The COVID-19 Pandemic caused many things to slow, or even completely shut down, including the thing most Americans rely on for daily entertainment: professional sports.
It took months of negotiation between the MLB and the MLB Players Association to reach an agreement on salaries, scheduling and COVID safety protocols. When the two sides agreed to resume the season, all teams held a “Summer Camp” within their own organizations and established a 60-man player pool for the season.
The 60-man player pools formed after camp unique opportunities for players, fans and coaches alike. Two weeks into the new season, fans from both sides of the state have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the future of their favorite teams.
For the Royals, their farm system is led by 2019 first-round selection Bobby Witt Jr., a shortstop from Colleyville Heritage High School in Colleyville, Texas.
Witt is a believed potential five-tool prospect who has shown flashes of everything you want in a franchise player. Baseball America writes: “Witt checks all the boxes for what is expected of a major league shortstop, with a super-athletic frame reminiscent of longtime Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki.”
However, the true foundation of the Kansas City farm system is the organization’s pitching depth.
Some have called the group of Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, and Kris Bubic “The Core Four,” as the group of pitchers were all acquired with the Royals’ first four picks of the 2018 MLB Draft. Singer was picked 18th overall, Kowar 33rd, Lynch 34th, and Bubic 40th.
Half of the group have already made appearances in the big leagues, despite the Royals only playing ten games thus far. Both had their flaws, but both also showed flashes of what could possibly be. Singer lasted five innings in each of his starts this year, while Bubic allowed three runs in four frames in his debut last Friday.
Along with top pitching prospects, the Royals’ speedy duo of Nick Heath and Khalil Lee, also present at Summer Camp, provided flashes of the Kansas City outfield circa 2014 and 2015. Heath debuted last Thursday, while Lee is available behind starters Bubba Starling, Franchy Cordero and Brett Phillips.
On the east side, the Redbirds’ system is also solid and full of players with All-Star potential.
Dylan Carlson is the top player in St. Louis’ farm, advancing last season to Triple-A Memphis. Last year, He batted .292 with an on-base percentage of .372 and a slugging percentage of .542 to become the ninth Cardinal in franchise history to claim Texas League Player of the Year honors.
Carslon has drawn comparisons to a former divisional rival and 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Baseball America expects the top prospect to debut this season. Cardinals fans should be excited for Carlson not only for the short season, but for many years to come.
“He is now at least an above-average hitter from both sides, he possesses a well-rounded game and few weaknesses. Carlson is a safe bet to be a solid everyday player and has a chance to be more.”
Nolan Gorman, a 19-year-old corner infielder, is a prospect who oozes with power potential at the plate, drawing comparisons to former Royals star Mike Moustakas and Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Corey Seager.
Despite struggles in Low- and High-A ball, Gorman managed to hit .256 with 15 home runs last season. Turning age 20 in May, Gorman has plenty of time to work out kinks at the plate, and has the opportunity to do so after joining the 60-man roster in July.
The Cardinals’ prized pitching prospect is newly-acquired Matthew Liberatore. Liberatore dazzled in Low-A last season as a 19 year old, posting a 6-2 record, 8.73 strikeouts per 9 innings and giving up just two home runs.
Liberatore is known for his strikeout pitch, an 82-84 mph slider. His fastball typically sits 93-95 but has gotten up to 97 mph. He projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but has potential to be an ace for the Cardinals down the line.
This season will be full of ups and downs, even with the possibility of it not finishing. The Cardinals and Miami Marlins are among teams to manage COVID-19 breakouts in their clubhouses. But prospects growing into their Major League clubs has provided a hopeful notion that normal is not as far away as it seems.