Every major league team needs a strong minor league system. The minor league system is used to assist in winning at the major league level. Every successful organization will have several players on their roster who they either drafted or traded for when they were still in the minor leagues. We often think of minor leaguers as the source of players to fill in on the major league club and take over as players leave via free agency and retirement. However, the minor league system is also the currency a team can use to get a veteran player at the trade deadline to make a push for a World Championship.
As a small market team, the Royals need their minor league system even more than the big market clubs like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Royals have a much smaller margin for error since they cannot make up for bad decisions at the minor league level with spending at the major league level.
Some say that a fan’s focus should be at the major league level, and they should not be concerned with the minor leagues, since it is the major leagues that ultimately matter. When the Royals had success in 2014 and 2015 some argued that fans valued minor league players too much and didn’t like any trade that required a minor league prospect to be traded away to add a piece to the major league roster to win a championship.
In reality, if you follow the Royals it helps to follow the minor league system as well to completely understand why they do what they do and have an idea of what they might do next. I’m hoping that our Royals Minor League Report will help you with this.
With the minor league season starting this past week we decided to start our coverage of the Royals’ system now. Today we start by introducing you to our view of a minor league system and a few of the top prospects in the Royals’ system. In addition to the highly rated prospects I will regularly discuss any surprises from other players in the system.
We often focus on the Baseball America or MLB Pipeline top prospect lists. Although not identical they do have most of the same players on their lists. And although others will surprise people with their development once in the system, the players on these lists are usually the ones who have the best chance of making an impact at the major league level. Many of the other players in the system are considered organizational players. They are on the rosters because the best prospects need to have teammates in order to play games. This doesn’t mean the organizational players don’t have a chance. If they play well they will advance and sometimes make it to the major leagues.
Paul Lo Duca
When I worked in minor league baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers one of these organizational players was a guy named Paul Lo Duca. Paul was drafted in the 25th round of the 1993 draft out of Arizona State. The fact that he was drafted in the 25th round tells you that major league teams did not think he was the next Johnny Bench or Stan Musial or someone would have taken him in the fist round.
First let me say that Paul Lo Duca was one of the best guys I met in minor league baseball. In addition to being a hard worker and really good hitter, he was one of the nicest guys you would meet in the minor leagues. He wouldn’t remember me, a red-haired recent college graduate working in the front office, but I certainly remember watching him play.
Paul played catcher and first base. I knew him the year he played in Bakersfield, California in 1994. Although not the biggest guy, he could always hit. He worked hard and hit at every level. Eventually he made it to the major leagues with the Dodgers. He went on to play in 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Floria Marlins and New York Mets.
The Dodgers brought him to the major leagues to help their club. The Dodgers eventually traded him to the Florida Marlins to help add more talent to their organization. The Marlins did the same thing when they traded him to the New York Mets.
So, as you can see, the players in the minor league system who aren’t on the top 10 prospect lists can move on to those lists and can play big roles on a major league team. Paul Lo Duca hit .286 with an OPS of .746 over his 11 year career. Knowing the players in your team’s minor league system lets you think along with the club and understand the value of a Paul Lo Duca.
Royals’ Minor League Rosters
So now that you understand why I am so into the minor league system let’s get back to the Royals. The Royals recently released the rosters of their minor league affiliates:
If you want to follow just one of the Royals’ minor league affiliates this season I would recommend following the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Now, I would recommend that you follow all of them, but if you are set on just one Wilmington is the team. That team is loaded with some of the top prospects in the Royals’ system.
Brady Singer (A – Wlmington)
Brady Singer was the Royals’ top draft pick in the 2018 draft. He’s playing for Wilmington to start the season. I don’t think he will be there all year. He should move to AA at some point if all goes well. His first start of the season came on Saturday, and after he got through a rocky first inning, Singer showed why he was drafted so high. Singer pitched 5.1 innings in his professional debut and allowed just three hits and walked one while striking out four. He allowed two runs over those 5.1 innings.
Jackson Kowar (A – Wilmington)
The Royals’ second pick in the 2018 draft is also in Wilmington this season. Jackson Kowar played with Singer at the University of Florida. As good as Singer was in his first game of the season, Kowar was even better. Kowar pitched Sunday and went 5 innings without allowing a hit. He walked two and struck out six while throwing 63% of his pitches for strikes. His fastball reached 98mph..
Daniel Lynch (A – Wilmington)
Since we are currently going down the list of 2018 draft picks, the third pick for the Royals in the first round was left-handed pitcher Daniel Lynch. Guess where he is playing? Yep, Wilmington and he started their Opening Day game on Thursday. Lynch didn’t have the start of Singer and Kowar. He pitched three innings, allowing four runs on six hits, walking one and striking out six. So while the hits and runs aren’t what you would like to see, the six strikeouts in just three innings show that he can dominate batters. As he learns to pitch at the professional level the future for Lynch is exciting.
MJ Melendez (A – Wilmington)
MJ Melendez is the top catching prospect in the organization. I discussed Melendez and the other top catching prospects in an article I wrote after learning about Salvador Perez’s Tommy John surgery. Melendez went 2-for-10 in his first three games with two doubles and an OPS of .600.
Nicky Lopez (AAA – Omaha)
If you want to follow someone closer to the major leagues there is shortstop Nicky Lopez with AAA Omaha. He’s playing some second base as well. Lopez will likely move full-time to second base when he is promoted to the major league club later this season. There’s currently a guy named Adalberto Mondesi handling shortstop at the major league level. Lopez was drafted out of Creighton. He’s not expected to have a huge ceiling but is thought to have a high floor with an advanced approach at the plate. Many think Lopez will be a solid major league player. He’s off to a slow start going 0-for-11 to start the season but he will hit.
This is just the first edition of the Royals Minor League Report. I wanted to explain where I was coming from and give you a glimpse at just a few of the top prospects and why Wilmington is the most interesting minor league team in the Royals’ system to start the season. The minor league system is just 3-4 games in for most clubs so we don’t have enough data to really make any reasonable judgements at this time. As we proceed through the season we will start to see the development of the five mentioned and more and get a better understanding of where the minor league system stands.
Start studying the minor league system. Sign up for email updates so you know when new features are added to the website. Follow us on Twitter a @KCSportsMonitor. Have a great week! We’ll do this again soon.