As of Sunday afternoon, the Royals are a little bit less of a wayward pontoon boat. Two of their hottest prospects are headed to Omaha.
I have been (deservedly) hard on the Royals this year. I have been known to, on occasion, howl at the moon. The one-time best team in baseball this season, now, they’re likely going to be picking in the top five of the MLB draft…again, while the primes of Whit Merrifield, Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez continue to go unrewarded.
But there is hope to be found, if you’re willing to look for it. The Royals farm system has started to swell this year, which in the not so distant past has signaled that winning days are not far off.
The Royals were about as low as you could get in the early 2010s, but that all changed once you saw the fruits of their diligence in player and cultural development began to show with the promotions of Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy in 2011. Less than two years later, the Royals found themselves in a pennant chase late in the season for the first time in forever. Three years later, they won the American League. Four years later, ohhhhhh yeah.
I don’t know if Pratto and Witt are going to be legitimate big leaguers. I would bet they will be. What I do know is that they are two of the best prospects to matriculate their way through the Royals farm system this quickly in a long time. The murmurs are that the Royals have shifted their organizational philosophy on offense in the minors the last few years and these two are the first look at early returns.
There are others not too far behind them and I am starting to hope that the tide has shifted and we will see supplemental guys come out of nowhere instead of having to pin your hopes and dreams solely on the top flight guys like Pratto, Witt, Asa Lacy, Daniel Lynch, Erick Pena and M.J. Melendez. For every Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there need to be off-the-radar guys like Allen Craig and Mark Trumbo.
You may have to squint a bit further down the road to see the fruits of the Royals’ altered developmental process, but there is reason to be optimistic about the future.
High-A Quad Cities is 43-20 right now. They have eight players who currently have an OPS higher than .800. Eight. Two of them are over .900. You won’t find any of these guys currently on anyone’s top prospects list.
For reference, the AL’s #1 offense (Houston) has six players with an OPS higher than .800 as of Monday.
These are the triple slashes of QC’s four best OPS:
3B Jake Means (25): .272/.380/.576
1B Vinnie Pasquantino (25): .291/.384/.565 (Ay, whoa pal. I’m walkin’ here.)
OF Tucker Bradley (23): .308/.406/.483
2B Michael Massey (23): .289/.347/.538
Those types of wide, 100+ point splits between average, OBP and SLG are something we haven’t seen in the Royals system…ever? Factor in that the Royals are the only organization in baseball to lower their offensive strikeout rate in 2021 and the raw data suggests that there is real, effective change in power and swing discipline within the Royals system.
Unfortunately, patience is a luxury of the wealthy and Royals fans are being charged overdraft fees right now. I get it.
You may have to squint, but progress is being made. Maybe not at the rate we’d like it to, but it’d be ignorant to say all is lost.
The swell is coming.