The draft is less than a month away, to be held June 6. This will be Dayton Moore's seventh amateur draft as a Royals General Manager (eight if you want to consider his blessing of Luke Hochevar). For the most part he has been successful in drafting player capable of reaching the big leagues - Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Aaron Crow, but less successful in finding big impact players in the first round, or anything other than good bullpen arms after the first round.
With the team in "win now" mode, will the draft priorities shift? Is pitching still the currency of baseball? Let's take an early look at some possibilities for the number eight pick.
RHP Ryne Stanek, University of Arkansas
8. ROYALS: Add Kansas City to the list of teams on the hunt for pitching. If [Texas prep pitcher Kohl] Stewart and [U of Nevada pitcher Braden] Shipley are gone, that would leave the Royals considering [Indiana prep outfielder Trey] Ball, [Indiana State lefty pitcher Sean] Manaea and Arkansas righthander Ryne Stanek—who pitched his high school ball in suburban Kansas City. The Royals are known for preferring curveballs to sliders, which could help Ball’s cause.
RHP Ryne Stanek, University of Arkansas
The 6’-4" right-hander has been dealing over his last five games, thrusting himself right back in talks for the top 5-10 picks in the 2013 MLB draft. The stuff has been there all season, he just had issues commanding his stuff and he also had to deal with having his start days messed around with. Over his last six starts, he has a 0.67 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 35 K/11 BB over 40.1 innings. His mid-90s fastball and plus slider shouldn’t last past the Royals.
Stanek was a third round pick out of high school by the Mariners out of Blue Valley High School in suburban Kansas City. He passed on Seattle and went to the University of Arkansas where he has posted a sub-3.00 ERA in over 40 career starts for the Razorbacks. Now a junior, he's the Hogs' ace, posting a 1.87 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 26 walks in 67 1/3 innings.
Stanek stands 6'4'' with a slight frame that could use some bulking up. He already throws in the low 90s, but can get it up to 96 at times. He has good movement and already throws a plus slider and a decent changeup. His walks are a bit of a concern but he is not overly wild. Scouts questioned his mechanics early in his college career, but it appears as if he has cleaned up his "elbow action."
Dayton Moore has expressed an interest in "local players" like Stanek, but the early returns on Bubba Starling and Missourian Tim Melville aren't great, while Aaron Crow has at least been serviceable.
LHP Kevin Ziomek, Vanderbilt University
In 2011 the Royals wanted a college pitcher but ended up with local talent Bubba Starling, a toolsy but raw high school outfielder. Last year they got the college arm with Kyle Zimmer. A few weeks ago, a great pick here would have been Arkansas Razorback Ryne Stanek, who is from the Kansas City area, thus combining local talent and a high-ceiling arm that could move quickly. However, Stanek has struggled with his command in his first few outings and is no longer an obvious choice this early in the draft.
Manaea is plausible here, or perhaps a high schooler who separates himself from the pack. That could be Louisiana prep outfielder Justin Williams, or slugging California high schooler Dominic Smith, or an up-the-middle player like shortstop J.P. Crawford or catcher Reese McGuire. However, given that the Royals are in a "win soon" mode, a college arm still seems pretty likely to me. Let's make this interesting, avoid the obvious choices like Manaea and Stanek, and go with helium man Kevin Ziomek, LHP, Vanderbilt, on the theory that he remains dominant all spring and will provide a quicker return than Manaea. (NOTE: I wrote this on Thursday and Ziomek promptly had a bad start Friday night. Serves me right for trying to be interesting I suppose).
Ziomek is a southpaw from Massachusetts that was taken in the 13th round by Arizona out of high school, largely due to signability concerns. He found his way to SEC territory and has posted a 2.03 ERA and nine wins as the #2 pitcher for the Commodores this year. He has struck out a batter per inning, and has allowed just 53 hits in 88 innings of work. He struggled mightily in 2012 (when he was teammates with current Royals minor leaguer Sam Selman), posting a 5.22 ERA with 39 walks in 79 innings. But he enjoyed a solid summer in the Cape Cod League and has produced this year in a larger role.
Ziomek throws in the low-90s with a plus changeup. His slider can flatten out at times, but is still considered an average pitch. He can throw his secondary pitches for strikes consistently. He has a bit of a funky hitch in his delivery that a team may want to work out. His upside is not considered all that high, but he could be a solid mid-rotation starter.
OF Austin Meadows, Grayson HS (Georgia)
The Royals annually have a single digit draft choice, a trend they hope ends soon. Meadows, a multi-tooled prep star from Georgia, could conceivably fill the void left by the trade of Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. He has great athleticism and runs well but does not have a good arm. He profiles as a solid corner outfielder and No.3 hitter.
Meadows is a lefty-hitting outfielder considered one of the best power prep bats in the country. He already stands 6'3'' 215 with muscle mass and an explosive bat. He plays centerfield now but will likely play a corner outfield position in the pros. Meadows is an average defender and baserunner, but is noted for having exceptional plate discipline for his age.
He appears to get good leverage on his swings, keeping his weight back. He has a bit of a long swing, but he keeps his weight back so well, I'm not so sure it will be a concern. He has a very fluid swing with quick wrist action. It actually reminds me a bit of Hosmer when he was that age.
Meadows is from Georgia, a baseball hot-bed for prep stars, and is committed to Clemson.
SS J.P. Crawford, Lakewood HS (Calif.)
Royals love athletes and they love tools. The two best players that fit that profile are Kohl Stewart and Crawford. Considering the injury and signability questions with Stewart, we will go with the toolsy Crawford.
J.P. is the nephew of Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford. He's a left-handed hitting shortstop who can also pitch. Crawford is considered very toolsy, showing tremendous speed and a great arm, and good enough gap power that scouts can project home run power as he fills out. Crawford plays in the Los Angeles area at the same school that produced catching prospect Travis D'Arnaud and 2012 first round pick Shane Watson.
Many scouting reports seem to think Crawford has the ability to stick at shortstop although the temptation will be to move his speed into centerfield. Crawford is cited as being a very likeable young man who gets along with teammates well. He is a bit old for his grade - he's nearly 18 1/2, and is a commit to USC.
Keith Law Top 100 Draft Prospects (INSIDER)