Kansas City has produced a few big league stars, notably Frank White, David Cone, and Hall of Famer Casey Stengel. However it has not exactly been a hotbed of talent for the Major League draft. Only five high school players from the Kansas City area have ever been taken in the first round of the June amateur draft:
- Rick Sutcliffe, Van Horn (Independence, MO), 21st overall, 1974 (Dodgers)
- Lee Stevens, Lawrence (Lawrence, KS), 22nd overall, 1986 (Angels)
- Damian Rolls, Schlagle (Kansas City, KS), 23rd overall, 1996 (Dodgers)
- John Mayberry Jr., Rockhurst (Kansas City, MO), 28th overall, 2002 (Mariners)
- Bubba Starling, Gardner-Edgerton (Gardner, KS), 5th overall, 2011 (Royals)
This year, the area is likely to produce at least one, possibly two, and it is not unthinkable that one or two more could sneak into the first round. Here is a preview of Kansas City area high school stars that should expect to be selected in the first few rounds of next month's amateur draft.
RHP Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Overland Park, KS)
Pint is widely expected to be one of the first ten players taken in next month's amateur draft, if not one of the first five. The right-hander has a tall frame at 6'5'' and a fastball that has touched triple digits.
And there it is… first time I've seen a HS kid do that. pic.twitter.com/FqyAMElSnf— keithlaw (@keithlaw) April 19, 2016
He brings the heat, which will make him an enticing draft pick for any club, and some were speculating he could even become the first high school right-handed pitcher ever to be taken with the first overall pick. His secondary pitches have been described as a work in progress, with Pint trying different arm slots for his curveball. Reports characterize his curve as a "spike curve" or a "knuckle curve" with tight spin and good 12-6 action. He has not been afraid to show his change up either, and it has shown good movement at times.
Pint sits at 97-98 mph, regularly bumps 100 and has touched 102 with a fastball that has sink and tailing action. He also throws an 89-91 mph potentially plus changeup with deception and fade. He even has two separate breaking balls–a curve and a slider that both flash above-average. Pint is athletic–he was an excellent basketball player before focusing on baseball and he’s thrown less than many top high school arms. His delivery causes some concerns as he lands into a stiff front side, has a head whack at release and has some recoil which has at times caused his control to waver. In a best-case scenario he becomes a Justin Verlander-esque front-line ace. Like Pint, Verlander had problems with a stiff front side and control issues as an amateur but the Tigers were able to clean it up.
Any pitcher that throws that hard will raise some injury concerns, and Pint is no different. You can see a bit how his body jerks when he explodes towards the plate, which may need to be refined at the professional level. A scouting report over at The Good Phight also suggests this delivery could lead to command issues with Pint leaving the ball up in the zone.
Pint's arm is ridiculously fast, even though his stride isn't long and he doesn't have a ton of hip rotation; he's just unusually gifted. His arm path is clean, but at release he has a hard head-snap that could be related to the lack of command, as it's hard for a pitcher to locate when he's unable to keep a steady eye on the plate. It's as good an arm as I've ever seen on a teenager, with velocity you can't teach, but I'm also unsure what you can do here to get him to throw more and better strikes or to develop at least an average slider.
Pint has not faced the same kind of hitters his peers in California and Florida have faced, but his velocity will play anywhere. Teams can smooth out his mechanics, and the fact he flashes three above-average pitches shows more polish than most prep pitchers. Baseball America ranks him as the fourth-best player in the entire draft. He will need to fill out his slender frame a bit, and teams will have to lure him away from his commitment to LSU, but Pint could very well be the highest player ever selected from the Kansas City area.
LHP Joey Wentz, Shawnee Mission East HS (Prairie Village, KS)
When scouts were flocking to see Riley Pint, it was actually Wentz who stole the show by tossing his second consecutive no-hitter. Wentz was named Sunflower League Player of the Year for the second year in a row. He gave up just two hits in his first 36 innings without giving up a run, striking out 74 hitters in the process.
What is surprising about Wentz, is that a year ago he was considered a potential mid-round draft pick - as a first baseman. This year he went back to the mound after a year with arm fatigue, and the results were amazing.
A winter strengthening program and physical maturity have not only restored his arm strength but have boosted it: his previous 85-88 MPH fastball is now up to 92-94 MPH with reported peaks at 95. The fastball has life to go with the velocity. Both his curveball and change-up are advanced for a cold-weather high school pitcher. His frame is athletic and projectable so more velocity may come, and he already throws strikes with relatively low-effort mechanics. He also draws praise for his intelligence and confident nature.
-John Sickels, Minor League Ball
Wentz has a pretty easy delivery and a consistent arm slot. Reportrs say his curveball has good spin and is an advanced offering. The change up needs more work with consistency, but has flashed fade at times. At 6'5'', Wentz offers an attractive frame with a fastball that has terrific life to it.
Wentz is committed to Virginia, although if he is taken in the first round, many expect him to turn pro. He has two-way potential as a high power/high strikeout first baseman if his pitching career doesn't pan out. Both Pint and Wentz are advised by former Kansas City sports personality Greg Schaum.
SS Nonie Williams, Turner HS (Kansas City, KS)
Nolan "Nonie" Williams plays for Turner High School, but is actually home schooled by his parents in Kansas City, Kansas. He was supposed to be part of the graduating class of 2017, but after evaluations in summer ball last year that he was advanced for his age, he decided to make himself eligible for this year's draft, despite turning 18 this May.
Williams has speed and athleticism that may end up moving him to center field at the next level. His arm strength is good enough to play third, although some scouts question his hands. At 6'1'' and 195 pounds, he turned in one of the fastest 60-yard times at the Perfect Game Nationals.
Williams is a natural right-hander, but has learned to switch hit and has looked impressive from both sides of the plate. He flashes power, although he will need some refinement to drive the ball more. Williams is committed to play at LSU with Pint, although if he is selected in the first five rounds, he may never step foot in Baton Rouge.
RHP Ryan Zeferjahn, Topeka Seaman HS (Topeka, KS)
Topeka is a stretch to include in the "Kansas City area", but it is in Royals territory, so let's talk about Ryan Zeferjahn. Zeferjahn towers over other prep players at 6'4'' with a nice wide frame. He sits comfortably in the low 90s, hitting 95 on the gun in a game at Kauffman Stadium last spring. This year he dominated
The six-foot tall right hander was on few draft radars until Topeka Seaman and Topeka Hayden played a game at Kauffman Stadium. In that game, Zeferjahn’s 2-seamer was at 91-92 mph and he had a 93-94 mph 4-seamer that touched 95. I saw him in the 5A state tournament and he was 89-92 with a 85 slider, 78-80 change a 76 mph curve.
-Jeff Zimmerman, Hardball Times
Zeferjahn has a nice easy delivery, although he seems like he can drag his arm at times, leading to command issues. He split time with basketball this year, so some full-time devotion to baseball and ironing out of mechanics could help him build on a solid fastball and develop a full repertoire. He is committed to the University of Kansas.
RHP Tyler Benninghoff, Rockhurst HS (Kansas City, MO)
Benninghoff also stands tall at 6'4'' and is considered by many the top high school player in the state of Missouri. He also has some potential as an infielder, although with his velocity, he is likely to pitch in the pros.
On the mound, he starts with a controlled vertical knee lift then explodes at the plate utilizing simple, fast arm action and a ¾ slot. His fastball ranged from 86-90 mph. Benninghoff’s 74-75 breaking ball has late, sharp break to it (definitely an at-bat ender as he learns to harness it). He also has a 73-76 change-up.
-Shon Plack, Prep Baseball Report
Benninghoff is committed to Arkansas, where his older brother Jack currently plays.