The Major League draft is in just over a week, and the Royals will need a good draft class to help replenish a farm system that has grown thin over the last few seasons. IF the mock drafts are any indication of how things might go for the Royals, however, it appears they are leaning towards selecting a high school pitcher with the #14 overall pick.
The Royals have certainly had a penchant for high school pitchers before. In 2015, three of their top five picks were high school pitchers, including first-round pick Ashe Russell. On the other hand, last year they did not select a high school pitcher until round 31, when they took Malcolm Van Buren. The results under scouting director Lonnie Goldberg have not been great, according to Clint Scoles at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City.
The Royals and Goldberg have signed 20 prep pitchers counting the draft last year. Those picks have accounted for nearly $14.5m in draft bonuses and produced exactly one major league inning of production....
High school pitchers taken early in the draft have been a mixed bag, with some providing huge upside, such as Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner, but others providing huge bust potential like Matt Hobgood or Brien Taylor. A recent study by Baseball America found that the first high school pitcher selected had a median value worse than any other group.
Most of the buzz has connected the Royals to New Mexico high school pitcher Trevor Rogers. John Sickels of Minor League Ball reports the Royals have been linked to the left-hander from Carlsbad. Baseball America also has the Royals selecting Rogers in their most recent mock draft.
Rogers has the tall frame the Royals seem to love, standing at 6’6’’ with a fastball that already runs in the mid-90s, according to Sickels in his profile of the prospect. He reports that Rogers really burst onto the scene this year, and there have been inconsistent reports on his velocity.
Sickels notes that Rogers has a “low-effort delivery”, which reduces the risk of injury and suggests he could have more velocity as he matures. Like many prep pitchers, the secondary pitches will likely need some polish.
His second pitch is a sweeping breaking ball described as either a slider or a hard curve depending on the source. This pitch is inconsistent but could be/should be a plus pitch in time. He hasn’t needed a change-up much against weak local competition but it has looked workable when he’s brought it out. The pitch could be at least average eventually.
Rogers’ control is actually quite solid considering his background although his command within the strike zone could use some tightening.
Rogers is already 19 years old, but Sickels writes he has “dominant starter” potential. Baseball America ranks him #30 overall on their draft board, writing:
One of the top performers in Long Beach last summer, Rogers pumped effortless gas up to 95 mph to go with a slider with intriguing shape and action. He's been inconsistent against inferior competition all spring, essentially dominating with a fastball around 88-90 mph coming in from his low three-quarters slot that evokes Andrew Miller.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has the Royals selecting Shane Baz, a high school pitcher out of Turnbull, Texas, but only if Rogers is off the board. Baseball America ranks the right-handed Baz as the #11 prospect in the draft, writing he has the potential to be even better than potential top pick Hunter Greene, due to potent breaking pitches.
This spring, Baz showed more of a true slider in the mid-80s with tight, slurvy break. He also throws a sharp curveball with more top-to-bottom action on it and late vertical dive to it. Scouts have projected each of his breaking pitches to develop into plus pitches, though he'll have to work on being more consistent with both.
Jacob Markle at Minor League Ball also marvels at Baz’s deep repertoire, writing he has five pitches to go to, adding a cutter and a four-seamer to go with his breaking stuff. His bread and butter, however, is a fastball that already hits the mid-90s and has hit 98 on the radar gun on occasion. He has one of the best fastball spin rates by any potential draftee and a pretty clean, repeatable delivery.
The issue with Baz will be command, although Eric Longerhangen at Fangraphs thinks he can develop at least average command once he commits to baseball full-time. Baz is considered to be a bit more difficult of a sign to pry him from his commitment to TCU.
Keith Law of ESPN has the Royals taking Rogers, but notes that the club has been linked to a number of high school pitchers, including Baz and Georgia lefty DL Hall, as well as Vanderbilt outfielder Jeren Kendall the latter two of which were profiled here last week.
Jim Callis of MLB.com also has the Royals selecting Rogers, but notes they are “considering a wide variety of players”, including prep pitcher like Hall and rogers, but also high school outfielders like Jordon Adell of Kentucky and Bubba Thompson of Alabama, and college bats like Missouri State’s Jake Burger and Kentucky’s Evan White.