Five lesser-known prospects who could shoot through Royals system

Ryan O'Hearn (27, while playing for Sam Houston State) was the Player of the Year in the Pioneer League last season.

BILL FEIG/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Royals fans have heard about the big-name prospects such as Hunter Dozier, Bubba Starling and Kyle Zimmer. But if you really want to impress your friends, drop the names Dziedzic and Escalera-Maldonado on them.

As we near the start of the 2015 season, several under-the-radar prospects merit your attention. You may not have heard much about them yet, but the Royals believe they could shoot through the system quickly.

Glenn Sparkman

Here are five of those prospects:

GLENN SPARKMAN, RHP

A 20th-round pick in the 2013 draft, Sparkman came on strong in 2014 at Class A Wilmington. Sparkman, 22, is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, and displays outstanding command to go with a fastball in the 90 to 94-mph range. In 29 games with Wilmington, including 18 starts, he went 8-2 with a 1.56 ERA with an outstanding 0.983 WHIP. He has enough juice in his fastball and secondary stuff to miss bats — 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. He was named the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.

Jonathan Dziedzic

JONATHAN DZIEDZIC, LHP

The left-hander affectionately known to teammates as "Eye Chart" has a low-90s fastball but is crafty in getting hitters out. Dziedzic, 23, was a 13th-round pick in 2013 and is 6-1, 190 pounds. He posted a 2.52 ERA in 24 starts at Wilmington. "Very good secondary stuff," Royals vice president/assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said.

MARK PETERSON, RHP

Mark Peterson

A pretty good success story, Peterson, 24, was an undrafted signee and has developed into a solid closer. He ripped off 22 saves at Wilmington with a 1.31 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP before earning a promotion to Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Peterson continued that success with a 1.72 ERA in 12 games in the Texas League. "Just had an outstanding year in the Carolina League," Picollo said. "And he followed it up at the next level. Keep an eye on him."

RYAN O’HEARN, 1B

ALFREDO ESCALERA-MALDONADO, CF

Alfredo Escalera-Maldonado

Just 19, Escalera-Maldonado has impressed the Royals with his maturity and willingness to learn. "His numbers at (Class A) Lexington won’t impress you," Picollo said, "but he’s someone we think will help us in the future. There are expectations about him." Escalera-Maldonado hit just .221 with nine homers and 38 RBIs. But scouts say he has excellent power potential, can play all three outfield spots and someday could become a third baseman. He was an eighth-round pick in 2012.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.