Baseball’s amateur draft is just weeks away, to be held June 12-14. The Royals forfeited their first round pick last year for signing free agent Ian Kennedy, but this year they will have the #14 overall pick, and will get four of the top 90 picks, thanks to a competitive balance lottery pick. The Royals will have over $8 million to spend on their draft pool, giving them a chance to re-stock a farm system that has become ranked near the bottom of baseball.
So who are some players that might be available in the first round? Some recent mock drafts give an idea of who might be available for the Royals.
In his first mock draft, Keith Law at ESPN has the Royals selecting Georgia prep pitcher DL Hall. Hall hails from Valdosta, birthplace of Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain. The 18-year old is considering one of the top lefty prep pitchers in the draft, with a fastball in the low 90s, according to Law.
Hall works in the low 90s with a hammer curveball but lacks the command and control of Gore and has some cross-body action in his delivery. He might have more long-term upside, though.
John Sickels at Minor League Ball wrote about Hall this week, writing:
There’s still some projectable athleticism in his body and a bit more velocity is possible down the line, but even at the current level he has enough. Multiple observers report that his fastball can be straight, but it plays up due to the contrast with his excellent curveball, rated by many observers as the best high school breaking ball in the draft.
Hall added a change-up last summer and while it needs more work, it should be at least an average pitch in time. When he’s going well Hall throws all three pitches for quality strikes and can get hitters out with both power and finesse. He is very competitive and makeup is considered another plus.
Hall has been known to touch 95 on the gun and is said to have a “repeatable” delivery, although there is some concern about his propensity to “fall hard” off the mound. There seems to be some disagreement over his height - he has been listed anywhere from 6’0’’ to 6’2’’, but he is a tremendous athlete.
Hall sounds like he has some consistency issues and his development will depend a lot about the instruction he receives from his drafting team, as his command and changeup still needs work. Since Lonnie Goldberg took over as Royals scouting director in 2011, the Royals have selected 253 players, 35 of them have been prep pitchers. Of those, only Jake Junis has reached the big leagues, with Scott Blewett, Garrett Davila, and Foster Griffin having the best odds of joining him, while Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson have been largely disappointing.
While it may be tempting fate for the Royals to draft a pitcher named “DL”, it is probably better than drafting Kyle Hurt, or the fictitious Gary Ligamentsprain. Hall may be a project, but if he already shows one plus pitch, he could have the kind of upside the Royals badly need in their farm system.
If the Royals are not interested in prep pitchers, perhaps a more polished college position player will be in play at #14. Jim Callis of MLB.com has the Royals selecting Vanderbilt outfielder Jeren Kendall in his first mock draft. Callis thinks Kendall would be a steal for the Royals if he is still available.
Kendall has the best tools among college position players but is sliding from one-time potential No. 1 overall choice into the teens because of his 25 percent strikeout rate.
In 51 games with the Commodores this year, Kendall is hitting .296/.372/.545 with 13 home runs, but 63 whiffs. Originally from Wisconsin, he has excelled at Vanderbilt since he was a freshman, when he was part of their 2015 club that went to the College World Series. The left-handed hitter is a five-tool player, although he likely won’t be a big-time power hitter. John Sickels notes his speed as an asset, writing:
Speed and simple athleticism are the key parts of Kendall’s game: he’s a 70-grade runner with excellent instincts; it isn’t hard to imagine him stealing 30-40 bases per year in the majors, assuming he gets on base enough (more on that in a moment). His throwing arm earns 55 or 60 grades depending on the source, and his ability to read the ball makes him perhaps the top defensive outfielder in college baseball. There’s no question about his ability to handle center field at higher levels.
Clint Scoles at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City marvels at Kendall’s athleticism, comparing him to George Springer.
The speed and defense stand out. This is a player who should have no problems playing the outfield at The K as a speedy center fielder who can go get the ball and then influence the game when he’s on the bases. Along with an average or better arm, Kendall could step into The K and handle everything that is needed at a plus level. That athleticism is carried over into the power with Kendall having average or slightly better pop. A team that drafts Kendall could iron out some swing mechanics and have a 20/20 type hitter.
However, he notes the strikeouts are a concern. Kendall also struggled last summer in the elite Cape Cod League, hitting just .216/.286/.333. Kendall’s pitch recognition has been called into question, and the Royals do not have a good track record with developing pitch recognition in their system. They may be tempted by his speed and defense, and he may very well be the best player available when they select at #14.
Of these two choices, which player do you prefer the Royals drafting?
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