Dayton Moore has emphasized recruiting local talent for the Royals organization much like the Braves have done harvesting the fields of Georgia. While there is a sharp drop-off in talent in the area as there was last year, when local prep stars Riley Pint and Joey Wentz were among one of the best local draft classes ever, there are still a few intriguing local names to keep an eye on for next week’s draft.
3B Jake Burger, Missouri State
Burger could be in play for the Royals with the #14 overall pick, and Fangraphs recently had the Royals selecting him in their mock draft saying the club had a large contingent to watch him in the NCAA regionals. The St. Louis product (Christian Brother College High School) was a second-team All-American as a sophomore last season, and will certainly be a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award for the nation’s top collegiate player this year. The right-handed slugger hit .333 for the Bears this year with 22 home runs.
While Burger is a big-time power hitter, scouting reports from MLB.com suggest he won’t completely sacrifice contact and average to mash taters. Burger has a bigger build with Baseball America calling him “bad bodied” and is a slow runner on the bases. Some reports suggest is agile enough to stay at third on defense with a strong arm, although our Shaun Newkirk is much more skeptical of his ability to stay there, predicting he will have to move to first base. Burger seems like a lock to be taken in the first-round, making him the fourth Missouri State Bear to be selected in Round One since 2006.
RHP Tanner Houck, University of Missouri
Houck stands 6’5’’, the kind of tall frame the Royals typically love out of pitchers. He is also a St. Louis-area kid, from the Illinois town of Collinsville, where he was selected by the Blue Jays in the 12th-round out of high school. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2015, and he is already fourth all-time in Mizzou history in strikeouts after just three seasons. This year he put up a 3.33 ERA in 14 starts for the Tigers with 95 strikeouts in 94 2⁄3 innings.
Houck misses bats now with plus velocity, but with a funky delivery that deceives hitters. He throws in the low-90s with good sink due to a low arm angle, according to Baseball America. His secondary stuff is not as polished as you might like for a college pitcher, although he is reported to have a decent slider. Houck is likely to be a first-round pick, but he projects to be more of a middle-of-the-rotation starter or perhaps a right-handed relief specialist.
RHP Bryce Montes de Oca, University of Missouri
Montes de Oca was considered a top round talent in his senior year at Lawrence High School in Kansas, but concerns about his Tommy John surgery scared some teams, and he fell to Round 14. The 6’7’’, 265 pound junior also had a nerve relocated in his elbow while at Mizzou, which may be a big red flag. He has been durable for the Tigers this year, however, throwing 61 innings with a 4.28 ERA and 61 strikeouts.
Command has been a big issue for Montes de Oca, however, with 42 walks this year. He has simplified his delivery, throwing from the stretch at all times, but many expect him to have to pitch out of the pen with his control issues. He throws in the mid-90s, touching 97 on the gun, according to Baseball America, and throws a hard curveball. Montes de Oca is praised for his makeup, and he was valedictorian of his high school class.
LHP Blake Weiman, University of Kansas
The 6’5’’ Colorado native was moved to the bullpen for the Jayhawks this year after concerns about his stamina. He has excelled with a 2.80 ERA and just five walks to 55 strikeouts in 45 innings. He throws in the low-90s with pinpoint control and an easy delivery, but will likely be a left-handed specialist in the pros.
SS Matt McLaughlin, University of Kansas
McLaughlin traveled all the way from San Jose, California to attend KU, where he has twice been named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. He has been a three-year starter and scouts at Baseball America think he can probably stick at shortstop in the pros. He led the Jayhawks with a .314 average and drew 34 walks to just 31 strikeouts. He hit just three home runs, and power seems to be the only real weakness to his game. McLaughlin has pretty limited upside, but is a solid all-around player.
RHP Zeb Vermillion, Shawnee Mission East High School (Prairie Village, KS)
Vermillion hails from the same high school that 2016 first-rounder Joey Wentz attended. With a tall 6’4’’ frame, Vermillion already flashes a fastball in the low-90s. Prep Baseball Report writes up his secondary stuff, saying:
He also has a late-breaking curveball with 11/5 shape that sits in the low 70s. His changeup has late sink at 80-82. Vermillion uses a loose arm action and has a slender frame with room to add strength.
Vermillion has a commitment to the University of Arkansas.
RHP Luke Anderson, Shawnee Mission East High School (Prairie Village, KS)
Anderson joins Vermillion in the Lancers rotation and was named Sunflower League Pitcher of the year, and was first-team All-State. He stands 6’1’’, and has a fastball reported to sit in the mid-80s, but at just 175 pounds he could fill out and add velocity. Andreson is committed to the University of Missouri.
OF Jake Randa, Shawnee Mission East High School (Prairie Village, KS)
Jake Randa has BLOODLINES as the son of popular former Royals third baseman Joe Randa. MaxPreps named Randa the best player in Kansas before the 2017 seasons. He has some raw power hitting from the left side. Randa is preparing to attend Northwest Florida State Junior College this fall.
1B Matt Warkentin, Johnson County Community College
The Canadian-born Warkentin has an imposing build at 6’5’’, 230 pounds and has smashed a team-high 16 home runs for the Cavaliers this year. He flashes good raw power, but one scout described his performance as inconsistent. He began his collegiate career at the University of San Francisco before transferring to JCCC. The 20-year old right-handed hitter plans to continue on at Xavier University if he doesn’t go pro.
RHP Matt Russell, Staley High School (Kansas City North, MO)
Standing at 6’3’’, 190, Russell flashes a fastball that can hit 90 on the gun. He fared well at last year’s Prospect Games and is committed to Missouri State.
C Justin Mitchell, Platte County High School (Platte City, MO)
Mitchell stands around 6’0’’ and hit .444 this year for the Pirates. Unless he signs with a pro team, Mitchell will be headed to play baseball at Oklahoma.
Any other local names you think could be selected next week?