Today will be the ninth June amateur draft Dayton Moore has officially presided over since he took over as Royals General Manager just after the 2006 draft. Dayton Moore has stressed building from within through drafting and developing players, so today is a pretty big day for the franchise. Let's take a look back at how Dayton has handled his first round picks in the past.
Dayton Moore had agreed in principle to be the Royals General Manager before the 2006 draft, but as a condition for letting him leave, the Braves insisted he begin after the draft, so they would not lose their draft strategy to the Royals. The draft was instead run by former Director of Scouting Deric Ladnier, who did find a gem in the 50th and final round named Jarrod Dyson. Dayton Moore would later admit in an interview with Soren Petro of WHB 810 that the Royals asked him his opinion on who they were considering with the #1 overall pick - Andrew Miller or Luke Hochevar, and since the Braves were not in on those players, Dayton offered his opinion - Hochevar. And a process was begun.
The 2006 Royals swept the Central Division Champion Tigers to end the year and push them to 62 wins, better than the 61-win Tampa Bay Devil Rays who got first shot at Vanderbilt left-handed pitcher David Price. The Royals were left with the second overall pick and were reportedly not interested in the high demands of Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters. Instead reports linked the Royals to high school catcher Devin Mesoraco, high school pitchers Rick Porcelloand Jarrod Parker and Missouri State pitcher Ross Detwiler. But most reports had them focused on a pair of prep infielders - Josh Vitters and Mike Moustakas. Jim Callis and Craig Goldstein both predicted the Royals would take Vitters.
The Royals were able to work out a deal with Moustakas and his agent Scott Boras minutes before the August 15 deadline thanks to Mike's father overruling Boras. Reports later confirmed that had the Royals felt they could not deal with Moustakas and Boras, they would have taken Vitters.
Later in that draft, the Royals took Danny Duffy (3rd round), Greg Holland (10th) and David Lough (11th).
He was the starting quarterback at Chatsworth as a freshman and has a bazooka for an arm--his fastball sat in the low 90s early in the year in relief roles and hit 97 mph in April. His power arm isn't his best tool though, as Moustakas' quiet, quick hands, polished approach and strength at the plate produce light-tower power and a smooth swing he repeats easily.
Earlier in the year, scouts wondered about his defensive position--he's Chatsworth's shortstop but will move immediately as a pro. Most believe third base would be the first natural spot and others dreamed of his arm behind the plate, but most agree now that it doesn't matter. His bat will play at any spot, even first base, though it would be a shame to waste that arm there. The only complicating factor was his commitment to Southern California--he and Robert Stock would become an unrivaled pair of two-way players-- and representation by Scott Boras. The combination clouds his signability, but not his impressive ability.
With the third pick in the draft, the Royals had a number of polished college hitters available to them. Georgia's Gordon Beckham has good pop for a middle infielder, South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak may have been the best overall power hitter, and Florida State catcher Buster Posey had shot up draft boards after a standout season. Jim Callis projected the Royals to tab Posey, but there were also reports the Royals were ready to pay the high asking price of another Boras client, Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Rany Jazayerli preferred Posey or Smoak and was skeptical Hosmer was really the best power option out there.
If the Royals think that Hosmer has the best offensive potential of any hitter in this draft, then absolutely, they should take him. But to think that in a year where you’ve got Alvarez and Smoak and Yonder Alonso and Brett Wallace…I mean, if Hosmer goes to college (which he might), if everything goes right for him, in three years he’ll be comparable to where Alvarez and Smoak are today. What are the odds that he’ll be better than they are? Whatever those odds are, they can’t be higher than the odds that he’ll fail to live up to expectations. So why are the Royals thinking about taking a guy who might be Alvarez or Smoak in three years when they can have the original article today? I don’t know.
Later in that draft the Royals selected Mike Montgomery (supplemental round), Johnny Giavotella (2nd round), and Blaine Hardy (22nd).
While his approach at the plate is advanced, Hosmer's pitch recognition has been a concern for some scouts. In the field, he's a solid defender with athleticism and a well-above-average arm. He is the closer on his high school team, regularly touching 95 mph off the mound. While his actions at first base need refinement, he could be an above-average defender. Hosmer has the tools to be an all-star first baseman and has one of the highest ceilings of any player in this year's draft. As an Arizona State signee and a client of the Boras Corp., however, signability could be an issue.
Thanks to an 18-11 start in 2008, the Royals had the 12th pick in 2009, their lowest draft position in five years. The Royals were connected to yet another Boras client in USC shortstop Grant Green. There were also reports linking them to North Carolina prep catcher Wil Myers, California prep pitcher Tyler Matzek, and Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, considered a "signable" pick. Jim Callis reported the Royals might take Green or Myers if they were willing to go over the Commissioner's slot recommendations, otherwise they would take a safe college pitcher like Kennesaw State pitcher Chad Jenkins.
As the draft played out, right-handed pitcher Aaron Crow, considered to be a top five pick, began sliding. Crow, a former University of Missouri pitcher and a Topeka native, had been the top right-handed pitcher taken in the 2008 draft, but failed to sign with the Washington Nationals and instead spent a season playing for the independent Fort Worth Cats. When Crow fell to the twelfth pick, the Royals happily bypassed Grant Green and selected Crow.
Wil Myers would also slide all the way to the third round due to his high bonus demands, and the Royals happily selected him as well, giving them what seemed like a real coup. They also got Chris Dwyer in the fourth, Louis Coleman in the fifth, and Lane Adams in the thirteenth.
Crow had the best fastball package in the 2008 draft, with velocity (92-96 mph), hard sink, command and the ability to maintain it into the late innings. He showed the same heater in his first two exhibition starts with the Cats, and flashed the plus slider that overmatched college hitters. He's still regaining the sharp command he had in 2008, when he threw 43 consecutive scoreless innings at Missouri. Crow used his downtime to get stronger and to work on his changeup. There's some effort to his delivery, and some teams wonder if his mechanics and size (generously listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds) will make him more of a closer than a frontline starter. In either case, he should go in the first 10 picks again and shouldn't require much time in the minors.
The Royals stated publicly before the 2010 draft that they would use their fourth overall pick to fill a perceived need, with many reporting that need to be at catcher. Reports surfaced they had a provisional agreement with University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal. From Bob Dutton at the Star:
"It’s going to be more need-based," Picollo explained, "than high ceiling."...
"Look, he’s a guy who projects as a solid major-league prospect," a scout with a rival organization said. "Will he be a star? Maybe, but probably not. But he’s a guy with advanced skills who could get to the big leagues in a hurry.
Other reports had the Royals considering Florida Gulf Coast University pitcher Chris Sale, Mississippi pitcher Drew Pomeranz, Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, and Middle Tennessee State outfielder Bryce Brentz. Jim Callis projected the Royals to take Sale.
A report over the weekend claimed Kansas City had a deal done with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, but nothing is in place. Several industry sources believe the Royals prefer Florida Gulf Coast lefthander Chris Sale to Grandal, and if both players prove too expensive for their tastes, they could go for Texas-Arlington outfielder Michael Choice or Citadel righthander Asher Wojciechowski.
Keith Law went as far as to report the Royals would take Sale, even though he derided Sale as a future reliever. in the end, the Royals surprised everyone by taking Cal-State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon.
One of the nation's better hitters, Colon uses a distinct upper-cut in his swing, looking to lift and drive the ball. That approach is not typical for a smaller middle infielder, but Colon shows terrific bat speed as his barrel connects with the ball. He also is patient and makes consistent contact; despite his power approach, he's one of the toughest players to strike out in Division I thanks to excellent barrel awareness. He's a skilled hitter who hits behind runners, bunts and executes the hit-and-runs effectively. Defensively, Colon's range is limited, and his speed and arm are below-average for a shortstop. He does exhibit fluid and quick fielding actions and his playmaking ability is outstanding. His frame offers little room for projection, and offensively he can be streaky. For scouts who focus on what he can do, his tremendous hands and footwork, as well as his bat control, make him a future big league regular, best suited as an offensive second baseman.
The Royals were in a tough place with the fifth pick of the 2011 draft. They wanted pitching, but the best pitching prospects - Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, and Dylan Bundy - would all be selected with the first four picks. There was enormous pressure on them to take an outfielder instead - Derek "Bubba" Starling from Gardner-Edgerton High School just outside Kansas City, who at one time was thought to be the potential number one overall pick.
Jones says he knows the Royals need pitching. But he can’t help but be biased. Jones is a Kansas City guy, too. And as he talks about Bubba, he can’t help but think of Pujols.
Thing is, Jones says, the stories don’t quite match up. Pujols may have been just a speck on many scouts’ radars. But Bubba, well, his star is already hot and glaring. This may sound like a dream now, but Jones believes it can be true: Bubba will make it.
"Pujols wasn’t as black-and-white as Bubba," Jones says, "I just don’t think you can possibly do that ever again. If the kid’s available, and he’s a local kid, I think you’ve got to show some loyalty there."
Jim Callis and Keith Law both thought the Royals would take Bundy at #5, but instead the Orioles did select him one spot ahead of the Royals. That left the Royals to choose from Starling, Rice University infielder Anthony Rendon, or Oklahoma prep pitcher Archie Bradley. Rendon came with injury concerns over his shoulder. In the end, the Royals went with the local kid.
The Royals would land Aaron Brooks in the ninth round and Terrance Gore in the twentieth.
Starling is the best athlete in the 2011 draft. As a pitcher, he'd be a potential first-round pick as a 6-foot-5, 195-pound righthander with a fastball that touches 95 mph....Despite his ability on the mound and on the gridiron, his future is as a five-tool center fielder who resembles Drew Stubbs.
The Royals were linked to a number of players before the draft that would be off the board by the time they selected at #5. But one name that had slid was Stanford pitcher Mark Appel. Appel was considered to be possibly the best player in the draft, but had slid because he was considered to be a very tough sign. The Royals were reportedly interested in him and University of San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer, who, along with LSU's Kevin Gausman, were considered the cream of the crop among pitchers.
"The three guys this year," one club official said, "are a good group. But they all have warts. There is no sure thing."
The Royals also considered California high school lefty Max Fried as an alternative, but in the end went with Zimmer, a recent convert to pitching who as praised for his athleticism. Zimmer would sign with the Royals days later. Appel ended up sliding to the Pirates with the eighth pick, then failed to sign, and was re-drafted #1 overall by the Astros in 2013.
Kyle was recruited as a position player and only pitched five innings his freshman year before transitioning into the role full-time last year and now he's a candidate to be picked first-overall. Zimmer's fastball typically sits in the 94-96 mph range and gets as high as 99 and his hammer curveball is just as good. His changeup shows flashes, giving him the chance for three future plus pitches and he'll mix in an occasional slider that could be an average offering. Zimmer pounds the strike zone and throws all four pitches for strikes. He has a business-like approach on the mound and pitches with a bit of a mean streak, which scouts love. Zimmer's athleticism also helps him on the mound. He repeats his delivery well and fields his position like an extra infielder.
The Royals were reportedly zoned-in on a pitcher for the #8 selection in the draft, unless two prep outfielders - Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows - were available. The Royals were linked to Indiana prep pitcher Trey Ball and California prep pitcher Phil Bickford, but the Royals dismissed reports they were interested in high school arms.
"There are some pitchers at the top of the Draft that I think are quality guys. There are a couple of college arms," Picollo said. "I don't think there's as much high-school depth in pitching as you typically see in the first round."
Frazier and Ball would both be off the board by the time the Royals selected, but many still expected Bickford or Meadows could be the selection. Instead, the Royals surprised many by taking Stephen F. Austin infielder Hunter Dozier, projected to be the 39th best player in the draft by Baseball America.
Selecting such a reach seemed odd, but with the Royals selecting top ten talent Sean Manaea with their competitive balance draft pick at #34, the strategy of selecting a "signable" guy with the #7 pick made sense as a way to give the Royals the financial flexibility to sign Manaea.
Scouts describe him as a Jeff Kent-style player in a Drew Stubbs body. Dozier has adjusted his approach this spring, abandoning a crouch and standing more upright, allowing him to use his hands better in his swing. He’s also doing a better job of managing the strike zone and with a month to go before the draft, he was hitting .404 and ranked fourth in NCAA Division I in doubles (22), homers (14) and slugging (.770).
With the Royals holding onto the 17th pick in the draft, their highest first pick since 1995, it was difficult to project who might be available when their turn came up. Pre-draft mocks were all over the place, with early reports having the Royals in on outfield bats like Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher and Colorado prep star Forrest Wall. Other reports had them on power high school arms like lefties Kodi Medieros and Foster Griffin and right-hander Grant Holmes.
So the Royals surprised everyone when they took lefty Brandon Finnegan, a shorter pitching prospect from TCU. Little did anyone know, the College World Series star would soon be pitching in the Major League World Series. And the Royals ended up snagging Griffin with their 28th overall pick to boot.
Had Finnegan been healthy the entire season, he could have gone in the top 10 picks and has some of the most electric stuff in the draft.
So this is a very inexact science. Selections applauded today will someday be busts. Some picks that are derided today will become future All-Stars. Development matters, and today is just a first step for many players as they embark on their professional careers.