As someone who "covers" and enjoys prospects a lot, this Royals draft stinks. Not only is the draft pool a less than stellar one (the first few guys arguably wouldn't even be top five guys in some years) but the Royals don't pick until 67th overall, due to forfeiting their first round pick for signing Ian Kennedy.
From a quick glance, it doesn't seem the Royals have ever had their first pick this late in the draft. This comes at a crucial time for them too. We all know about the mass exodus coming soon and the Royals will have to rely heavily on their internal system to rebuild...but it isn't really there. That's partly due to the Royals draft issues the past half decade. Here are a list of many of those early picks.
The Royals have not had a first-round pick drafted this decade come up an play for them other than Colon and Finnegan. Colon was just demoted to the minors while Finnegan was traded in the Johnny Cueto deal last year. Other than that it seems to be crickets. The Royals spent over $10 million in draft bonuses on Kyle Zimmer and Bubba Starling and they could conceivably get zero innings of major league time out of them. The Royals also continue to draft pitchers despite showing an inability to develop any of them as starters.
With a pick at #67 overall it's safe to say that they are unlikely to add any impact talent to their farm system with the draft this year unless someone falls to them. So what should they do with the 67th pick?
Spend big on someone who falls
I think the Royals absolutely need to just worry about grabbing someone who falls due to either injury concerns or signability issues, with the latter being the more preferable. MLB teams are capped on how much they can spend on draft bonuses in the first ten rounds, with each team allocated a pool of money based on the value of their draft picks. The Royals draft bonus pool for the first ten rounds will be $3.225 million, the second-lowest pool in the draft after the Cubs ($2.245 million). This leaves them with little room to spend. That would be an average of about $358,000 per pick. In comparison, the Reds have the most money overall and have an average of $1.25 million per pick. Of course, teams don't spend the average amount on each pick, they spend the majority of their money in the first few rounds then make up for the quick drain by signing college seniors willing to sign for cheap.
Seniors signs will be the key for the Royals. They should spend big on a player or two who falls then just burn the boats with senior signs. Don't worry about trying to get value with picks 4-10, spend it on the best talent early. There is no minimum amount a player must sign for and if you spend aggressively they could distribute the money like this:
You could give a little more to the guy taken at 67 than the guy at 103, but the idea is still the same: spend big on the first two guys. $1.3 million isn't chump change either. The majority of second round picks from last year signed for less than that (only six of the 27 players selected signed for more).
Some draft picks who fell last year include:
Michael Matuella - Matuella was at one point in consideration in early spring to go #1 overall showing elite stuff across the board. Teams were hesitant about a major back injury he had in the prior summer but he shrugged it off and showed up as the elite pitcher he was previously. His back would be fine but his elbow would not and he ended up having Tommy John surgery in early April. Matuella fell steeply because of his injury. He was ranked the 23rd best talent in the draft by Baseball America but the Rangers were able to grab him at 78th overall, paying him $2M not to return to Duke.
Chris Betts - Betts was your prototypical prep catcher who has a very good bat but major questions on if he'll actually catch professionally. Baseball America ranked Betts as the 28th best talent in the draft and the Rays selected the prep catcher at 58th overall.
Jalen Miller - Miller was all over the board for teams. Those that saw him as a well rounded player that could stay at shortstop believed him to be a first-round talent, but those teams that saw him moving off the position had a much lower view. Baseball America felt he was likely to stay at shortstop and placed him as the 35th best prospect before being snatched up by the Giants at 95 overall for $1.1 million.
Jacob Nix - Nix may be best known at the moment for being one of the players in the Brady Aiken fiasco a few drafts back that ended up "nixing" multiple draft deals for the Astros. Nix had a bunch of upside, and Baseball America ranked him the 37th best prospect in the draft, but concerns over a UCLA commitment and lack of polish saw him fall to the Padres at 86th overall. He signed for $900,000.
Demi Orimoloye - The Nigerian had one of the most elite names in the draft and scouts saw him mostly as projection with questions on if he'll end up hitting despite potentially have five tools. The Brewers got the 41st overall ranked prospect at pick 121 for $450,000.
David Hill - Hill was an undersized pitcher who went from known high school guy to known JuCo guy to known Division I guy after he transferred to the University of San Diego. Teams were concerned about his size and lack of any standout pitch but Baseball America ranked him the 44th best prospect in the draft and he fell to the Rockies at 107.
Joe McCarthy - McCarthy had concerns over back surgery that kept him from participating in the early months of the season coupled with power concerns. However BA ranked him the 46th best prospect in the draft and the Rays signed him for $356K at 148th overall.
Juan Hillman - Hillman checked a lot of the boxes you like out of a prep pitcher who was very young for his class. BA ranked Hillman the 50th best prospect in the draft and the Indians were able to grab him at 58th overall
These are of course just examples, and here soon I'll have a list of guys that could potentially fall to the Royals at 67th.
Trade for a draft pick
I swear I know the rules and I promise you you can trade for a draft pick, it just has to be a competitive balance lottery (CBL) pick, which comes after the first-round and supplemental round. The picks are awarded to certain smaller market franchises on a lottery basis each year. The Royals sure "picked" a bad year to not have a competitive balance pick. After winning the first pick in the inaugural competitive balance lottery, the Royals now have gone back-to-back years without getting any of the twelve picks. Last year it wasn't so bad since the Royals had both a first-round pick and a compensation pick for San Diego signing James Shields. That is not the case this year.
These picks can only be traded during the season so that leaves a small window of April to early-June for them to be dealt. These picks have been traded before and they normally don't carry a high cost:
- The Orioles traded their 2nd round CBL pick to relieve themselves of their obligations to Ryan Webb (who was owed ~$2.75M) while receiving some lower prospects alongside it. This ended up being the 74th overall pick.
- The Astros acquired the Marlins first-round CBL pick in a overall large package that included Jarred Cosart, Kike Hernandez, Jake Marisnick, and others. Ultimately this pick ended up being the 37th overall pick (the first among CBL picks). The Astros were able to draft Daz Cameron (son of former big leaguer Mike Cameron) who was regarded as a top five talent (by Baseball America) but fell due to a strong commitment to Florida State and inconsistency in spring play.
- The Braves acquired the Padres first-round CBL pick in the mega-package that included Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Matt Wisler, and others. The Braves used this pick (41st overall) to select prep third baseman Austin Riley (the 164th best talent as ranked by BA).
- In one of the largest quantity of trade I've ever seen the Braves, Marlins, and Dodgers traded 13 total players alongside a draft pick from the Marlins in a deal with Alex Wood being the chief name. This pick acquired by Atlanta will be the 40th overall pick (worth $1.6M) in the upcoming draft.
- In 2014 the Astros acquired the 37th overall pick when they traded away Bud Norris to the Orioles for LJ Hoes and Josh Hader.
- The Marlins again traded away a CBL pick, this time to Pittsburgh for the services of Bryan Morris. This pick ended up being the 39th overall pick (worth $1.4M).
- In 2013 the Marlins acquired the Pirates CBL pick and Gorkys Hernandez while trading away Gabby Hernandez. This ended up being the #35 overall pick, one pick after the Royals took Sean Manaea.
Some of these picks came as throw ins as part of a larger deal, and that's probably not likely going to be the case for the Royals if they were to acquire one. However there is precedent of the pick being part of a deal for non-star or below average players.
Acquiring picks of course increases your bonus pool allocation so the Royals would have more money to work with. If they acquired a first-round CBL pick then they could rethink the strategy of trying to sign away a fallen player and instead it would give them the capital to go for a stronger talent who didn't fall.
Here are the list of teams with CBL picks:
Round A (after first-round)
Round B (after second-round)
Could the Royals trade Omar Infante to a team if KC covers his entire salary? He's dead weight at this point anyways and if they DFA him they get nothing in return while still owing him everything. Or if the Royals are really, actually, unbelievably, dedicated to Omar Infante would a team trade their pick for Christian Colon? These picks don't get traded that often and it is not likely the Royals will make such a move, as Dayton Moore has not typically been an active trader during the season.
In the weeks leading up to the draft on June 9th we will have a lot of coverage including a list of names to know for the top of the draft (even if the Royals won't be able to get any of them), players who could fall to the Royals, players in the general range that the Royals pick, and likely a review of prior drafts under Dayton Moore's tenure.