2008 Royals Draft Review
The Royals had yet another top 3 pick in 2008. The choice for top prospect in the draft was not quite so clear as it had been in 2007. Pedro Alvarez was put forth by many as the top prospect but he had some contact issues in college that I was concerned about. While there may not have been an elite top prospect, the 2008 class was extremely deep in talent-a very good year to have an extra pick (Which we did: Thanks David Riske!).
1st Round (3rd Overall)
There were several options for us at #3. Catcher Buster Posey and SS Gordon Beckham were college guy who had phenomenal years. Brian Matusz was a very polished college lefty with good stuff. But the guy I was watching (as were many other Royals fans) was Justin Smoak-switch hitting 1B from U. of South Carolina. He was highly regarded coming out of HS but wanted to go to college. He had a great career there culminating with a junior season line of 383/505/757. He had more than twice as many walks as strikeouts and was also known to be a good defensive 1B. For reasons I still don' t understand, Smoak slid all the way to 12th where Texas wisely took him and he's hitting 324/443/500 at AA and could be their starting 1B this time next year.
We did take a HS 1B-Eric Hosmer. Hosmer was a big left-handed masher. He had a great arm-which led to some speculation that he could be a right-fielder. Dave Rawnsley-former Baseball America writer and currently with PG Crosschecker-wrote an article where he thought that Hosmer was one of the best HS hitters in the past 20 years. The Royals apparently agreed, took him 3rd overall and signed him for a team record $6 million bonus at some point near the August 15th deadline. The exact timing of his signing came into question as he got caught up in the Pedro Alvarez saga-over the commissioner granting an extension to Pittsburgh and possibly to us to get the deal signed. Hosmer got 20 at bats in Idaho Falls before the Royals pulled him due to the legal limbo his contract was in. Everything eventually got settled and he started this season at Burlington where started slowly. He has hit better as the season has warmed up. He's been getting on base with a .362 OBP but is slugging only .341. I'm not too concerned, I think Hosmer will be an excellent hitter. Anytime you take a 1B in the top few picks, you have to expect that they are going to hit at an elite level. While I was disappointed we didn't take Smoak, I'm still a big Hosmer fan. I think he will end up being the best pure bat we've had in a long, long time.
Here's how I would rank Hosmer against the 9 guys taken after him:
- Justin Smoak-Rangers #12 overall
- Buster Posey-Giants #5
- Brian Matusz-Orioles #4
- Eric Hosmer-Royals #3
- Gordon Beckham-White Sox #8
- Aaron Crow-Nats #9 (Did not sign)
- Yonder Alonso-Red #7
- Jason Castro-Houston #10
- Jemile Weeks-A's #13
- Kyle Skipworth-Marlins #6
These are tough rankings-I could see any of those top 5 being arranged in almost any configuration in a couple of years.
1st Round Supplemental
With their supplemental 1st round pick the Royals took HS lefty Mike Montgomery. Montgomery shot up draft charts as the draft approached. He is a talented competitor--he was kicked off his basketball team for too many technical fouls. Focusing solely on baseball, he started showing his pitching ability. He throws a good fastball with sinking motion and a good changeup. He had a great debut in Arizona posting a 1.69 ERA in 43ip with 34Ks and 12 walks. Baseball America had him as the #1 prospect in the Arizona League. The Royals have been working with him to find a good grip for an breaking ball. He was in extended ST and has now started 2 games for Burlington-one good start and one bad one. He could still add velocity as he fills out and is one of our best pitching prospects.
Other players taken in the Supplemntal Round: Brett DeVall, Connor Gillespie
In some ways, Johnny Giavotella is the type of player you would expect the Dayton Moore/ Trey Hillman Royals to take: known for his leadership and getting the most out of his talent. At the same time, he doesn't fit the Royals draft pick profile-a college player who walk more than he strikes out and plays passable defense. Giavotella stands only 5 foot 8 inches but he gets on base and has decent pop. He went to Burlington after getting drafted and hit 299/355/421. So far this year at Wilmington he hitting 211/337/345. Those numbers don't tell the story as he's been very unlucky. He has increased his walk rate and added a little power from Burlington to Wilmington. I could see him being a player whose game/stats resembles Alberto Callaspo with more strikeouts and more power and a little more speed.
Other players taken in Round 2: Robbie Ross, James Darnell, Tyler Chatwood
The Royals returned to picking HS pitchers in the 3rd round. Tyler Sample was a 6 foot 7 inch, 245 lb. right-hander from Colorado. He already has had Tommy John surgery as a sophomore in HS. He was rising up draft boards last spring showing a mid-90s fastball and a knuckle-curve with a developing changeup. I can't remember where I read this-so it could be total BS but I heard that the Royals were planning to take Tim Melville in Round 3 but were surprised to see Sample available, took him and hoped that Melville would be there in Round 4. Sample went to Arizona and was, well, not very good. His stuff was there but he couldn't control it. The result was 27ip, 9.00ERA, 39Ks and 29BB. On the bright side--he didn't give up a homerun and his GB % was 57%. Sample will probably be in Idaho Falls or even the Arizona League as the Royals try to harness his stuff and refine his delivery.
Other players taken in Round 3: Ross Seaton, David Adams, Kyle Russell
Tim Melville went into last season as the #1 ranked Prep baseball player by Baseball America. He had a somewhat disappointing Senior season. He got hit in the face by a hockey puck and missed some time and his grandmother passed away. He was also a North Carolina baseball recruit (Tarheel recruits are notoriously tough signs). He slid a bit on draft boards and was generally considered a first rounder but not a top 5 pick. The story was that leading up to the draft, the Melville family sent a letter to all the clubs saying Melville was planning to go to college unless he got a huge deal, so don't bother drafting him. At some point, Derik Ladnier developed a relationship with the family and Melville decided that there was one club he would sign with: the Kansas City Royals. The Royals drafted him in the 4th round and had a deal in place which they didn't announced until August 15th to soften the ire of the commissioner. He signed for $1.25 million-way above slot but not a bankbuster deal. Melville had a low-mid 90s fastball, a good curveball and so-so changeup. The Royals were reportedly impressed with him in instructional league in the Fall. Like Montgomery, he has had a good start at Burlington followed by a not so good one.
Other players taken in Round 4: Brandon Crawford, Pete Hissey
I'll say this for the Royals: they aren't afraid to roll the dice on a recovering injured pitcher: Keaton Hayenga having shoulder surgery, Tyler Sample having Tommy John surgery and John Lamb. Lamb was shaping up to be a left-hander to watch at the beginning of 2008 but broke his elbow in a car accident that cost him playing his Senior year. The Royals still popped him in the 5th round-and most of us said "John Who?". He also started pitching in instructional league in the fall and was, reportedly, showing excellent stuff. He repoitoire? If you've been reading the 2007/08 draft reviews, you can probably guess: good fastball, very good changeup, and a curveball. He'll go somewhere for short-season ball and I'm excited to see how he does.
Other players drafted in Round 5: Adrian Nieto, Justin Bristow (former Royal draftee), Ryan Westmoreland
The Royals took a young CF (actually he was an infielder but the Royals wanted to try him out in CF) from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in Round 6. Alex Llanos. He is young and fast but his bat was considered a plus tool. He struggled as 17 year old in the Arizona League hitting 182/240/232. He shares some superficial similarities to Fernando Cruz, drafted in 2007-both young, toolsy players from Puerto Rico. I wouldn't be surprised to see Llanos back in the Arizona League.
Last year, the first day of the draft ended after Round 6. Teams go home for the night, take a look at their board. The Royals have the 3rd pick on Day #2. They like Jason Esposito-an infielder from Connecticut. Esposito is a Vanderbilt recruit. Vanderbilt recruits are tougher signs than North Carolina recruits (see Melville, Tim). The coach at Vanderbilt apparently has a recruiter with a financial background and channels his inner Scott Boras to prepare a pamphlet/folder showing why signing with VU is better financially than going pro. Having David Price go #1 in 2007 and Pedro Alvarez go #2 in 2008 also helps. The Royals ask Esposito how much it would cost to sign him: $1.5 million. The Royals draft him on the morning of the 2nd day and offer him $1.5 million and he, apparently indicates that he will sign. A week later he announces that he will not sign and will attend Vanderbilt, saying that his brother talked him out of signing. Some fans were/are pretty mad at Esposito who cost the Royals a wasted draft pick by changing his mind. I don't spite the kid-I wish he would have known what he wanted going into the draft. The Royals must have really liked this kid to offer him that much. So far, Esposito has hit 287/356/412 in his freshman season-not bad numbers playing in the SEC. He could become a 1st round pick in the 2011 draft, in which case he may have made a wise choice. We'll have to wait and see.
Other picks of note:
JD Alfaro is a good defensive SS from JUCO. He hit pretty well at Idaho Falls with an 804 OPS but has struggled so far at Burlington with a 424 OPS.
The Royals took lefty John Flanagan from SW Illinois in round 13. He has an average fastball and a pretty good change. He pitched well in Burlington, NC last year with a 2.56ERA 45IP 43K 14 BB. He hasn't pitched so far this year and I'm not sure why.
In the 16th Round, the Royals took their first college pitcher, LHP Derrick Saito from Cal Poly. He was a reliever who struggled in his JR year but the Royals gave him a six-figure above slot bonus. He's not very tall for a pitcher at 5'9". He had decent numbers at Idaho Falls-4.36ERA, 37K/19BB in 33IP. This year at Burlington he's got a 3.52 ERA in 31IP with 30K/7W. He has improved his control which is a great sign and he could be a quick mover through the system.
With their last pick in the draft, the Royals took Travis Jones-a HS catcher with big power. Earlier last year, in a HS showcase event, he bested Eric Hosmer in a HR contest. Jones signed for another six figure bonus-- I'm guessing the Royals used some of that Esposito money to sign him. He got in about 15 at bats in Arizona this year so I'm anxious to see what he does in short-season ball this year.
The Royals set a record for how much they spent on draft bonuses in 2008-not a team record but a record for the entire history of the draft-spending over $10 million on bonuses. And, from what I can tell, they were willing to add Jason Esposito on top of all that. Hosmer, Montgomery, Giavotella, Sample, and Melville are all good prospects-some with the potential to be great--and there are still some other guys who could emerge. The Royals were willing to pay over slot bonuses in several rounds taking player with bigger upsides-of course some of those will fail but if even one of them becomes a productive player-for an investment of a couple hundred thousand dollars-that's a great deal. Baseball America ranked the Royals as having one of the best drafts and I can't disagree. I'll give the Royals an A at this point-knowing there is plenty of time for this draft to go either w