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Royals Draft Preview: High school outfielders

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You want tools? They got ‘em.

Texas Postpones High School Sport Events as Precaution Against Swine Flu Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In less than two weeks, the Royals will have a chance to dramatically change the outlook of their farm system. The team will own four of the top 40 selections in the draft and will need those choices to fare better than picks over the last few seasons.

The first selection for the Royals will be with the #18 pick, followed by picks #33 and #34, as compensation for losing Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, and pick #40 as a competitive balance pick. They will also have their second round pick at #58.

According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Royals have been “all over the place, but mostly interested in prep outfielders and pitchers.” We will take a look at a number of different groups available in the first round, but the Royals have been linked to high school outfielders in a number of mock drafts, so we will begin there. They have taken high school outfielders early in recent drafts with Khalil Lee and Bubba Starling and have netted players like Willie Wilson and Carlos Beltran out of high school in the past. Here are the prep outfielders most likely to be available in the first two rounds.

Jarred Kelenic, Waukesha West High School (Wisconsin)

Baseball America rank: 12th

MLB.com rank: 8th

With all apologies to Joe Randa, Wisconsin is not a hotbed of high school baseball talent. Gavin Lux was taken in the first round by the Dodgers in 2016, but before that the last Badger State player to be selected in the first round was in 1988. So you have to really stand out amongst all the cheeseheads to make a name for yourself in baseball. Kelenic was a Baseball America Pre-season All-American this year and participated on the Team USA Under-18 squad in 2016, when he was named MVP of the Pan-American Games. Team USA program director Matt Blood remarked Kelenic has the “potential to combine plus power with a plus hit tool, and feels he’s a “solid, average defensive center fielder.”

Baseball America describes Kelenic as having a polished bat for a prep player and a “fiery demeanor” which can be a positive or negative depending on the evaluator. A left-handed hitter, Kelenic is described as having a “tremendous feel for the barrel” and a “professional approach”, according to MLB.com. You can see he has a nice compact swing that could generate pretty good power, although he probably won’t be an elite slugger.

Kelenic has above-average speed, and teams are split as to whether he can stick in center or will eventually have to move to right field, according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic. He has a strong arm and is noted for his work ethic, using a number of indoor and outdoor facilities his father developed for athletes in Wisconsin.

Scouts haven’t seen much of Kelenic in high school action due to weather, and since he is not facing the type of competition you might see in California and Florida, he has been difficult to evaluate. He will also be 19 a few weeks after the draft, making him a bit old for his competition. That may give Royals fans visions of Bubba Starling, but most accounts have Kelenic as a more polished player than Starling was coming out of high school. Melissa Lockard of The Athletic linked the Royals to Kelenic, suggesting they could use their large draft bonus pool to lure him away from his commitment to Louisville.

Connor Scott, Plant High School (Florida)

Baseball America rank: 23rd

MLB.com rank: 18th

Like Kelenic, Scott is a player who excels at all phases of the game, with some scouts even preferring him as a pitcher. Most teams seems to prefer his upside as an outfielder, according to Baseball America with his “speed and developing power leading to an intriguing all-around package.” They compare him to Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker, who attended the same high school. The Tampa-area player missed a lot of time last summer when his appendix was removed, and some time this year with a hamstring injury, which may have caused his stock to fall some.

Scott stands at an imposing 6’4’’, but he has yet to unleash his full power potential. According to Bowden, the game power has yet to develop, but “once he gets his lower half involved more and gets his wrists and forearms stronger, it’s easy to project 20 homer pop or more.” You can see his stance is a bit upright, but with his size and some mechanical tweaks, he could become a decent power hitter.

The left-handed hitter may be one of the faster players available in the first round and could stick in center, although some like his arm in right field. Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs thinks Scott should be a top-ten pick. CBS Sports links Scott to the Royals, adding that the Royals may “cut a deal with a lower ranked player with this pick, then use the bonus pool savings to go after elite players who fall out of the first round with their two supplemental round picks.” The Rays and Indians have also been linked to Scott, who is committed to the University of Florida.

Nick Schnell, Roncalli High School (Indiana)

Baseball America rank: 34th

MLB.com rank: 47th

Schell has what they call “helium” in this draft, rising up boards since last summer, when he was not on the radar. Baseball America notes scouts were impressed with his spring performance and his ability to hit to all fields with his “extremely loose hands and a fantastic feel to barrel the baseball.” He has above-average power and speed and is “seen as a lock to go in the first-round” according to Keith Law.

MLB.com writes the left-handed Schnell has mostly gap power now, but has “solid bat speed and wiry strength to develop average power once he fills out his extremely projectable frame.” Schnell stands at 6’2’’ and 180 pounds, so he would need to fill out some, which could cause him to lose a step.

Schnell plays in the Indianapolis area, where the Royals have had connections in the past, taking Ashe Russell in the first round in 2015. He is also committed to the University of Louisville.

Jordyn Adams, Green Hope High School (North Carolina)

Baseball America rank: 46th

MLB.com rank: 45th

Adams may be one of the fastest players available grading at 70 speed, even 80 by some scouts, according to Baseball America. It is that speed that has the University of North Carolina football team interested in him as a wide receiver, a program where his dad is on the coaching staff. Adams struggled in showcase events last summer, leading to doubts about his ability in the batter’s box. But a strong performance at the National High School Invitational (NHSI) this March had teams ready to give him a seven-figure bonus, according to MLB.com.

Adams has more than just speed, but his hitting ability is a bit raw. Batting America reports he had the fifth-highest average exit velocity at the NHSI and MLB.com projects him to have 15-20 home run upside. Kiley McDaniel writes “while the swing is a little noisy and he needs to steady his head earlier, he’s athletic enough with the bat control to make it work for now.” He has a high leg kick which could either allow him to tap into more power or could cause contact issues.

Many feel Adams has a preference to play football, so it will likely take going overslot to lure him away from his commit. Clint Scoles of Baseball Prospectus Kansas City notes the Royals have had a preference for two-sport athletes, and that Adams would immediately be the best athlete in the farm system. Keith Law had the Royals linked to Adams in a previous mock draft, although the outfielder has had strong connections to the Yankees, as well as the Rays and Rangers.

Mike Siani, Penn Charter School (Pennsylvania)

Baseball America rank: 53rd

MLB.com rank: 35th

Siani may be the best defensive outfielder in the high school class, according to Baseball America. He was the starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the Team USA Under-18 squad, displaying plus speed. He has good defensive instincts and a very strong arm, leaving “no doubt” he can play center field long term according to MLB.com.

Siani is still a work in progress at the plate, with Baseball America noting he has a “tendency to slap the ball around and roll over on pitches.” He seems fit more as a prototypical leadoff hitter who can hit from the left side and be a threat on the bases.

Siani plays in the Philly area, so the usual caveats about playing against cold weather competition apply. He is committed to the University of Virginia, where he would be a two-way player, although the Yankees and Astros have been linked to him.

Parker Meadows, Grayson High School (Georgia)

Baseball America rank: 55th

MLB.com rank: 48th

Parker is the younger brother of Pirates outfielder Austin Meadows. He stands at 6’4’’, but has not quite translated that into power yet, although some feel he can add strength to his frame. MLB.com notes he has a “long left-handed swing that has led to inconsistent contact against quality pitching.” Despite some questions about his bat, he excelled against top Georgia pitching this spring, according to Baseball America.

Meadows will probably start his career in center, although he could get moved to a corner with his strong arm. MLB.com has Meadows as a likely second-rounder, although he could sneak into the first-round if a team likes his hit potential. With good coaching and development, Meadows could have very high potential. He is committed to Clemson University.

Joe Gray, Hattiesburg High School (Mississippi)

Baseball America rank: 52nd

Gray is one of the bigger high-risk, high-reward outfielders in this draft. He features a plus arm, above-average speed, is a solid defender in center, and has the “size, frame and strength to be a future 25-30 home run hitter”, according to Baseball America. So what’s not to like? He can’t make contact. Gray whiffs more than a lot of scouts would like.

The right-handed hitter showed off a more compact swing at the NHSI this spring and excelled, according to 2080 Baseball. Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs noted Gray showed “better pitch recognition and adjustability to his swing”, drawing a fair number of walks. He profiles as a right-fielder and middle-of-the-order hitter if his hit tool develops. Gray is committed to the University of Missisippi.