The newest members of the Royals organization will be known next week, when the team takes part in the June amateur draft. This will be the seventh Royals draft overseen by scouting director Lonnie Goldberg. The results thus far, have been a mixed bag.
Goldberg took a gamble on a local prep kid with terrific raw talent in Bubba Starling in 2011, but Starling has struggled mightily in the upper minors. He selected a more polished college pitcher the following year, but Kyle Zimmer has been plagued with injury problems. His first round picks in 2013, Hunter Dozier and Sean Manaea, still have promising careers, and 2014 pick Brandon Finnegan was a clutch performer for the Royals before they dealt him to Cincinnati for Johnny Cueto. But the entire 2015 draft, from Ashe Russell on down, looks like a bit of a disaster.
The Royals still lean heavily on college players, as most teams do, since they are more likely to sign and more polished products. Here is how the Royals compare in their breakdown of college vs. high school players to the all of baseball.
Some players are listed as "no school" in the draft database at Baseball-Reference. They may have been drafted from independent leagues (such as Brady Aiken) or were home-schooled (like Nonie Williams).
The Royals have a reputation for taking high school talent, but in reality they take more high school hitters, not necessarily more prep arms than the average MLB team. Where they do seem to focus more than other teams is on junior college players, a strategy that has found them players like Matt Strahm, Cody Reed, and Terrance Gore.
However these results may be skewed by the later rounds of the draft where college seniors are selected to fill out rosters, or teams take fliers on high school kids, or even make courtesy selections for sons of coaches. Let's focus on just the first ten rounds, where teams focus most of their resources.
Here is where I think you do see where the Royals get their reputation for selecting high school pitchers. Of their 63 picks in the first ten rounds from 2011-2016, 11 were prep pitchers - Foster Griffin, Ashe Russell, Nolan Watson, Scott Blewett, Colin Rodgers, Bryan Brickhouse, Carter Hope, Garrett Davila, Kyle Smith, Zack Lovvorn, and Evan Beal. While it is still early in these players' careers - 2011 draftee Kyle Smith (now with Houston) is still just 24 - none of these players has made it close to the big leagues or has warranted discussion on a top prospect list so far.
While this draft window is just a short time for players to reach the big leagues, we can look at how quickly Royals draft picks have gone through the system to graduate to the Major Leagues. Of the players selected since the 2011 draft, 399 have reached the big leagues, an average of 13.3 per team. Anthony Rendon, Brad Miller, and Kolten Wong have played the most big league games, with Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Jose Fernandez (who tragically died last year) providing the most WAR.
Over that same time, of the 253 players selected by the Royals, 13 picks have reached the big leagues - Brandon Finnegan, Sean Manaea, Andrew Triggs, Matt Strahm, Terrance Gore, Jake Junis, Hunter Dozier, Alec Mills, Kevin McCarthy, Daniel Stumpf, Spencer Patton, Aaron Brooks, and Cody Reed. Manaea, Finnegan, and Reed have been top 100 prospects, Strahm has been considered by some to be a Top 100 prospect, and Dozier was the club's top minor league player of the year last year. Goldberg should get some credit as well for Andrew Triggs, who was let go by the Royals but went on to enjoy success with the Oakland Athletics this year.
Here is where the Royals have found their draft picks under Goldberg, by the location of the school they attended.
|Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Puerto Rico||7|
|Kansas, New York||6|
|Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina||5|
|Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Washington||4|
|Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma||3|
|DC, Idaho, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia||2|
|Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, Ontario||1|
The draft is the lifeline of a small market franchise, and the Royals will need to make wise picks next week. Their drafts have fallen off in recent years, but with four selections in the top 90 picks, Goldberg has a chance to replenish the farm system.