and did steal 19 bases on 21 attempts in 57 games. However, his struggles with injury and consistency at the plate (96 wRC+ for the year) prevented him from getting a shot with the Royals last season (though he did fill in for a game in Toronto as they waited for Edward Olivares to make his way across the northern border).

As a result of an underwhelming season, Dayton Moore released Fox this offseason, and the Baltimore Orioles promptly claimed him on waivers, followed by the Washington Nationals acquiring him shortly after, who seem to own his player rights, for now:

Fox is still young at 24-years-old, and I don’t think Royals fans saw him fully healthy, which is a shame. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him do well in the Nationals organization, though his outlook may be as a utility player off the bench, at best.

Still in the Organization, but No Longer on the List

  • Brady McConnell, MI/OF (No. 13 in 2021)
  • Yefri Del Rosario, RHP (No. 25 in 2021)
  • Brandon Marklund, RHP (No. 27 in 2021)
  • Gabriel Cancel, 2B/1B (No. 31 in 2021)
  • Yohanse Morel, RHP (No. 33 in 2021)
  • Charlie Neuweiler, RHP (No. 34 in 2021)

McConnell was the biggest omission in my list, but after a season in which he only played in 30 games and hit .196 in 122 plate appearances with the low-A Columbia Fireflies, I am not sure if there is much of a positive outlook for the former second-round pick. He didn’t impress in his short time in 2019 in rookie league ball (Idaho Falls, specifically) and he not only lost a year due to the pandemic but wasn’t really talked about at the Alternate Site in 2020. It would not be surprising at all if McConnell hung it up sooner rather than later, especially with all of his challenges off-the-field:

Del Rosario and Morel could be bullpen pieces for the Royals next season or in 2023, but that’s about it at this point. Furthermore, there is a high likelihood that they could both be selected in the Rule 5 Draft, as they have the stuff and potential to handle low-leverage bullpen roles for a rebuilding club in 2022.

Cancel has been a nice story who has demonstrated decent power for a middle infield prospect. But take away his power tool, and there is a pretty underwhelming profile. His hit tool isn’t great, he’s subpar defensively, and he doesn’t provide much speed on the basepaths. Additionally, it’s difficult to tell if his power is legitimate or just a product of Triple-A’s hitter-friendly confines.

But the home runs have been fun, nonetheless:

I haven’t heard much about Marklund or Neuweiler over the past season, which I don’t think bodes really well for them in the Royals organization.

Neuweiler only pitched 62.2 IP between High-A Quad Cities and the Arizona Complex league (the latter for a rehab stint) last season. However, his 4.81 ERA in Quad Cities didn’t stand out, and he doesn’t appear to be a swing-and-miss kind of pitcher either (19.1 percent K rate; 2.17 K/BB ratio). I honestly thought about maybe giving Neuweiler one of the bottom spots in the rankings, but I figured I would just give it to a newer arm in the system since I am not totally optimistic that we will see Neuweiler debut with the Royals anytime soon.

As for Marklund, he’s an inspiring Royals system story, as he found his way to Kansas City after pitching in New Zealand for a period of time:

However, Marklund missed all of last year due to injury, as his dad Tweeted out that Marklund received Tommy John surgery back in April:

It is difficult to know where Marklund is in the Royals system, and if he is still with them at all this offseason. Whether he is going to be pitching for someone else, or for one of the Royals’ affiliates in 2022, I think it will be a long climb for Marklund to get back to relevancy as a pitching prospect in the Royals farm system.

I am more than willing to add him back to the list in 2023, especially if he proves himself on the mound (and is still a Royals prospect). But for now, after his disappearance from the Royals Organizational Depth Chart on Roster Resource, I feel it would be best to leave him off the Top 50 Royals Prospect Watch for this upcoming season.

Photo Credit: Tom Priddy / Four Seam Images via Associated Press

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