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Royals 2017 draft recap and thoughts

Who did the Royals take?

So Christmas in June is over. This years draft was a week later than usual, but that just gave us more time to be excited I suppose. The Royals actually had a first round pick this year, and in fact they had three early-ish picks too, a huge step up from last year.

First round: 1B Nick Pratto, Huntington Beach HS (CA)

When the Royals took prep first baseman Nick Pratto at 14th overall I still had some guys on my personal draft board ahead of him available. Pratto didn’t go especially early or anything. He was ranked in the mid-to-late teens by most sites (save for Baseball America who ranked him at 24th overall), so it’s not like what the Yankees did with Clark Schmidt. However I think in regards of who was still left, you could make an argument that Pratto was a reach. If we go solely by Baseball America’s rankings (using different sites will yield different results of course) here is who was still left:

J.B. Bukauskas - #6

Alex Faedo - #10

Evan White - #12

Nate Pearson - #14

D.L. Hall - #16

David Peterson - #17

Jeren Kendall - #18

Logan Warmoth - #19

Sam Carlson - #21

Tanner Houck - #22

Drew Waters - #23

Again this is just Baseball America, and had Pratto ranked higher, but across the board J.B. Bukauskas was ranked higher and I don’t buy that the Royals had Pratto ahead of him on their draft board (I don’t really buy that any team did either).

I’m not saying the Royals were targeting a 1B, but if they were going to take a 1B, I don’t see how they didn’t go with Evan White over Pratto. Given the choice of just those two, White wins hands down (to me at least). White is a college guy with a better hit tool, better defender, better runner, and better current power... and Pratto can probably play CF and certainly LF. With Pratto he’s a 1B only and you’ve got to project the raw power (which if it does come will be more than White currently has).

Keith Law echoed a similar sentiment:

I asked former ESPN and Baseball Prospectus lead prospect analyst about Pratto and the Royals draft as well:

Pratto was a fine pick if everything went the way it was supposed to go, but J.B. Bukauskas wasn’t supposed to fall to the Royals.

Pratto brings off a Dominic Smith kinda vibe to me, and I am/was a fan of Smith both now and when he was drafted. When he was taken by the Mets at 14th (!!!) overall in 2013, Smith was a contact first prep 1B only guy who we had to wait on for the power. Both are bigger bodied guys, not an unmanageable weight like say with Josh Naylor - another prep 1B who was taken in the first round previously, and also pitched.

You could imagine a similar path for Pratto. Smith’s power started to come on as he entered his twenties. It’s still not quite where you’d want a first baseman’s power to be, but Smith makes good contact and at least accesses what power he has.

Using Baseball America’s grades, here are the closest top 100 prospects to Pratto:

Obviously the only name that really fits here is Smith, and he’s a consensus top 100 guy. If Pratto follows that path then that’s a great outcome of course.

As Keith Law pointed out in his Royals recap (insider only and recommended) first base high schoolers are a tough profile:

He's a high school first baseman, so his upside is limited, and that's as bad a demographic in the first round as you can find. In the past 15 drafts, only one first-round high school first baseman has ended up producing positive WAR in the majors -- the Royals' own Eric Hosmer.

Second Round: C M.J. Melendez, Westminster Christian HS (FL)

I think there were other guys still on the board I’d prefer but Melendez is okay here. Melendez is super athletic and he doesn’t even look like a catcher, more like an outfielder. He’s pretty good behind the plate and there is some decent raw power. Prep catchers are a generally terrible investment but Melendez is a sure fire catcher so there’s a decent enough baseline to work from.

Second Round (Competitive Balance Pick): LHP Evan Steele, Chipola Junior College

Steele was also a bit of a reach but there is some stuff to like. He was decently known as a high schooler and went on to attend Vanderbilt (a decent sign in and of itself). He’s got a bit of a weird delivery in the mold of Sean Manaea/Andrew Miller where it’s a lower slot lefty mechanics. It’s clean enough and his stuff isn’t out of control. Steele may have gone higher if not for a blood clot that slowed him down this year.

Steele was also worked to near-death by his coach when he threw 143 pitches over eight innings where he struggled a bit (six walks). We've seen overworked outing come back to bite guys later in their careers (Dylan Bundy for example as well as every pitcher in Rice history) and coupling that with a blood clot is scary.

Third Round: LHP Daniel Tillo, Iowa Western Community College

Tillo is another guy who attended a big named school (Kentucky) but then transferred to a smaller one. There are some fatigue issues with Tillo but the stuff is very good when he’s actually on the mound. You’ll hear a lot about him being a "fresh arm" but Kyle Zimmer was a fresh arm. That a double-edged sword to me. You’d like low mileage, but pitcher’s arms need to get accustomed to throwing too, so having no mileage can take a long time to build up to strength (if it ever gets there... like Kyle Zimmer).

Fourth Round: CF Michael Gigliotti, Lipscomb, University

I really like this pick, even if Gigliotti amounts to nothing. If Gigliotti kept up what he did last summer in the prestigious Cape Cod League he wouldn’t have had to wait until day two to hear his name. Instead this spring he couldn’t quite live up to his wood bat performance (usually it’s the opposite) and didn’t flash the same tools. He has a leadoff hitter profile with speed and contact but the bat speed is fringy. He’s solid in the field so a 4th outfielder possibility is certainly there. Let’s chill on the Jacoby Ellsbury comps.

Overall I’d give the Royals draft a B-. I’m glad they didn’t take a guy like Trevor Rogers (they couldn’t have because he went a pick earlier to the Marlins but you get the picture) with their first pick. Prep pitchers clearly aren’t working for the Royals development staff. As mentioned earlier there were several guys I would have taken before Pratto but grabbing a bunch of top 100 guys after Pratto was a good recuperation.

Here is the complete 2017 Royals draft class:

Round Pick Player Position School BA Rank
1 14 Nick Pratto 1B Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS 24
Smooth swing, but power is not there yet. Could also be a pitching prospect.
2 52 M.J. Melendez C Westminster Christian School, Palmetto Bay, Fla. 52
Quick feet, strong arm, good pop, but may have contact issues. Son of FIU baseball coach.
2.5 73 Evan Steele LHP Chipola (Fla.) JC 90
Low-90s fastball, decent curve, stands 6'5''. Missed time due to a blood clot.
3 90 Daniel Tillo LHP Iowa Western JC 93
Was "Mr. Basketball" in high school at Sioux City. Can hit 96 on the gun with a solid slider.
4 120 Michael Gigliotti OF Lipscomb 71
Drew 51 walks for Lipscomb with 31 steals while hitting .282. Fared well in Cape Code League.
5 150 Charlie Neuweiler RHP McClancy Memorial HS, East Elmhurst, N.Y. 192
Works a 87-92 mph fastball with a spike-curve. Teammates with Quentin Holmes.
6 180 Tyler Zuber RHP Arkansas State -
College senior closer. 2.09 ERA with 80 K in 52.1 innings. Solid curveball.
7 210 Brewer Hicklen OF Alabama-Birmingham 281
Hit .328/.422/.586 with 17 steals for UAB, was set to play football as well.
8 240 Holden Capps LHP Central Oklahoma -
6'2'' lefty is already 22. Had a 4.39 ERA with 92 K 40 BB in 96.1 IP.
9 270 J.C. Cloney LHP Arizona -
College senior with a 3.11 ERA with 71 K and 17 BB in 89.2 IP.
10 300 Jordan Floyd LHP Kansas State -
College senior with a 5.04 ERA with 30 K 14 BB in 30.1 IP.
11 330 Sal Biasi RHP Penn State 308
Junior known for "stocky" build had a 3.48 ERA with 88 K 39 BB in 72.1 IP
12 360 Collin Snider RHP Vanderbilt -
Junior had a 5.40 ERA with 29 K 16 BB in 33.1 IP.
13 390 Cason Sherrod RHP Texas A&M 347
Mid-90s fastball with good sink. 2.89 ERA with 38 K 24 BB in 43.2 IP. Partially deaf.
14 420 Isaiah Henry RHP North Shore HS, Houston 352
Can hit 94 mph on the  gun, but rumors are Royals want to try him in CF where he has plus speed.
15 450 Robert Garcia LHP UC Davis -
Redshirt sophomore had a 4.18 ERA with 56 K 37 BB in 75.1 IP.
16 480 Christopher Hudgins C Cal State Fullerton -
San Diego-native hit .242/.29/.406 as a junior. Models his game after Yadier Molina.
17 510 Julio Gonzalez SS Florida Gulf Coast -
Lefty batter hit .326/.409/.473 with 35 walks and 34 strikeouts.
18 540 Marlin Willis LHP McEachern HS, Powder Springs, Ga. -
6'4'' lefty has a fastball in the low 90s. Already 19 years old. Committed to Georgia.
19 570 Korry Howell SS Kirkwood (Iowa) JC -
Toolsy Chicago-area shortstop.
20 600 Bryar Johnson RHP Carolina Forest HS, Myrtle Beach, S.C. -
Fastball runs 88-91 mph with good life.
21 630 Isaiah Smith OF Battle Ground (Wash.) HS 462
6'2'' centerfielder has good speed. Will forgo Washington State to sign with Royals.
22 660 Josh Mitchell LHP Pittburgh -
Redshirt junior had a 4.61 ERA with 65 K 22 BB in 70.1 IP.
23 690 Matt Morales SS Palm Beach State (Fla.) JC -
Began career at Stetson University. Brother plays in the Padres system.
24 720 Connor Mayes RHP Texas -
Led team in ERA in 2016, but had a 6.00 ERA with 22 K 16 BB in 27 IP in 2017.
25 750 Tyler James OF William Carey (Miss.) -
Louisiana-native helped lead William Carey to NAIA College World Series.
26 780 Garrett Suchey RHP Alabama -
Junior had a 3.18 ERA with 70 K 26 BB in 73.2 IP.
27 810 Nick Hutchins C Southern Illinois -
Junior hit .228/.315/.358 in 193 Abs.
28 840 Tylor Fischer RHP Langham Creek HS, Houston 246
Stands 6'3'' and already flashes a low-90s fastball. Inconsistent with command issues.
29 870 Travis Jones OF Texas 491
Hit .253/.393/.401 with 36 walks and 15 HBP. Drafted by the Rangers out of high school.
30 900 Adam Bainbridge LHP Old Dominion -
College senior had 3.53 ERA with 75 K 19 BB in 97 IP.
31 930 Justin Vought C Wyoming Valley West HS, Plymouth, Pa. -
Solid arm behind the plate, could move to outfield as well.
32 960 Andrew Beckwith RHP Coastal Carolina -
Posted a 1.85 ERA in 2016, but regressed in 2017 with a 4.34 ERA with 68 K 28 BB in 91.1 IP.
33 990 Damon Olds RHP Indiana State -
Senior from Terre Haute had a 2.85 ERA with 44 K 16 BB in 41 IP.
34 1020 Jack Klein OF Stanford -
Senior from San Francisco hit .293/.354/.408 with 3 HR in 157 AB.
35 1050 Reed Rohlman OF Clemson -
Redshirt junior led the Tigers in batting average, hitting .361/.448/.542 with 6 HR and 26 BB.
36 1080 Brady Cox C Texas-Arlington -
College senior hit just .229/.324/.276 but drew 27 walks.
37 1110 Trevor Hauver SS Perry HS, Gilbert, Ariz. 399
Strong arm and good speed, power will have to develop. Committed to Arizona State.
38 1140 Montae Bradshaw OF Patrick Henry (Va.) JC -
The DC-area native is a defensive standout. Son of Royals minor league coach Terry Bradshaw.
39 1170 Justin Mitchell C Platte County HS, Platte City, Mo. -
Kansas City-area high schooler hit .444 for the Pirates. Will attend Oklahoma.
40 1200 Yaniel Ramos SS Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico -
Right-handed hitter stands 5'11'', will need to fill out. Good speed and solid arm.