So here we are; the day before the draft. I've been slightly dreading this article for the past two weeks. Not because I don't want to write it, but I have to make a choice on who I think the Royals will take at their three spots and outside of #28 I have no clue.
The organization needs a bat, but this draft is nice and deep in pitching and some are good prep arms. If this were two or three years ago I'd be very excited for a prep arm, but right now the club can't really afford a 3-4 year project on a pitcher. Not that any selection they make will be up within a year, but a polished college bat at least opens up the potential of a 2016 debut unless they find the next Kris Bryant or Mike Zunino (which they won't).
Drafting for organizational need is always a hazard, but it can be warranted. There's no doubt the Cubs have pitchers lined up 1-4 on their draft board. That's not to say they are going to take one, but they will likely look at one first then see what else is out there. The Phillies have been rumored to be looking for a fast moving college pitcher ala Aaron Nola. The Mets are targeting a bat and likely a college one.
These aren't bad strategies unless you are shunning away a clearly better player, but if it comes down to essentially a coin flip then certainly organizational depth and previous drafts come into play.
The Royals took Sean Manaea/Cody Reed/Carter Hope consecutively last year, Kyle Zimmer/Sam Selman/Colin Rodgers consecutively in 2012. They've certainly gone draft heavy on pitching. That's again not to say they won't take a pitcher with their first pick of 2014, but if you believe in the third law of probability then a hitter is the likely choice. Of course if the first law holds true then it doesn't matter what they took in prior years (if I'm parsing the laws of probability correctly).
I don't want to limit my pick to just one player because A ) There are multiple guys at each spot, both hitters and pitchers, that the Royals are looking at and I want to be more encompassing than one choice, and B ) I'm not mocking the full draft, just the Royals spots, so I can't check off players by saying they were taking prior. So I'll give two or three picks for each spot in the probability I see them happening. Don't think of this as a mock per say, but more as a narrowing of selections.
Brandon Finnegan - LHP - TCU
As Keith Law noted, the Royals are looking for a fast mover and unless Aaron Nola and Tyler Beede make it to here (Nola 100% won't and Beede likely won't either) then Finnegan is next on the college pitcher draft board.
I think it'll be a toss up between Finnegan, Bradley Zimmer, and Derek Fisher, but I don't see Zimmer lasting until #17 and could get snagged by Arizona with the prior pick. If he does then I think they pop Zimmer, but by default I think they'll take Finnegan.
Derek Hill - OF - Elk Grove HS, CA
The Royals love prep bats in the first and they love defense (it seems). Hill checks off both of those boxes and he's a good hitter. Hill has some good speed and an average arm, and in the box he's a solid hitter. His biggest problem is power. He's not a weak and slender player, but his swing is more geared towards line drives. Hill has a good approach at the plate and makes excellent contact and could eventually have average power.
Derek Fisher - OF - Virginia
Fisher has been volatile so far this spring. He was hit and miss early on which kept him in the Top 15-25 range then broke his hammate bone which dropped him more to 25-35 range, then he homered in his first series back from the injury and has been pretty strong since. The Royals have been in on him here, but I think he's their third preference as they would probably go with the prep Derek first. The Angels or Giants could snag him first.
Kodi Medeiros - LHP - Waiakea HS, HI
This is probably the easiest pick of the mock for me. It's no secret the Royals are tied heavily to Medeiros and I profiled him yesterday. I don't think the Royals would reach for him at #17, but if they want him they'll absolutely need to grab him here because he could be snagged before their 40th pick and the slot value of 40 might not be enough to sign him away from Pepperdine.
I would love for Medeiros to go a pick or two earlier than the Royals slot just to see who else the Royals are looking at here.
These next two picks are essentially a guess at a fallback options. I think if they don't get Medeiros here they'd take a college hitter or a polished high schooler.
Alex Blandino - 3B - Stanford
The Royals took essentially a third baseman with their first pick of the draft last year, but Blandino could make it back to back. A team mate of Royals draftee Kenny Diekroeger, Blandino took a chunk of playing time away from Kenny when he burst on the scene his Freshman year. That was his peak season as he hasn't continued his results year to year with Stanford. Blandino can play any spot in the infield with adequacy, but there are some questions on the bat. He can get to power happy and sell out on it, but has quick bat speed that could hit for a solid average. His stock has rebounded in the final few weeks of the draft. I've heard utility infielder as a worse case for Blandino so the Royals may be better looking elsewhere.
AJ Reed - 1B - Kentucky
The Royals have gained wide spread fame due to their lack of power and if AJ Reed were to reach his ceiling he could fix that problem if it still persisted in two years. Reed is going to be tied to first base only or DH duty, but could be the heir apparent to Billy Butler once he's no longer donning royal blue. Reed isn't your prototypical first base power hitter who sells out for power and swings at whatever is close to the plate. He does have a good approach and plate discipline. Obviously his calling card will always be his power as he's pacing all of college baseball in homeruns and slugging percentage.
Forrest Wall - 2B - Orangewood Christian HS, FL
I want to include Wall here because the Royals have been tied to him. I could see a team grabbing him before 28, but the further Wall falls the greater the steal if the team that selects him and the Royals getting him at 28 would be a coup. Wall is one of the best hitters in the draft, college or prep, and he's basically average at every tool across the board except arm strength. His injury as well as the rarity of first round high school second baseman have pushed him down the draft board. I don't buy it though and I'd even consider pulling the trigger at #17.
Michael Cederoth - RHP - San Diego State
This spot will be best player available depending on who they take previously. If they go with two bats first then I think they take a college arm here like Michael Cederoth. He's a reliever all the way with his poor control profile, but he's got the stuff that with a little more control could make him an elite level reliever.
Chase Vallot - C - St. Thomas Moore HS, LA
If the Royals want the best prep catcher in the draft, Alex Jackson is an outfielder to me, they are gonna have to grab him here. Probably won't have enough to buy him out of his Mississippi State commit.
Mike Papi - Of/1B - Virginia
They probably won't pop both team mates Fisher and Papi together, but Papi isn't a bad consolation prize if they couldn't get Fisher. Papi has a great approach at the plate and doesn't leave good pitches on the table. He also has plus power, but the poor wheels and glove will leave him at LF and perhaps eventually first base.
The Mock Busters
I want to also include a list of guys who could throw a fly in the ointment of the above guys.
Michael Conforto - OF - Oregon State
I think he gets taken by the Mets, Giants, or Angels, but there is a non-zero chance he could fall in the Royals lap at #17 and if he did he'd be the no brainer choice here.
Bradley Zimmer - OF - University of San Francisco
Like Conforto above, I think Zimmer gets snagged before #17, my guess would be to Arizona, but if he were to fall then he'd trump all the above players.
What would be interesting is if Zimmer and Conforto were still on the board at #17. I'd say it's as close as you can get to 0%, but it would be Thunder Dome.
Monte Harrison - OF - Lee Summit West HS, MO
I don't think he's in play at #17 for the Royals as they are looking at a college guy there I think, but is he were still in the pool come pick #28 then I think he'd be taken over Medeiros.