Like frost melting on snow-blasted trees and like hundreds of denizens camping out in front of the Apple store, we are slowly warming up to the upcoming draft. College seasons are in full swing and prep baseball is just a month away from state tournaments.
I’ve been covering the draft here for the past few years, giving my wrongful thoughts about potential players, the pool, and their actual picks. This year will be perhaps the most important due to two factors. First, the sheer number of picks they’ll have (#18, #33, #34, and #40) as well as the draft pool. Secondly, with the system being as weak as it is, this could help turn things around with strong results.
I mentioned in my top 25 list that folks may be banking too much on this draft:
There’s potential for this draft to help, but I don’t see it being a game-changer. The money is good, but the system of old where a potential top three pick falling to the 50s is long gone. Instead, guys in the 1-10 range typically go there, with some deviation on the guys after. I feel like it’s much more likely the Royals get a couple 20-40 ranked guys rather than a top ten talent. Those guys help, but they aren’t system game-changers. This is without of course considering the Royals drafting struggles overall. Maybe the money will just be set on fire.
It’s unlikely a draft where your first pick comes at 18th overall is going to be a game changer (like having the #1 overall pick with a Bryce Harper-esque talent could). It has the potential to move the Royals from worst (or second worst) farm system to more middle of the pack, but that won’t be known until a few years from now.
We haven’t quite hit full-on mock draft season yet, but there have been some released, though be hesitant of how early we are.
Baseball America’s latest has the Royals taking Mike Vasil of Boston College High School (what a weird school name):
Vasil has pitchability to go with present stuff (low 90s fastball, above-average curve), a projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and a fresh Northeastern arm.
PICK: Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS
18. KANSAS CITY ROYALS
ELLIS - Nander De Sedas, SS, Montverde Academy (FL): Nander De Sedas is another player whose stock has taken a hit this spring. The Royals have four of the first 40 picks and can take a risk on a shortstop with middle of the order potential. The Royals know they are in for a long rebuild, so they will likely be focused on ceiling beyond everything else.
WARD - Mike Vasil, RHP, Boston College HS (MA): With four picks inside the top 40 and a very deep draft class, no team has more to gain from the 2018 Draft. If they date back to what made them successful and world champions -- just two years ago(!) -- their focus towards athleticism could be vital. Though the bonus demand may be lure them away, Vasil provides athleticism and high velocity that made them so successful in years prior, and may be a slight under slot pick despite a top-30 talent.
And most recently, FanGraphs put out their early edition mock. The team didn’t go quite to the Royals pick, but did give some overall thoughts on their targets:
The Dodgers, Royals (18, 33, 34, 40), and Rays (31, 32) are on Georgia prep CF Parker Meadows (brother of Pirates LF Austin Meadows) whom we compared to Indians CF Bradley Zimmer yesterday in the top 55.
With all their extra picks, the Royals can be creative and bet on upside prep players. Along with Meadows, they are linked to Georgia prep RHP Cole Wilcox(the Reds at pick No. 47 are heavily on Wilcox, as well), who should be a tough sign. Kansas City is also among the teams taking long looks at North Carolina multi-sport prep star CF Jordyn Adams, the others including Minnesota (20, 59), San Diego (38), and Texas (15, 55). Adams’ signability is unclear right now, but the number will likely be well into the seven figures.
Perfect Game also has a mock draft out (perhaps the longest one yet) with the Royals making several selections:
18. Kansas City Royals | Jonathan India, 3B, Florida The Royals have four picks in the top 40, giving ample opportunity to make a run at high priced high schoolers who slide and making this a good spot to lock in a college producer. India has been one of the best in the business this year, slashing .436/.561/.863 through 36 games to go with soft hands and above average speed and arm
33. Kansas City Royals | Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State Eierman offers a rare combination of quick-twitch and strength from a premium position and has turned a corner offensively after a slower start to the season. He hasn’t quite shown the same power as he did a year ago, but he has swiped 17 bags, and as draft history has shown, true collegiate shortstops always rise come June. (JB)
34. Kansas City Royals | Alek Thomas, OF, Mount Carmel HS (Ill.) Thomas looks the part of a future leadoff hitter capable of 35-plus double per year along with quality on-base production and contact rates. He’s a double-plus runner with a good chance to sticking in center thanks to advanced reads and efficient routes. The Royals should have ample draft budget to buy him out of his two-way (baseball/football) commitment to TCU. (NF)
As when mock draft season starts, so does draft rankings season too, and while its early, I’ve put together an aggregate draft ranking based on some of the most recent ones I can find.
Created an aggregate draft ranking of prospect for the upcoming June draft based on "major" sights. Some of these lists are subject to change. pic.twitter.com/mCph51e6dV— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) April 19, 2018
It’s almost guaranteed the Royals will take a prep pitcher with one of their first few picks, and I’d bet on it happening with the 18th pick. The organization has struggled to develop pitching, and have particularly had trouble developing prep pitching (only one prep pitcher since 2008 has been drafted and played for the Royals - Jake Junis who was drafted in 2011).
Guys I could see them taking:
Logan Gilbert - RHP Stetson
More of a polished, “safe” (as far as safe can be for a draft prospect) pick, Gilbert is a mix of several average pitches coupled with average velocity. He performed well in the Cape Cod this past summer, and he’s done just as well in a non-elite baseball conference. Nothing wrong with Gilbert, just not someone you are likely to get 4+ win seasons out of.
Jackson Kowar - RHP Florida
The Royals aren’t known for taking high-end changeup guys (or at least it hasn’t been a common theme in their drafting), but Kowar has a very good one that he pairs with a mid-90’s fastball. The breaking ball (which the Royals seem to lean towards when looking at a guy - thinking guys like Finnegan, Manaea, and Puckett) is far behind, so maybe they think they can bring it out of him.
Brice Turang - SS Santiago HS, CA
Turang has been a known commodity for some years, and at one point the odds on favorite to go 1.1 some time ago. His offense didn’t take the developmental step forward as expected back then, but defensively he’s shown that he can be very good at SS. There’s certainly internal offensive talent that will take some work for a good developmental staff (*GULP*) to bring out.
Brady Singer - RHP Florida
Singer could fit into the Black Swan Theory of pitchers perhaps, guys who are written off as improbably starters but make it work. He has an extremely weird pitching motion, some lower velos this spring, and he’s a bit older than his college peers. He’s all over the board due to his risks, but if a team is confident in his ability to stay in the rotation (something that’s never been an issue performance/health wise in his entire collegiate career), then he could go anywhere from second overall to 20th.
Ryan Weathers - LHP Loretto HS, TN
Son of David Weathers, Ryan is an athletic, “deceptive” lefty who was a multi-sport athlete (bonus points) who has good control already, an above average fastball in the mid-90’s, and a good changeup. He’s a bit thick right now (in the vein of Nolan Watson), so I’m a bit curious about how he fills out as he ages (he’s one of the younger guys in the first few rounds).
Mike Vasil - RHP Boston College HS, MA
Mentioned in the Scout mock draft, Vasil is already mid-90’s as a prepster with a curveball that can look great one outing and poor the next. He’s pretty raw overall, and there’s some question on if he’s a starter or not, but this is the type of prep pitcher the Royals like to go for typically.
Cole Winn - RHP Orange Luther HS, CA
Foster Griffin was one of the more “polished” prep pitchers in his class when the Royals selected him out of Florida, and Winn is his west coast counterpart but with more velo already. He’s a bigger sized high school (for a baseball player at least) standing already at 6’3” 210 lbs, so it’s tough to see more size and velocity coming. That’s fine, as Winn just needs to consistently tap into his plus secondaries and polish more. Tough to find fast rising high school pitchers, but Winn has the feel of an A-Ball pitcher already.
Mike Siani - OF William Penn Charter, HS, PA
Siani is an at least average centerfielder with good speed and glove, who even as he fills out more, it shouldn’t move him off the position. There is a good feel for hitting at the plate, and while he’s not scrawny, if there is going to be power it will come from whatever he gains as he fills out. Scouts haven’t seen much of him due to rainy weather in the northeast.
Jordyn Adams - OF Green Hope HS, NC
Adams is somewhat similar to local prepster Monte Harrison (who was drafted by the Brewers and now with the Marlins) in that he was a prominent, tooled-up football recruit who teams had to pay out of his commitment (Harrison got $1.8M - $700K overslot). Adams is committed to UNC (where his dad is a the defensive line coach), but kids are turning down the money less often these days (and also foregoing possible future brain damage). He’s incredibly athletic, but we’ve seen these ultra tooled but raw athletes look better in jeans than in the box. The Royals have a deep pool make them one of the potential suitors at 33/34/40.
Lenny Torres Jr - RHP Beacon HS, NY
One of the youngest guys in the class, Torres is all of the draft board depending on the team. He’s got a similar Ashe Russell-esque profile in a high-90’s fastball and breaking slider, but control issues and rawness.
Guys I (preliminarily) Like (and reserve the right to change closer to the draft)
Cole Winn (listed above)
Jackson Kowar (listed above)
Mike Vasil (listed above)
Ryan Weathers (listed above)
Alec Bohm - 3B Wichita State
There’s no chance Bohm ends up as a Royal but he’d be #1 or #2 on my draft board (at this point). Some may point to his size as a reason why he isn’t a 3B, but he’s athletic enough to stick there, and even if he’s poor there, who cares because he can hit the ball enough to make up for any issues. This dude can hit, he’s athletic, and the raw power is impressive for a guy his size (as in he isn’t a 280 pound 1B only guy).
Nick Madrigal - 2B Oregon State
Surprise, surprise... a 2B who can hit and is undersized, and I like him. Like Bohm, there is no chance he gets to the Royals unless his injury and absence the past few weeks tanks his stock (it won’t). Forget his size (and the wrong reasons why people tend to discount second basemen), Madrigal is the best bet in this draft class to be a good major league player, and could be a top 10 player in baseball to boot.
Connor Scott - OF Plant HS, TX
Scott gets compared to a guy I liked a lot in the 2015 draft, Kyle Tucker. They are both from the same high school (they were teammates) and both are hard to figure out due to their swings (a Ted Williams-esque setup) and their overall physiques. Scott is quicker than Tucker but scouts are worried he continues to get bigger (too big) for centerfield. He’s someone I like at 18.
Jonathan India - 3B, Florida
As of this writing, India is hitting .420/.551/.840 in the toughest baseball conference out there and there’s a non-zero chance he can play shortstop (he’s spent time there before but is playing 3B at the moment). That sounds like a potential 1.1 pick, but India has risen into prominence based on just the past few months, which makes teams hesitant to fully buy in (Andrew Benintendi had a similar rise in 2015 - which picks 3-6 might be regretting not taking him and letting him get to Boston at #7). There are things to like about India, but I don’t think his SEC dominance is a proxy for tools and talent necessarily (AJ Reed, Mason Katz, and Kyle Martin are all examples of that). However he is athletic, has a good plate approach, and enough usable power that he seems like a good bet to be an average MLB player if this isn’t just a flash in the pan.
Nolan Gorman - 3B Sandra Day O’Connor HS, AZ
Gorman will be one of the more volatile bats taken on day one. He went from a sure fire top five pick last summer to now somewhere in the first twenty due to him filling out a bit and some pitch recognition issues. While getting stronger isn’t an issue, he was already fringey to stay at 3B to begin with, and his gain may have de facto moved him to 1B. There was a good comp to Gorman (Austin Riley with the Braves) where the power is real, but the body needs to stay in check to remain at the hot corner. Still, he has impressive bat speed and power, and while he’s likely to strikeout, you could see a 45/50 bat with 60/65 power at 3B.
Parker Meadows - OF Garyson HS, GA
As mentioned in the FanGraphs mock, Meadows isn’t dissimilar to a guy I loved in the 2014 with Brad Zimmer (Zimmer of course was a college guy). I’d prefer Scott over him, but I’m extremely curious to see how Meadows fills out.
18th overall and guys for pick #33/34/40
Since the Royals have a nice pool, they’ll have some money to spend (though I think it’s a bit over exaggerated how much of a luxury having a big pool is - I’d rather have a higher pick). I would strongly suggest against going “cheap” at 18 to sign a guy who might fall at 33/34/40. For one, the draft ain’t like it used to be and pretty much 99% of players taken in the first two rounds sign (players are learning the lesson to not turn $1M+ it seems). This means that just taking the best player at #18 is the best strategy (which is the same strategy for any first round pick).
And secondly, the Rays go two picks before them in the first (16th overall) and then have back-to-back picks before them in the compensation round (31 and 32), meaning they get first dibs (twice) at any fallen prospects.
The Royals should go for not necessarily a safe pick a 18th, but don’t spend that pick on a tough to sign, high volatility prep guy (IE: Jordyn Adams). Instead, grab that player with one of your latter three picks at 33, 34, & 40 and then make them turn down $1M+ to wait three years and see if they go a lot higher (note - that’s rare they do).
The Royals should definitely be in on guys like Kyler Murray and Jordyn Adams, but I’d like to see them take a shot on Ethan Hankins too. I think I’d prioritize Hankins (a kind of talent that would regularly only be available with the first few picks) to the other two if all three were around at 33 (that is if the Rays don’t snag him - which they probably will).
Hankins was in consideration for 1.1 a month or two ago before dropping due to a shoulder issue and swapping a good pitch (slider) for a bad one (curveball) - maybe due to his should issue. There are reports of his velocity being back, but teams will certainly be a bit weary due to the up-and-down spring he’s had overall, coupled with his commitment to Vanderbilt.
Another guy I like for the later three picks is Griffin Conine, who is dropping due to poor performance rather than an injury (which might be a better thing). Conine killed it in the Cape Cod last summer but is off to a paltry .211/.344/.436 this year. He hit well last year (.298/.425/.546, 15% BB%, 16% K%, .248 ISO), but is selling out for power perhaps this year (his strikeout rate has skyrocketed to 27%). If he can get back to his old ways, he’s a still and a half if he makes it to the comp round.
I also like Nander De Santas for the later picks, but wouldn’t touch him unless any of the earlier few guys are gone and probably not before the 40th pick either.
Like I said earlier, I still reserve the right to change my mind on guys as we get closer to the draft, but right now my (realistic-ish) dream draft (and “dream” is too strong a word right now) would be something like:
#18 Connor Scott (OF, Plant HS Florida)
I genuinely don’t have anyone that I love who will likely be around for the 18th pick. I wouldn’t mind India, Weathers, Meadows, or Scott. I’m going with Scott here, even though it might be a slight reach at this moment, but I think he’s on the way up the draft boards (plus-runner, above average power, and possible above average hit tool).
#33 Ethan Hankins (RHP, Forsyth Central HS Georgia)
Hankins is #1 on my board of “fallen” guys, but it will take some wishing to get him this low as if he doesn’t get snagged before the Rays pick at 31/32, then I think they take him.
#34 Griffin Conine (OF, Duke)
The Royals could probably hold off on Conine potentially get him at 40th, but probably not worth risking it if he’s the guy they want (which is my call in this scenario).
#40 Tristan Beck (RHP, Stanford)
Beck has been a day-oner for years and heading into the 2017 he was expected to have his name called as a draft eligible sophomore. Here’s what I wrote about Beck last year:
What I like about Beck is that he has the best changeup in the draft, grading out at a 60 on the 20-80 scale. There’s also a decent fastball (50/55) and curve that’s not far behind the changeup (50/55). To round it all together he also has some of the best command in the draft. As a freshman last year he was throwing four above-average pitches and striking out almost a batter per nine.
Normally Beck would be among the first ten picks but he hasn’t played at all this season. Yes, I know, that’s a huge red flag, particularly for a pitcher. He suffered a stress fracture in his back and no one has seen him throw this spring. That’s a little odd for a draft-eligible player to not try to throw at all leading up to the draft (particularly since it’s not an injury to his arm/shoulder) but this has led some teams to believe he has a deal with a MLB club already in place (like his teammate Cal Quantrill had with the Padres - they pick at #3 and #39 this year).
I don’t like Beck at 14th but I do like him at #52 overall (though it’s unlikely he falls that far) and then certainly at #73.
The Yankees ended up grabbing Beck in the 29th round and he rightly decided to try his luck again and return to Stanford. He’s pitched fine this year, been up to 95 MPH and fine secondaries.
*All college stats via The Baseball Cube