Previewing the 2017 Lexington Legends

Meibrys Viloria, courtesy of http://www.eluniversal.com.co/sites/default/files/201201/imagen/meibry_viloria2.jpg

Hey guys, welcome to another round of the SAL team preview series.  Just a few more to go as we inch closer to opening day.  I hope you’ve gotten as much out of these as I have.  Today I’ll be talking about the Lexington Legends as I continue alphabetically around the league. The Legends are the single-A full season affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Previously I’ve covered the:

Asheville Tourists (Rockies)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/01/previewing-the-2017-asheville-tourists/

Augusta Greenjackets (Giants)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/13/previewing-the-2017-augusta-greenjackets/

Charleston Riverdogs (Yankees)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2016/12/31/previewing-the-2017-charleston-riverdogs/

Columbia Fireflies (Mets)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/03/previewing-the-2017-columbia-fireflies/

Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/09/previewing-the-2017-delmarva-shorebirds/

Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/23/previewing-the-2017-greensboro-grasshoppers/

Greenville Drive (Red Sox)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/01/31/previewing-the-2017-greenville-drive/

Hagerstown Suns (Nationals)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/07/previewing-the-2017-hagerstown-suns/

Hickory Crawdads (Rangers)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/13/previewing-the-2017-hickory-crawdads/

Kannapolis Intimidators (White Sox)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/02/27/previewing-the-2017-kannapolis-intimidators/

Lakewood Blueclaws (Phillies)- http://notesfromthesally.com/2017/03/04/previewing-the-2017-lakewood-blueclaws/

For those not familiar with the SAL team preview series, I scour the lower levels of each organization and speculate on who might be coming to the Sally in 2017 and whenever possible I try to include  scouting report.  It’s a lengthy process but I enjoy it and I learn a ton.

For the purpose of this piece I studied the 2016 Lexington Legends, Idaho Falls Chukars, Burlington Royals and AZL Royals.

At Notes From the Sally its all about live look scouting.  I set a goal this year to see every team in the SAL twice in the 1st half (April 6th-June 18th).  Once I see the Lex Legends you can expect write ups on many of the players listed below.  They’re on the preliminary schedule for April 10th in Greenville and May 29th and 30th in Asheville.

I’ve got a fund drive going right now, I’m trying to raise $250 to counter the costs associated with live scouting a league this size (road trips, hotel stays that sort of thing)  Please consider contributing if you can, I’ve attached links to my Patreon and to Pay Pal.  Thank you.

 

Lets meet the notables:

 

Seuly Matias, courtesy of http://m.mlb.com/assets/images/7/6/6/134058766/cuts/Seuly_Matias_1280_4yxnl0ds_a9e8o8d0.jpg

CF, RF) Seuly Matias– Age 18, listed 6’3″ 200 lbs, bats and throws right.  Matias was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.

Nobody knows the Royals system better than Clinton Scoles, he’s an excellent resource that helped me with last years Legends preview.  He released a four piece series with BP Kansas City back in December that really covered the Royals system and it’s a great read.  Here’s his thoughts on the young slugger Matias:

“The Royals big dollar 2015 Latin signee has two talents that can’t be taught in his power bat and cannon for an arm. Currently, Matias has the speed to play centerfield in the minors but at 17 and already 6’3″, 211 lbs. it would be easy to see him outgrowing the position and moving over to right field where he can show off the best arm in the organization. The power in this youngster certainly seems real after finishing in a three-way tie for the Arizona summer league lead with eight home runs. He was the youngest of the group to tie for that title and the highest mark by a Royals player in that league since Miguel Vega hit 10 in 2005. As with most teenagers, with that power came with plenty of strikeouts, falling victim to the whiff in 37% of his plate appearances while leading the league in total strikeouts (73) by a comfortable margin. Despite that whiff rate, Matias showed growth during the season. He bettered his OPS numbers month to month until ending August with a .921 OPS and a 25% K-rate. At young ages hitters tend take a yank and crank approach, but Matias showed an ability to drive the ball the opposite way, hitting three of his home runs during the year the other way with that unteachable raw strength. Despite all those strikeouts, Matias showed he’s not adverse to taking a walk (11%) and figuring out a plan as the majority of those 22 walks came in August after he flashed much of his home run power the month prior and pitchers started to work around him. It’s a good sign that his bat speed may not be wasted in the future.

The Royals haven’t added a player with this type of raw power since back to back drafts of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Do they assign him to Lexington at 18 or give him an Idaho Falls assignment?”

For much more Royals prospect coverage click here:   http://kansascity.locals.baseballprospectus.com/2016/12/27/prospecting-the-royals-process-reboot/

 

 

Meibrys Viloria, courtesy of http://pbs.twimg.com/media/CnC5mDRXYAUrBzY.jpg

C) Meibrys Viloria, Age 20, listed 5’11” 175 lbs, bats left and throws right.  Viloria was signed out of Columbia in 2013.

John Sickles of Minor League Ball recently counted down his top 20 Royals Prospects and had this to say of Viloria:

“Age 19, hit .376/.436/.606 with 28 doubles, 20 walks, 36 strikeouts in 226 at-bats in Pioneer League; signed out of Colombia in 2013; left-handed batter with good pure hitting skills; contact approach with power to the gaps from 5-11, 175 pound frame; lacks running speed but has good defensive tools, though needs polish to cut down on mistakes; sleeper prospect to watch as he transitions to full-season ball in 2017. ETA: 2021.”

For the rest of the Royals top 20 prospects click here:  http://www.minorleagueball.com/2016/11/21/13708310/kansas-city-royals-top-20-prospects-for-2017

 

 

Khalil Lee, courtesy of https://09d1d85a2275582e9dad-7b3e649a230e2ba2cff912d8af17e0b5.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/630475.jpg

CF, RF, LF) Khalil Lee- Age 18, listed 5’10” 170 lbs, bats and throws left.  Lee was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of high school in Oakton, VA (Washington, DC area).

MLB Pipeline released there top 30 Royals prospects recently and had this to say of Lee:

“Lee drew interest from clubs as both an outfielder and a left-handed pitcher in the 2016 Draft. Though he had a low-90s fastball and a promising slider, the Royals liked his bat and made him a full-time position player after signing him for an above-slot $750,000 as a third-round pick. Gatorade’s 2016 Virginia high school player of the year, he topped the Rookie-level Arizona League in runs (43), triples (six) and total bases (88) while ranking second in on-base percentage (.396) and fifth in slugging (.484).”

“Kansas City considered Lee the best athlete available with the 103rd overall choice, and he has average or better tools across the board. Though he’s not physically imposing, he has some juice in his quick left-handed stroke. He has good feel to hit and a mature approach, plus he already has shown the ability to make adjustments at the plate.”

“An average runner out of the batter’s box, Lee shows more speed once he gets going. He played all three outfield spots in his pro debut, getting most of his time in center field, though he may be better suited for a corner in the long run. His obvious arm strength would play well in right field.”

For the rest of the Royals top 30 click here:  http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017/?list=kc

 

 

Garrett Davila, courtesy of http://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cl1obivWMAAUq-N.jpg

LHP) Garrett Davila– Age 20, listed 6’2″ 180, bats and throws left.  Davilla was drafted in the 4th round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Belmont, NC (Charlotte metro).

Eric Longenhagen of “Fangraphs” recently listed his top 20 Royals Prospects and had this to say about Davila:

“Davila was an interesting amateur prospect. His measurables favored projection but his frame was slight and not everyone thinks he’ll fill out. He was carving up North Carolina high-school hitters with a blunt arching curveball that didn’t project to miss bats in pro ball but was a good athlete with a workable delivery and good feel for pitching. Davila was touching 93 by his senior spring and the added velocity began to answer some of the questions scouts had about the velocity projection.”

“Rather than tweaking his breaking ball in the pros, Davila has focused on changeup usage and early returns are promising. If the body has more to give, he could have an above-average fastball/changeup combo with above-average command and a serviceable change of pace breaking ball. That’s a back-end profile.”

For the rest of the Royals top 20 click here:  http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/top-20-prospects-kansas-city-royals/

 

 

Nolan Watson, courtesy of http://www.milb.com/assets/images/3/8/0/179152380/cuts/NolanWatson_LEX_ypwr9qfk_yrdnscuu.jpg

RHP) Nolan Watson- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 195 lbs, bats and throws right.  Watson was drafted 33rd overall in the 2015 draft out of high school in Indianapolis, IN.

Dave Defreitas and Nick J Faleris of “2080 ball” do a terrific job on organizational reports.  And the two team up for one of my favorite prospect podcasts.  They recently released a lengthy Royals Org report and had this to say of Watson:

“Quick Hit: The 33rd overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, Watson has a disappointing full season debut from a production standpoint, averaging just 5.6 SO/9 over 96 1/3 innings of work for Class A Lexington while allowing over a hit per inning and averages of 1.8 HR/9 and 4.1 BB/9. The stuff still shows potential, with the fastball working in the low 90s and reaching the middle 90s with some arm-side action and sink. His slider is a potential above-average to plus offering, but it lacks consistent action, and the former Hoosier state prep product can struggle mightily to place to pitch with purpose. His curveball and changeup are potential average offerings, but the lack impact at present, leaving him with little in the way of a present putaway weapon.”

“Watson will play all of 2017 at the age of 20, so it’s far too early to hit the panic button. Still, one year into his development the profile appears to be more that of a capable back-end of the rotation arm than the mid-rotation standout that the Royals envisioned back in June 2015. He should get another crack at the Sally League this spring, with an eye towards High A ball later in the year if all goes well.”

For much more on the Royals click here:  https://2080baseball.com/2017/03/2017-orgrev-kcr/

 

 

Nicky Lopez, courtesy of http://m.mlb.com/assets/images/5/2/6/183279526/cuts/lopez_v15gqk5j_rk60iv5q.jpg

SS) Nicky Lopez– Age 22, listed 5’11” 175 lbs, bats left and throws right.  Lopez was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 draft out of Creighton Univ.

 

“The Baseball Draft Report” has been one of my go to sites for draft coverage the last couple of years.  Rob Ozga does an excellent job keeping the readers informed. He did a draft review of the Royals and had this to say of Nicky Lopez:

“On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…

Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.

 

From January 2017….

From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.”

For much more Royals draft coverage click here:  https://baseballdraftreport.com/2017/01/09/2016-mlb-draft-reviews-kansas-city-royals/

 

 

RHP) Ashe Russell- Age 20, listed 6’4″ 201 lbs, bats and throws right.  Russell was drafted 21st overall in the 2015 draft out of high school in Indianapolis, IN.

One of my favorite prospectors Rich Wilson of “Prospect 361”, recently counted down his top 10 Royals prospects and gives a good indication of what the Royals thought they were getting when the drafted Russell.

“Russell has a quick arm with a lot of moving parts to his delivery.  The herky-jerky movement does provide deception but it also could prove difficult for him to repeat his delivery.  The delivery is also at a lower three-quarters arm angle, which neutralizes his height and brings the ball towards the hitter at a flatter angle.”

“When healthy and pitching well, the arsenal is solid with a fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH and can touch higher.  Since there is some projection, Russell could see his velocity increase a grade.  He also throws a slider that has a nice tight spin and is working on a change-up.”

 

Russell hasn’t found immediate success as a pro, there have been reports of loss of velocity and the Royals pulled him from the complex league after only (2) one inning starts in 2016.  There was no explanation given and he didn’t surface in instructs.  While the reports certainly aren’t promising, if he shows up this Summer with his stuff intact he could soar up prospect lists.

With three levels of rookie ball available, it seems unlikely he makes it to Lexington this Summer.  We’ll see.

 

SS) Jeison Guzman- Age 18, listed 6’2″ 180 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Guzman was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.  Guzman would be listed much higher here if I thought he was coming to the Sally. I suspect he’s headed for Great Falls or Burlington.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a quick write up of Guzman and a link for a more detailed piece for subscribers:  http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/royals-agree-sign-11-international-prospect-jeison-guzman/#WeKvwZejK44Ug7PH.97

 

 

Around the diamond

Catcher

C) Meibrys Viloria

 

Other options at Catcher: M.J. Sanchez, Nick Dini, Nathan Esposito, Michael Arroyo,

 

Middle Infield

2B) Gabriel Cancel- Age 20, listed 6’1″ 185 lbs, bats and throws right. Cancel was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 draft out of high school in Puerto Rico.

 

SS) Nicky Lopez

 

SS) Ricky Aracena- Age 19, listed 5’8″ 160 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Aracena was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

 

Some chance that either Lopez or Aracena make the jump to Lexington but not both.  If they both come I expect that Lopez will start at SS and Aracena will see time at both or maybe get full time duties at 2B with Cancel seeing time at both.

 

 Other Middle Infield options:  Jordan Ebert (2B), David Edwards (2B, 3B), Jonathan McCray (2B, LF)

 

Corner Infield

1B) Chris DeVito- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 220 lbs, bats left and throws right.  DeVito was drafted in the 8th round of the 2016 draft out of the Univ of New Mexico.

 

1B) Joe Dudek- Age 22, listed 6’2″ 230 lbs, bats and throws left.  Dudek signed as a Minor League Free Agent out of the Univ of NC (Chapel Hill).

 

3B) Manny Olloque- Age 20, listed 6’2″ 165 lbs, bats and throws right.  Olloque was drafted in the 16th round of the 2014 draft out of high school in Torrance, CA (Los Angeles metro).

Not much out there right now on Olloque I’ll post my thoughts when I see him.

 

Other Corner Infield options:  Travis Maezes (3B, 2B) could be back. Jecksson Flores (3B, SS, 2B), Ryan Dale (3B), Angelo Castellano (3B, SS), Colton Frabasilio, Brandon Dulin (1B), Tyler Straub (1B, 2B, 3B) Logan Gray (DH)

 

Outfield

CF, RF) Seuly Matias-

 

CF, RF, LF) Khalil Lee-

 

CF) Marten Gasparini- Age 19, listed 6′ 195 lbs, bats both and throws right.  Gasparini was a high profile signee out of Italy in 2013.

More from MLB Pipeline:

“Given his background and youth, the Royals knew Gasparini would need a lot of time to develop, and they are willing to give it to him because of the potential payoff. A switch-hitter with good bat speed from both sides, he shows better-than-average raw power during batting practice, but he’s still extremely raw at the plate in terms of his approach, plate discipline and pitch recognition.”

“Gasparini’s most usable tool at this point is his plus speed, though he’s still figuring out how to steal bases. His quickness and arm strength are suited for shortstop, but he lacks soft hands and committed 98 errors in 181 games there in his first three pro seasons. Kansas City transitioned Gasparini to center field during instructional league and plans on using him there in 2017, a move that might help his bat by lessening his defensive responsibilities.”

Click here for the rest of the Royals top 30:  http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2017/?list=kc

 

RF) Yeison Melo- Age 21, listed 6’1″ 180 lbs, bats and throws right.  Melo was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014.

 

RF-LF) Kort Peterson- Age 22, listed 6’1″ 195 lbs, bats left and throws right.  Peterson was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2016 draft out of the Univ of California (Los Angeles).

 

The outfield looks crowded especially if Matias makes the jump. We could see Matias in Center, with Lee starting in right, and Peterson in left.  With this scenario Gasparini probably gets held back in extended and sent to short season but it’s possible Matias and Gasparini flip. Nick Heath and Yeison Melo may get some looks as well.

 

Other option in the OF:  Amalani Fukofuka (CF, RF) could be back he’s got tools but is very raw.  Tanner Stanley (RF, LF) could be back also.  Ben Johnson (RF, LF, CF), Rudy Martin (CF, LF), Jose Sanchez (CF, LF, RF), Nick Heath (CF, RF, LF), Luke Willis (LF), Vance Vizcaino (CF, LF)

 

Starting Pitching

LHP) Garrett Davila

 

RHP) Nolan Watson-

 

RHP) Gerson Garabito- Age 21, listed 6′ 160 lbs, bats and throws right.  Garabito was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012.

He spent the entire 2016 season with Lexington and could be a candidate to repeat.  I missed him last year but Robert Emrich of milb.com wrote about him after a solid start he had in August:  http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20160822&content_id=197144388&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb

 

LHP) Cristian Castillo- Age 22, listed 6′ 190 lbs, bats and throws left.  Castillo was signed out of Mexico in 2014.

Michael Avallone of milb.com wrote up Castillo after he threw a complete game shutout for Burlington.  It’s a good read:  http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20160729&content_id=192508826&fext=.jsp&vkey=news_milb

 

LHP) Andre Davis- Age 23, listed 6’6″ 230 lbs, bats and throws left.  Davis was drafted in the 8th round of the 2015 draft out of the Univ of Arkansas (Pine Bluff).

Davis is an interesting story in that he was drafted as a 1st baseman and immediately jumped on the mound.  More about that here:  http://www.havenews.com/sports/20160624/davis-transitions-into-starting-role-for-royals

I’m intrigued, 6’6″ lefties don’t grow on trees.  Already 23, I wonder if he’ll be given the 3+ years to fully build up the innings and to hone his craft as a starter (assuming he has a starters repertoire) or if they put him in the pen at some point.

Jace Vines, Age 22, listed 6’3″ 215 lbs, bats and throws right.  Vines was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 draft out of Texas A&M Univ.

 

Lexington will have a deep staff with Davila, Watson, Garabito, Castillo, Davis and 4th round pick Jace Vines all in the mix.

Other SP options:  Arnaldo Hernandez (On restricted list don’t know the details), Igol Feliz, Andres Machado, Matt Portland,

 

Conclusion:  I enjoyed my deep dive into the Royals system there’s more here than I imagined there would be.  Lexington will be among the deeper units in the Sally this season.

Up next is a look at the Rome Braves

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