Royals Prospect Primer: Singer in spotlight

Kansas City's top pick in 2018 headlines promising but thin group

The Royals took Brady Singer with the 18th overall pick in the 2018 Draft after he compiled a 2.32 ERA in college. (Bill Mitchell)

By Jordan Wolf / MiLB.com | March 22, 2019 10:00 AM

Some players are on the verge of stardom, others are entering a crucial phase of their development and still others are getting their first tastes of full-season ball. With the 2019 season approaching, MiLB.com takes a look at the most intriguing prospects from each MLB organization.

Full-season debutant: Brady Singer, RHP

When the Royals made Singer their top selection in last year's Draft, one thing quickly became clear: this should not have happened.

Singer, projected to go as high as No. 4 overall by MLB.com a day before the Draft, should not have been available at No. 18. The Royals, operating a farm system almost completely barren of top-shelf talent, should not have had such an immediate remedy drop into their laps.

Once it had happened, however, and once Singer had made his way to Kansas City and signed the dotted line in front of family and a slew of reporters, another thing became undeniably evident: they weren't going to question it.

"I fell in the hands of an amazing organization and obviously amazing people," Singer said that day. "I was extremely satisfied and extremely happy that it happened."

Flash forward eight months and Singer is set to begin his first season as a professional. He was shut down for the remainder of 2018 after a hefty workload as Florida reached the College World Series, so he's yet to even throw an official pitch for the Royals, despite being almost unanimously considered their top prospect.

But what MLB.com's No. 54 overall prospect lacks in experience, he brings in competitiveness and repertoire. His fiery spirit has been well-documented as has his strong command of an exceptional fastball and slider. So while he's yet to truly prove himself on the mound, there are plenty of reasons for the Royals to be excited about Singer in 2019 and beyond.

"He's a very intense competitor," vice president and assistant general manager of player personnel J.J. Picollo said. "He's very well-prepared. The brief innings we did see him pitch in the instructional league were impressive. His bullpens, his side sessions, his work daily in Spring Training has really stood out. He's just a very, very mature and focused guy. So I think just from that standpoint, the learning curve is going to be less for him."

Shining star: Khalil Lee

Lee enters the season as MLB.com's second-ranked Royals prospect, and for good reason. The former third-round pick has moved up the ranks quickly, finishing last season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas after compiling .270/.402/.406 slash line with 14 stolen bases at Class A Advanced Wilmington.

Despite only going yard six times last year, Lee brings a strong amount of pop as evidenced by his 17-homer campaign in 2017. He also possesses solid plate discipline and saw his strikeout numbers decline sharply last year, a promising sign moving forward.

While Lee projects as a strong hitter, he shines defensively as part of a well-rounded profile. He can play anywhere in the outfield, but his powerful throwing arm hints at a future in right or left. He also has plus speed, a trait that will be immensely valuable once he makes it to the spacious outfield of Kauffman Stadium.

"Really, really dynamic player," Picollo said. "He can run, he can throw, he can hit, he can hit for power, he can defend. There's nothing he can't do on a field. Every night he comes to the ballpark, he's gonna do one of those things and do them really well."

Video: Lee crushes first TL dinger for Naturals

Loudest tool: Seuly Matias

If you just look at the numbers, Matias easily took the biggest jump of any Royals prospect between the 2017-18 seasons, leaping from seven homers to 31 -- the sixth-highest mark in the Minor Leagues. That explosion netted him Class A Lexington Co-Player of the Year honors while alerting observers everywhere of the club's sixth-ranked prospect's tremendous power potential.

If you ask the Royals, though, that was no surprise.

"When Seuly signed at 16, he literally would stand on home plate and, on a batting tee, hit balls out to right field," Picollo said. "Just incredible man strength at a young age. We've always known he's had that type of power."

Video: Lexington's Matias knocks solo homer

That exceptional talent comes with a caveat, however. As Picollo explained, there are plenty of players who have the ability to go deep in batting practice but not in games -- he calls them "5 o'clock hitters." For Matias to thrive at the next level and be able to hit any time of the day, he must learn to harness that power in ways other than simply driving the ball over the fence.

"What we want Seuly to do is be a run-producer," Picollo said. "So when guys are on base, that's the time you've got to give a little -- 'I'm just gonna put this ball in play because I've got to pick up my RBI.' And if you do that, now you're gonna have home runs, now you're gonna have RBIs."

Back and healthy: Michael Gigliotti

After an ACL injury ended his 2018 season after only six games, Gigliotti looks to bounce back and re-establish the momentum he gained after hitting .320 with 22 steals as a rookie in 2017.

When healthy, Gigliotti is a strong contact hitter and an exceptional runner, both on the bases and in center field. It remains to be seen what effects the injury will have, however, as any reduction in speed likely would correlate to a step back in production. Therefore, while they certainly still see areas in which Gigliotti can improve, the Royals are focused simply on getting him back into a rhythm -- the rest should come naturally.

"Just want to get him going, have a good foundation ... just gain that type of confidence," Picollo said. "And then once he does, there's nothing that's gonna really stand in his way as far as moving through the system."

Major League-ready: Josh Staumont

Staumont had the chance to break camp with the big league club, as multiple bullpen spots were up for grabs this spring. But an 8.53 ERA over 6 1/3 innings didn't help his case, nor did the overall struggles with command that led to those numbers.

Offseason MiLB include

Nevertheless, there's still reason to believe the club's No. 21 prospect could make an impact in Kansas City this season. Staumont is a straight-up flamethrower, as his 70-grade fastball can easily touch triple-digits. He also has an above-average curveball and a decent changeup. When he's in a groove, he can get batters out with ease and looks the part of an effective back of the bullpen piece in the making.

When he's not, though, problems surface. Staumont has maybe the most pure talent of any pitcher in the system but also possibly the toughest time keeping it under control. So while he may be on the Major League level in terms of skill, he's got work to do in the Minors before a potential callup.

"With Josh, it's never gonna be about his stuff," Picollo said. "It's always going to be about his command. ... He can overmatch guys with his fastball and he's got really a knee-buckling breaking ball. He's got really good stuff. But the command is what's got to be consistent."

More to keep an eye on: After a strong first full professional season, there's little doubt that MJ Melendez is the heir apparent to Salvador Perez behind the plate in Kansas City. Melendez possesses good power, finishing 2018 with 19 homers and 73 RBIs, but needs to tighten up his approach to become a more well-rounded hitter. He's also good defensively, throwing out more than 40 percent of would-be basestealers and showing overall strong poise as a backstop … Kyle Isbel flew a bit under the radar in the 2018 Draft, overshadowed by Singer and the other high-profile pitchers taken by Kansas City on day one. But he wasted no time finding the spotlight, jumping from Rookie ball to full-season Lexington after hitting .381/.454/.610 in 25 games. He fits the bill of a strong leadoff hitter -- good at getting on base and speedy enough to advance quickly -- seemingly putting him on an eventual collision course for the top of the Royals' lineup … Jake Kalish shot through the system in 2017, rising from Class A Advanced Wilmington to Triple-A Omaha. He began 2018 in the bullpen, where he struggled, but thrived after moving into a regular spot in the rotation. He spent some time in big league camp this spring, and while he'll like start the season once again in Omaha, don't be surprised if Kalish is contributing in Kansas City at some point in 2019.

Predictions:

Most home runs in the system: Matias
Most stolen bases: D.J. Burt
Most strikeouts: Jackson Kowar
Current prospect to get most Major League playing time: Richard Lovelady
Non-Top 100 prospect to end 2019 in the Top 100: Matias

Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @byjordanwolf. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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