Dayton Moore has gambled much of his job on what happens in the first week of June - the Amateur Draft. We have seen him take a wide variety of players in the first round. He has taken a high school hitter from California (Mike Moustakas) and a high school hitter from Florida (Eric Hosmer). Once he even took a high school hitter from Kansas! (Bubba Starling) So anything is on the table for tomorrow. Here is a look at who might be available when the Royals choose with the eighth overall selection tomorrow.
Who will likely be off the board by #8
These seem to be the consensus top four players out there, although there seems to be no consensus on the order. But most likely, these four will be off the board by the time the Royals select.
RHP Mark Appel, Stanford University - considered the best prospect a year ago for much of the year until a mediocre May and high bonus demands caused him to fall to the Pirates at #8.
3B Kris Bryant, University of San Diego - amazing power bat, hit 54 dingers in three years at USD.
RHP Jonathan Gray, University of Oklahoma - more upside than Appel, had a tremendous collegiate season and can throw in high 90s.
RHP Kohl Stewart, St. Pius X HS (Texas) - very raw, but already throws 96 with a plus slider and an ability to throw four pitches.
Who could be available at #8:
LHP Trey Ball, New Castle Chrysler HS (Indiana)
Ball is a two-way player who could also be a top pick as an outfielder, although most seem to think the mound is the best place to start his pro career. He is a tall lanky southpaw, standing at 6'6'' and can touch 96 on the gun, although he sits more comfortably in the low-90s. Ball throws an adequate curveball and changeup. The changeup is more refined although some scouts feel the curve can be a plus pitch if he can refine it as he has only rarely had to show it off in high school. He has a projectable frame and is generally good about repeating mechanics. He will at times drop to a side-arm delivery that is very tough on left-handed hitters.
Ball is a very athletic pitcher, but is very slow to the plate. He is committed to the University of Texas, but a decent offer should be enough to get him into a pro uniform.
Baseball America's editors have Ball going to the Royals at #8.
My take: I tend not to like players capable of being drafted as pitchers and hitters as my theory is they haven't been focusing on one skill like other players. However, Zack Greinke was a two-way player and we have certainly seen enough succeed to believe they can be elite Major Leaguers. Ball has a great projectable frame and a nice easy delivery that I don't believe would need much tinkering mechanics-wise. He already throws in the mid-90s and that velocity could increase as he fills out. I like his ability to go side-arm and his athleticism and if he's on the board at #8, I think he'd make a great addition to the farm system.
RHP Phil Bickford, Oaks Christian HS (California)
Bickford is considered a late first-round/early second-round pick, but his stock is rising recently, and Keith Law is reporting the Royals may be interested in him at #8. Baseball America ranks him as the 20th best draft prospect, Law ranks him 55th, and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com does not have him as a first round pick. So he's probably a big reach at #8. Is this a smokescreen?
Bickford's stock has been rising due to a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s that has even touched 96 on occasion. The 6'4'' frame should fill out quite a bit allowing for more velocity potential as he matures. His fastball has good movement, running in on right handed hitters. Bickford throws a slider, curveball, and changeup, but none of these secondary offerings are quality pitches yet.
Bickford has an easy delivery and is known for having excellend command of his fastball. He is considered to be a very coachable kid with a tremendous work ethic. Bickford is committed to Cal-State Fullerton and may be a bit of a difficult sign.
My take: The lack of secondary pitches is the reason he's not considered a top 10 prospect. I like his fluid delivery and his command is very good for a prep pitcher. If you think you can teach him secondary pitches, you can project a good future ahead of him. But that is teaching not just one, but two, possibly three more pitches if you want him to be a starting pitcher. Bickford would be a project, but a nice gamble to take. I'm just not convinced its the gamble you take at #8.
SS J.P. Crawford, Lakewood HS (California)
Crawford is the nephew of Dodgers outfielder and antiquarian bookstore owner Carl Crawford. Bloodlines! J.P. is a left-handed hitting shortstop who is also a good enough pitcher to get drafted. Crawford's biggest asset is that he can fly around the basepaths. That speed will cause teams to be tempted to move him to centerfield, but many scouts feel he can stick at shortstop if a team leaves him there.
Crawford is toolsy, exhibiting a great arm and a good hit tool with his speed. He has strong gap power, although he's not a home run hitter yet. He stands 6'2'' at just 175, so he could fill out his frame some more. He has long legs and already generates good bat speed with a wide stance. Crawford is a good clubhouse guy, well-liked among teammates, and is committed to USC.
My take: I think Crawford hits off his front foot a bit which could be corrected. I'm guessing he will almost certainly be moved to centerfield at some point. His range is fine, but his footwork and hands seem less than natural. His speed is hard to ignore, but I'm not convinced by his bat quite yet. I wouldn't be too disappointed if the Royals took him, but I think there will probably be better players available.
OF Clint Frazier, Loganville HS (Georgia)
Frazier has tremendous power for a prep player, smacking 41 home runs combined over his junior and senior seasons at Loganville High School, breaking Brandon Moss's school record for home runs. Frazier does not have a large frame, standing at just 5'11', but has tremendously strong wrists and arms, generating great bat speed. Frazier recently moved to the outfield, but has the speed and athleticism to play centerfield. He has been cited for being overly aggressive at the plate and for not covering the plate well particularly on the outside of the plate, so he could be a high strikeout hitter with plate discipline issues.
Frazier runs the bases well and use his athleticism to make up for his late jump on fly balls in the outfield. He is considered to have a very good arm. Frazier is probably a bit more raw than others at the top of the draft, but comes with perhaps more upside as well. He is known as an intense gamer with a gritty attitude.
My take: A toolsy Georgia prep star known as a gamer with a great arm, great power, and plate discipline issues? How could that turn out badly?
RHP Alex Gonzalez, Oral Roberts University
Gonzalez would probably be a bit of a reach at #8 as he projects more to the end of the first round. He is a polished college pitcher who could be in the big leagues quickly, but with rather limited upside. His stock has been skyrocketing recently after a tremendous season for the Golden Eagles. He posted a 1.83 ERA in 15 starts with 126 strikeouts and 27 walks in 113 1/3 innings. The Boca Raton, Florida native posted a 2.30 ERA last year as a sophomore, but had mixed results last summer in the Cape Cod League.
Gonzalez sits comfortably in the low-90s with good sink to his fastball. He's a good strike-thrower with terrific command and has a nasty-slider that can be a great out pitch. Some think his fastball-slider combo would allow him to make the big leagues quickly as a closer.
Jim Callis thinks the Royals could be interested in Gonzalez if they pass on the prep arms in the draft.
My take: I think Gonzalez has a bit more ceiling than some believe - I think he could become a 2 WAR pitcher in the mold of a Mike Leake, which is nothing to sneeze at. If your philosophy is to go for the higher upside guys, then pass on Gonzalez. I think there are upside guys at #8 worth taking over Gonzalez, and at this stage in the Royals development, I think they should emphasize upside rather than safe picks. But I wouldn't be terribly upset with Gonzalez in tow.
LHP Sean Manaea, Indiana State University
Sean is a 6'5'' junior from a small town an hour east of Chicago. He was undrafted out of high school, but led the Sycamores in strikeouts his freshman season after developing more velocity. Sean was named second team All-Conference his sophomore campaign after going 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA in seventeen starts. This year Manaea set a school record with a miniscule 1.47 ERA in 13 starts with 93 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. Manaea also excelled in the elite Cape Cod League last year, leading the league in strikeouts and posting a 1.22 ERA in eight starts.
Manaea throws at a lower angle, which can provide some deception to hitters, particularly lefties. His out pitch is a plus slider that dives, but is inconsistent. He also throws a change-up/splitter hybrid that could use some work. His delivery is a bit unorthodox, as he steps towards first base and throws against his body. His delivery is considered a bit raw and could use some professional refinement.
Manaea's stock was sky high after his Cape Cod showing, but some decline in velocity this spring has caused him to fall on some boards. He threw primarily in the low-90s this spring after topping out at 96 in Cape Cod. A rolled ankle led to some hip problems which caused him to be scratched from his last start of the year. He has also experienced some shoulder stiffness. Because of this, Manaea may decide returning to school and re-establishing his value would be the best move, making him a difficult sign.
Jim Callis says Manaea is the highest risk/reward guy in the draft.
My take: The unorthodox delivery actually reminds me a bit of Danny Hultzen of the Mariners or Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. It seems like creating that torque on your body might lend itself to injury problems later on, but I have no idea if that worry is justified. His injury concerns do not bother me that much, as it seems as if he just rolled an ankle which led to some hip problems. But the loss in velocity is a bit troubling. I probably wouldn't have a huge problem with the Royals taking a chance with Manaea but there may be better options available.
C Reese McGuire, Kentwood HS (Washington)
McGuire's defense is considered to be his ticket to the big leagues. Already blessed with a great arm and good footwork behind the plate, McGuire should be a defense-first backstop once he learns to frame pitches better. McGuire handles pitches well and is adept at blocking pitches. He shows great leadership skills and is a "gamer."
To play up McGuire's defense is not to say his offense is lacking. The 6'1'' prep star has a smooth left-handed stroke that while may not have plus power, has adequate gap power that could project as 15 home run power as a big leaguer. His ability to hit for contact is a bit of a question mark and some feel he will need professional refinement on his swing to be a Major League hitter.
McGuire is committed to the University of San Diego, but could possibly sign for less than slot money.
My take: I'm generally not a big fan of drafting catchers in the first round, particularly catchers without a great hit-tool (Brent Mayne comes to mind). I don't think teams generally should account for positional depth in the organization when drafting, but in this case the Royals already have Salvador Perez locked up, and Cameron Gallagher is looking pretty good in the minor leagues,and you can only play one catcher at a time. Pass.
OF Austin Meadows, Grayson HS (Georgia)
Meadows is a five-tool player, but has enough flaws in each tool to keep him from being the top selection overall. He is a tremendous athlete with the speed and arm to play centerfield, but does not excel at the position, leaving many to think he'll end up at a corner outfield spot. He has decent speed, but is not a burner, and tends to be inconsistent in his basepath speed.
Meadows has excellent bat speed and occasional power, but not the kind of consistency yet to expect him to be a major power threat yet. He still has a projectable frame, but is still a bit raw and will need some coaching on his swing. With proper coaching, many project him to have 20-30 home run potential. He reportedly has decent plate discipline and could be a contact hitter in the big leagues if he refines his swing.
Meadows is committed to Clemson and may be a more difficult sign than some of the other prep players available.
My take: Meadows is a pretty intriguing player but it will take some good coaching to turn him into an elite player, and I'm not sure I trust the Royals coaching staff. I think Meadows has a tendency not to use both arms in the follow-through on his swing, not unlike Johnny Damon. Of course, Damon took the criticism of him "one-arming" everything and parlayed that into a near-Hall of Fame career. I'd be intrigued with a player like Meadows, but I'm not fully convinced yet.
3B Colin Moran, University of North Carolina
Moran is generally considered to be just outside the top quartet of potential draftees mentioned above, however in one mock draft Keith Law projected him as the top pick for the Astros, with some speculating Houston could take him as a player to sign under-slot to allow flexibility later in the draft.
If Moran is available at #8, he would certainly be one of the top bats available. Moran is the nephew of former big leaguer B.J. Surhoff, also a Tarheel. This year for North Carolina, the junior is hitting .351/.478/.560 with a team high 13 home runs, 85 RBI, and 57 walks. He was named the second best prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America after leading that league in RBI last summer.
Moran is considered a very polished hitter who could be in the big leagues rather quickly, but with a much lower upside than some of the prep players available. He is a high-average hitter who could hit .300, but with average power. His left-handed swing includes a bit of a high leg kick and he is known for having good bat control and plate discipline. As a defender, many question whether he can stick at third base, and his power may be below-average for him to be a first baseman.
My take: I'm not a big fan on contact hitters at power positions with average power and below average defense. If he ends up at first base, he would profile more like James Loney or Casey Kotchman (or Eric Hosmer?) The Royals need elite upside. Pass.
3B D.J. Peterson, University of New Mexico
Peterson's ticket to the big leagues will be through swatting home runs, something he did eighteen times for the Lobos this year. He hit .408/.520/.807 for New Mexico with 46 walks. It was no fluke, as he was co-MVP of the Mountain West Conference last year as a sophomore, slugging seventeen home runs and winning the conference triple crown. He also showed that he could hit the best, leading the USA Collegiate National Team in home runs and "quality at bats."
The 6'1'' junior has a nice compact right-handed swing that produces tremendous power. He is not a free swinger either, instead known for his plate discipline. His swing is free of any hitches or mechanical issues and his line-drive swing should allow him to hit for good power in the pros.
Peterson's defense at third is considered subpar and he will likely have to move to first base or a corner outfield position. He is athletic enough to make the transition, and if he reaches his power potential, his bat should play at those positions as well.
My take: He would probably be a bit of a reach at #8, but I'm a bit puzzled why so many people don't have him rated higher. His power seems legit, and while a short sample size, his performance with the national team should be a good argument that his success isn't completely a product of playing inferior competition. His value is hurt by having to move to first base or outfield, but if he is a 20-30 home run hitter, the Royals won't mind a bit.
OF Hunter Renfroe, Mississsippi State University
Renfroe is a right-handed hitting junior out of Gallman, Mississippi. He was taken in the 31st round by the Red Sox out of high school, but went on to Mississippi State where he initially struggled. He hit just .245 last year, but a strong performance in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League last summer, where he was named MVP, caused him to be named a Preseason All-American before this year. He carried that performance over to this spring where he hit .345/.435/.632 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI for the Bulldogs.
Renfroe spent some time catching, but will likely be a corner outfielder in the pros. He has decent range and a tremendous arm and should not be a liability on defense.
Renfroe's ticket to the big leagues will be his power bat. He sells out on his swing, frequently going for the fences. Because of this he'll never be a high-average hitter, and he could struggle against off-speed stuff. His swing is a bit long, but he gets good leverage out of it. He will probably never have good plate discipline, but his 30+ home run potential should entice teams at the top of the draft.
My take: Renfroe really struggled before this year which raises all sorts of red flags. While we've seen guys like Buster Posey bust out their last year to become top draft prospects, Posey never struggled as much as Renfroe did last year. Renfroe's all-out swing leaves him vulnerable to the breaking stuff he'll face in the pros. While I love his power potential, I think he's too much of a risk to take with the #8 pick.
RHP Braden Shipley, University of Nevada
Shipley is an Oregon native who did not pitch at all until his junior year of high school. He spent his first season at Nevada as the team shortstop before becoming a pitcher full-time and quickly turning into the Wolfpack ace. Shipley posted a 2.20 ERA with a 9-4 record his sophomore year and was named WAC Pitcher of the Year. He followed up that success with a terrific season in the Alaskan Summer League before posting a 2.77 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings of work for Nevada this season.
Shipley stands at 6'2'' 185 and is mostly a fastball-changeup pitcher at this point. He can get his heater in the mid-90s and has even touched 99 on occassion. His secondary pitches need some work, particularly his breaking ball, but some feel his changeup is already a plus pitch, and his curveball could be a plus pitch with refinement.
Shipley is rather new to pitching, so there isn't a lot of mileage on his arm, but he has had some heavy workloads in college.
My take: Shipley has a good solid frame, but has a "max-effort" type of delivery. Coupled with his two-pitch arsenal, he strikes me as a guy that could be very successful as a reliever, but might struggle as a starter. A team with superior pitcher development that can help him refine a third and fourth pitch could result in him being a quality starting pitcher, but I rather doubt the Royals are that organization.
1B Dominic Smith, Serra HS (California)
Smith is an athlete, capable of playing the outfield if need be, and able to throw in the low-90s as a pitcher. He stands at 6'1'' 205 with a smooth left-handed stroke. He has a very strong arm and a smooth glove, not unlike our own Eric Hosmer. Smith is considered one of the best "pure" prep hitters in this draft. When he squares up on the ball he can generate tremendous power. But some feel his power is too inconsistent to consider him a power hitter.
He is described as having a good approach to the plate, and is capable of driving the ball to to all fields. His stride can be a bit long, which could cause problems with off-speed pitches, but that can be corrected by a good organization. Smith is committed to USC, but is not considered a difficult sign.
My take: This kid just screams "Eric Hosmer". Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, Hosmer still has the tools to be a terrific Major Leaguer. Smith is intriguing and with his frame I can see him filling out and become a more raw power-type hitter. I think there will be better players available, but Smith might be an interesting project that could pay off for the right club.
RHP Ryne Stanek, University of Arkansas
Stanek is a local kid, having graduated from Blue Valley High School in suburban Kansas City. He spurned a third round selection by the Mariners out of high school to attend the University of Arkansas and become one of the top pitchers in the country.
The 6'4'' junior right-hander has a miniscule 1.39 ERA through 16 starts this year, although a less than impressive 79-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 97 1/3 innings of work. He posted a 2.82 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 92 2/3 inning last year, earning All-SEC honors. He has pitched for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team the past two years and started in the elite Cape Cod League last summer.
Stanek excites scouts with his mid-90s fastball that touches 97 with an easy delivery. He has a tendency to lose command at times, as evidenced by his walk totals, and he is not sharp on repeating his delivery. He tends to throw from a 3/4 angle, but has a tendency to drag his elbow, leading to concerns he may have injury problems if this is not corrected. He exhibits a slider that has can be a plus out pitch at times, but is inconsistent. He also throws a curve that will likely be abandoned at the pro level. His changeup is still very much a work in progress.
Stanek has the frame and the velocity teams can work with. If they can sort out his mechanics, he has the potential to be a frontline starting pitcher. If he is unable to refine his secondary pitches, some feel he could still succeed as a reliever (and possibly become an All-Star!)
Jim Callis reports the Royals don't have much interest in the local kid.
My take: I like his easy delivery and the velocity. His fluid motion and the way he slightly throws against his body reminds me a bit of Jered Weaver. I would prefer his secondary pitches to be a bit more refined than they are and his inconsistency in delivery is a bit of a concern. But as a project, he's more polished than a prep pitcher would be. Still, the lack of dominance in the strikeout department and the lack of control is a big red flag for me. If you're going with a project, its probably better to go for a higher upside prep pitcher.
OF Austin Wilson, Stanford University
Wilson is a man among boys on the baseball field, standing at 6'5'' 245. A product of baseball powerhouse Harvard-Westlake in southern California, he turned down a multi-million dollar offer from the St. Louis Cardinals to play for the Stanford Cardinal. As a sophomore, Wilson hit .285 and was fifth in the Pac-12 in home runs with ten. He excelled in the elite Cape Cod League last year, being named an All-Star.
Then came this year. Wilson suffered a stress reaction above his elbow and missed six weeks of the season. He hit .288 with just five home runs in 31 games for Stanford this year and never seemed to get on track with his swing. Despite his lackluster results, his superior tools will make him one of the top bats selected this year. Wilson has tremendous power to all fields, as Stanford tends to stress driving the ball to the opposite field.
For a large man, Wilson runs pretty well and should profile well at a corner outfield position. He has a terrific arm and could play right field well. He can swipe a few bases, but should not be a burner on the basepaths.
Wilson is known to take a pitch and has shown an exceptional ability to get hit by pitches like Stanford alum Carlos Quentin. Wilson is the son of two Harvard MBA grads, and went to Stanford himself, so he's no dummy.
My take: Its hard not to look at Wilson's massive frame and dream about him sending fastballs against the wall of the Royals Hall of Fame in left. The elbow injury does not concern me much, but his bat looks a bit slow to me and he may struggle against off-speed stuff at higher levels. I think he might be a reach at #8, but he is so intriguing as a power hitter he may be worth the gamble.