Looking at the Tier Six Prospects (The “Royals Top 50 Prospects” Rankings)

The “Top 50 Prospects” rankings are reaching their tail end, as I will be taking a look at the No. 27-34 prospects in the Royals farm system in this post. For those who have missed it, here’s a list of the previous five tiers and their respective posts:

Now, let’s take a look at the middle-tier prospects of the Royals system, and what their outlook could be in 2022 and beyond.

What is a Tier Six Prospect, according to your rankings?

In this Tier, I categorized the prospects as “bench/utility/relief” types. These are prospects who could rise through the system and contribute in minor ways at the Major League level. However, I am not sure if they really can be full-time regulars or regular starting pitchers in the big leagues, though that is not necessarily a bad thing. Every team needs those position players and pitchers who can round out a roster and provide some value, even if it’s not a tremendous amount.

Tier Six Rankings

(Rank; Name; Position; Last Level Played)

27. Collin Snider; RHP; Omaha

28. Nathan Webb; RHP; Quad Cities

29. Daniel Tillo; LHP; Northwest Arkansas

30. Drew Parrish; LHP; Northwest Arkansas

31. Noah Murdock; RHP; Quad Cities

32. Zach Haake; RHP; Quad Cities

33. Clay Dungan; 2B/SS; Northwest Arkansas

34. John Rave; OF; Quad Cities

Can Snider, Webb, or Tillo Provide Anything to the Royals Bullpen in 2022?

Snider and Webb were added to the Royals’ 40-man roster this Fall (in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft) and Tillo has been on the 40-man roster for a couple of seasons now, though he has spent most of it on the 60-Day IL as he recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2020.

I have gone into detail about the upside (and possible pitfalls) of Snider and Webb before in a previous post, but it’s been a while since I have taken a look at Tillo, who was once seen as a “sleeper” arm in the Royals bullpen in 2020 before getting hurt.

Last season, the Royals re-instated Tillo and optioned him to both the Arizona Complex League (where he made a few rehab starts) and then eventually Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he pitched primarily in relief for the first time in his professional career.

With the Naturals, Tillo made 17 appearances (and two spot starts), accumulating 23.1 IP. At the surface level, the metrics aren’t impressive, as he posted a 4.63 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 1.47. However, his 4.21 FIP was slightly better, and he was beset by a slightly high BABIP (.317) and slightly low LOB% (70.2 percent). Additionally, he also did a good job of keeping batted balls on the ground in his return, as he generated a 53.1 percent GB rate and 2.83 GB/FB ratio with the Naturals last season.

Here’s a look at how Tillo looked back in a rehab start in July with the Naturals:

Snider and Webb offer some potential in the Royals bullpen as right-handed flame-throwers. However, Tillo could emerge as a possible left-handed option for the Royals, which could be key as Richard Lovelady is expected to miss all of 2022, and the left-handed options look thin after Jake Brentz (who had his fair share of struggles in the second half) and Gabe Speier, who has had mixed results at the Major League level, despite stellar numbers in Omaha.

Will Parrish, Murdock, and Haake Show Enough Next Season to Be Part of the Next Wave of Royals Starting Pitchers?

These three pitchers have been tough to really project, as some prospect experts have been higher on them than me, and some have been the inverse. It will be a key upcoming year for the three arms, though it is possible that Haake could no longer be with the Royals, should he get selected in the Rule 5 Draft (whenever the heck that is).

Parrish seems to be the safest of the three, as he is coming off a solid campaign last season in Northwest Arkansas. In 18 appearances and 17 starts, the former 8th round pick accumulated 83 innings on the mound and posted a K rate of 28.3 percent, a K/BB ratio of 3.80, and an ERA of 3.36. In addition, he also posted stellar numbers in a brief four-game stint in Quad Cities, as he struck out 23 batters and walked only and allowed 5 hits in 15.1 IP.

The lefty works quickly and limits the walks, both impressive traits for a pitcher who recently turned 24-years-old. Here’s a clip of him from back in September when he was absolutely dominating for the Naturals down the stretch of the Double-A season:

The only concerns with Parrish are that he doesn’t really possess overly impressive pitches (especially the fastball), and he doesn’t generate a whole lot of groundballs either (35.9 percent GB rate in NW Arkansas in 2021). It will be interesting to see how that skill set transitions to a more hitter-friendly environment in Triple-A, where Parrish will most likely start in 2022.

Murdock and Haake have similar profiles, with Murdock having the higher ceiling and Haake probably having the higher floor as pitching prospects. Murdock possesses a pretty solid fastball-curve ball combo (both were rated a 55 by FanGraphs), but his command and control have always been suspect, as evidenced by his 11.5 percent walk rate and his 1.73 K/BB ratio a year ago.

He doesn’t have an overly athletic frame, but being tall, as well as a hard-thrower are pluses in his favor, and it certainly feels possible that his stuff and repertoire would fare better in the bullpen long-term. The Royals could certainly push him in that direction, especially since they will need to make a roster decision on him after next season.

As for Haake, there was some hype regarding him going into the Arizona Fall League this past Fall. Much like Murdock, control and command have been issues for Haake, and that was on full display in Arizona, as he walked 14 batters and struck out 14 batters while posting a 6.61 ERA in 16.1 IP.

He did show flashes of potential with Surprise during Fall League play, but he often failed to put away batters, as evidenced in this Tweet below:

Pitching primarily in Quad Cities in 2021, Haake posted a 3.74 ERA in 45.2 IP, but he also only generated a K/BB ratio of 2.14, and his 5.79 FIP hinted that his sub-four ERA might not be sustainable going forward. If Haake doesn’t get swooped up by a club in the Rule 5 Draft, it is possible that the Royals may begin transitioning Haake to the bullpen at some point in 2022, though he may start in the rotation just to help give the Naturals depth (his expected starting spot in 2022).

Do Dungan and Rave have a future with the Royals (or would they be better utilized somwhere else)?

Dungan and Rave are perfectly serviceable position player prospects who could be utility infielders and outfielders, respectively, at the Major League level as soon as the end of 2022 or the start of 2023.

That being said, while they are talented and have potential, they are pretty blocked in the Royals system, which makes their future with the Royals a bit murky. It is likely that if the Royals explore potential acquisitions in any trades, these two could be throw-ins, as they could be enticing to clubs with needs in the middle infield and corner outfield positions in the upper levels of their system.

Last year, the Royals surprised a lot of folks by adding Dungan to the 60-man player pool at the Alternate Site, even though he was not on a lot of prospect experts’ radars. Even though he has not been added to the 40-man roster just yet, he is coming off a stellar 2021 in Northwest Arkansas, and he could be in the discussion to be an addition, should injury beset a position player on the Royals roster.

In 108 games and 499 plate appearances, Dungan posted a triple-slash of .288/.357/.405 which included a BB/K ratio of 0.55. While he didn’t display much power (nine home runs; .117 ISO), he did steal 28 bases on 39 attempts with the Naturals. Hence, he could be a possible 20-stolen base threat at the Major League level, should he get the opportunity.

Dungan has a very Nicky Lopez-esque profile, as he is very polished, possesses a great batting eye, and does most things well but nothing exceptional. Even though there are many middle infield prospects ranked ahead of him in the Royals system, Dungan has been gaining steam in popularity among Royals fans and prospect experts lately:

As for Rave, he’s a bit of a higher risk than Dungan, as he struck out 28.9 percent of the time in 77 games and 322 plate appearances with Quad Cities last year. However, Rave has 60-grade speed and 20-20 (or 20-30) home run-stolen base potential at the Major League level.

Last season with the River Bandits, Rave hit 14 home runs and stole 13 bases on 13 attempts. While his speed has always been rated highly, his power tool has really developed since 2019, and he wowed fans in Davenport, Iowa with bombs such as this:

Rave has not hit for high average thus far as a potential, as he hit .252 last year in Quad Cities and .253 in 46 games in Low A Lexington back in 2019. But the power and speed potential make him an intriguing prospect, and he could be a “poor man’s” Joey Gallo type, should his power tool continue to develop in 2022, with Northwest Arkansas being his most likely starting spot to begin the season.

Photo Credit: Nick Kappel/Medium

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