We are 4 1/2 months away from the draft and about a month away form the college baseball season. I thought I would take a look at who some of the likely contenders are for the Royals top pick.
The Royals have the 4th overall pick in the 2010. They are back in familiar territory after waiting until #12 last year. They also have their 2nd round pick this year which they lost year to sign Juan Cruz. As we talked about in the Prospect series, the Royals have some pitching depth but need bats badly--ideally an advanced college bat. But the 2010 draft looks to be pitching heavy (as it was in 2009). At this point there might be one college bat who would be worthy of a Top 5 pick--and we'll get to him in a minute. So here is the top of my 2010 draft board:
Bryce Harper is overhyped. Bryce Harper is also the best talent in this draft. Perhaps I should say "Bryce Harper is overhyped if all you read about him was the Sports Illustrated article". That article made him sound like Mickey Mantle/Johnny Bench/Alex Rodriguez rolled into one. Harper has elite power and an elite arm behind the plate. He could very well be a superstar player but that is far from a given. He is skipping his Senior year of High School to attend JUCO and be eligible for the 2010 draft. He says he's doing it because he is ready to be challenged by pro ball. There may be some truth to that and it may also be that he and Boras are concerned that there might be a slotting system in place for the 2011 draft and want to get their money while they can. Whoever signs him will dish out a lot of money and perhaps a Major League contract as I'm sure Boras would love to have him reach the majors at age 20 and have him be a free agent at age 26ish. It will be interesting to see how he performs against college competition. I have no idea what kind of competition he is going to face with his JUCO team. Who knows if he will be available when we pick but I wouldn't be against taking him if he were willing to sign for less than Strasburg.
2. Jameson Tallion--RHP
If anything, Tallion is flying under the radar compared to Harper. He is an elite 6 foot 7inch, 230lb. HS arm whose FB sits in the mid-90s and can reach close to 100MPH--and he controls it well. He has a very good curve. He goes to the Woodland HS in Texas which is one of the HS baseball powerhouses in the country. I've heard that Tallion is also looking for a huge payday so he could potentially fall if teams don't want to pony up.
3. AJ Cole--RHP
Another flame throwing HS righthander. Cole's velocity is just a tick below Tallions but some think Cole could add velocity as he fills out (right now, he's 6'5", 190 lb). I've heard that Cole's got better movement. He has a good curve and has flashed a good change on the rare occasion he's wanted/needed to throw it. Tallion is bit more of a sure thing but Cole might have a tad higher ceiling.
Ranaudo is a big righthander from LSU. I saw him pitch in the College World Series and wasn't terribly impressed but I've heard that he was off that day. He was 12-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 124IP with 159K/50BB. When he has it going, he has a low-mid 90s FB, a good slider and a developing change. He won't turn 21 until September, so he's also young for college draftee. He is viewed as having an ace ceiling.
5. Christian Colon--SS
Colon plays at Cal-State Fullerton--one of the premiere baseball programs in the country that also plays against the best competition. He was well regarded coming out of HS but wanted to go to college. He hit 357/438/529 his sophomore season. He played for the US college national team this past summer where he hit 353/469/617--he was 3rd on the team on OBP and led the team in SLG %. He broke his leg in the game of the summer but should be recovered in time for the college season. He should be able to stay at SS. Colon does everything well but doesn't have one great, standout tool. As with most top players entering their Junior season, he needs to step up and post elite numbers this spring. His summer stats indicate that he is ready to do just that.
Other names to know:
Zack Cox--3B--U. of Arkansas
Drew Pomeranz--LHP--Ole Miss
Lavon Washington---CF-Chiopola Community College
Chris Sale--LHP--Florida Gulf Coat
Karsten Whitson--RHP--Florida HS
Bryce Brentz--OF--Middle Tennessee State
What the Royals are probably looking at:
The talent at the top of this draft is pretty good. The HS arms are very good (I happen to think Tallion and Cole are two of the best HS arms in the past few years) but I think the Royals would jump at either Ranaudo or Colon (knowing they prefer college talent at this point). I think the best case scenario is Colon has a great Junior season and justifies a 4th overall pick. He would fill a big hole: advanced bat at a premium position (I like Jeff Bianchi, but Colon could be an All-Star player). If Colon doesn't step up then Ranaudo could be the pick (but he could be snatched up by one of the first 3 picks. A longshot for the pick might be Lavon Washington--Tampa's top pick last year who went back to community college--great athlete in CF who should hit for average, take a walk and steal tons of bases with a little power.