Major League Baseball's offseason is underway, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.

Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next couple of months examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2024 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why. 

These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future. You can check out our winter top 25 list by clicking here.

With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Kansas City Royals.

1. Blake Mitchell, C (19 years old)

  • The short version: The No. 8 pick has good tools but faces an uphill climb.
  • MLB ETA: Summer 2027

It's been more than two decades since a prep catcher chosen in the first round went on to have a good career behind the plate. (The last one was Joe Mauer, for reference.) That hasn't stopped teams from trying. Mitchell, selected eighth overall last July, sounds good on paper. He has above-average power potential from the left side and he has a very strong arm (he was a legitimate two-way prospect) that ought to bolster his defensive value. If Mitchell comes close to his upside, he'll be a good player. Alas, the extreme attrition risks associated with his type make it hard to view that as a probable outcome. 

2. Nick Loftin, UTL (25 years old)

  • The short version: Nifty, big-league ready utility player.
  • MLB ETA: Debuted in 2023

Loftin received burn at first, second, and third base as part of a 19-game introduction to the big leagues to close out last season. That versatility should come in handy. He's a contact-orientated hitter with solid ball-strike recognition who connected on 88% of his swings on in-zone pitches. (The MLB average was 83%.) He's also shown some surprising pop dating back to his days at Baylor, and last year he homered 14 times in 82 Triple-A games. Between the breadth and usability of Loftin's skill set, he might prove to be a better player than he was a prospect. At minimum, he should be able to crack Kansas City's Opening Day roster.

3. Ben Kudrna, RHP (20 years old)

  • The short version: Polished youngster with more floor than ceiling.
  • MLB ETA: Summer 2025

Kudrna won't celebrate his 21st birthday until late January, but he already looks the part of a No. 4 starter. We mean that in two respects. Foremost, he's physically developed, to the point where he lacks further projection. Secondly, his arsenal is full of pitches that ought to grade as average or better by the time he reaches the majors. Kudrna isn't going to turn into the Royals' ace of the future, but barring injury he should be a rotation mainstay all the same.