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Royals Draft Preview: College bats

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Which of these picks produce the most “PING”?

College bats may be some of the safest picks in the draft, but the Royals have seemed reluctant to go there in the first round, aside from taking Christian Colon out of Cal-State Fullerton back in 2010. Some of the top college bats expected to go early in the draft include Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal, Georgia Tech’s Joey Bart, Florida’s Jonathan India, and Wichita State’s Alec Bohm. Here are some college players that could be available when the Royals select tonight.

Travis Swaggerty, University of South Alabama:

Baseball America rank: #11

MLB.com rank: #11

Swaggerty seems like a decent bet to go in the top 15 picks, either to Oakland at #9 or Seattle at #14. But if he falls to the Royals at #18, he could add a solid on-base hitter the team has lacked. He hit .296/.455/.526 with 54 walks and 13 home runs in 57 games for the Jaguars this season. He is an excellent base-stealer, but will strike out a lot. The left-handed hitter grades above-average in every aspect of the game and “profiles fairly safely in center field at the next level”, writes Baseball America. He excelled on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer, and has worked hard to become a top talent after going undrafted out of high school.

Jeremy Eierman, Missouri State University

Baseball America rank: #26

MLB.com rank: #29

Eierman hails from tiny Warsaw, in the Lake of the Ozarks, and his father and brother both have played minor league baseball. The right-handed hitting shorstop has hit .293/.385/.530 for the Bears this year with 10 home runs and 21 steals. He hit for much better power last year, smacking 23 home runs, fifth-most in the nation.

Baseball America writes he has good speed and a quick bat, but “with a significant load that requires him to get started in his swing a little earlier.” He has struggled in wood bat competition, notably in two summers in the Cape Cod League. Scouts think he can stick at shortstop, although MLB.com notes that a move to third could make him a Gold Glover. The Royals have been linked to Eierman, according to Keith Law.

Trevor Larnach, Oregon State University

Baseball America rank: #27

MLB.com rank: #26

Larnach has finally started to hit for the kind of power his 6’4’’ frame would suggest, batting .324/.447/.637 with 17 home runs in 204 plate appearance for the Beavers this year. Baseball America writes that “some area scouts believe he could tap into 25-plus home runs as a pro” and that he profiles as a corner outfielder. The left-handed hitter can draw walks and had a strong performance in the Cape Cod League. Larnach was Shaun Newkirk’s selection in the SB Nation mock draft.

Greyson Jenista, Wichita State University

Baseball America rank: #29

MLB.com rank: #58

If the Royals want to scoop up local talent the way the Braves do, they may want to take a look at Eudora native Greyson Jenista, who attended DeSoto High School in suburban-Kansas City. The 6’4’’ 240 pound left-handed hitter has been a force for the Shockers, hitting .309/.446/.475 with nine home runs for the Shockers, and was named MVP of the wood bat Cape Code League last summer.

He has more raw power than game power, and it will be up to a team to unlock his potential in that department. MLB.com notes he is a patient hitter willing to work counts with “exceptional hand-eye coordination”. He runs pretty well for his size, playing centerfield at times, but most believe he will end up in right field or first base.

Steele Walker, University of Oklahoma

Baseball America rank: #32

MLB.com rank: #30

Walker has been a hitting machine for the Sooners, batting .352/.441/.606 with 13 home runs in 54 games, but has been absent the last few weeks with a muscle strain in his shoulder. More of a high-average hitter than a big-time power hitter, Walker has done well in wood bat competition. His speed and defense are average at best, so his bat will be his ticket to the Majors. Walker will likely move to left-field in the pros.

Jake McCarthy, University of Virginia

Baseball America rank: #33

MLB.com rank: #39

McCarthy has missed much of the season with a wrist injury, playing in just 20 games for the Cavaliers, hitting .329/.414/.415. He did return for the final week of the regular season, but with Virginia missing out on the NCAA tournament, scouts haven’t gotten much of a chance to see him hit since his injury. McCarthy hit .338/.425/.506 with five home runs and 27 steals last year and profiles as a solid top-of-the-order hitter from the left side of the plate.

MLB.com notes that “some scouts aren’t in love with his swing, which features a flat bat pat” but he makes hard contact to all fields. There are questions whether he can stick in centerfield, although he has good instincts. The Royals have been linked to McCarthy, and could see him as an underslot signing at #18 so they can spend over slot with their sandwich round picks.

Nico Hoerner, Stanford University

Baseball America rank: #42

MLB.com rank: #52

Hoerner is a solid defender up the middle who could stick at shortstop, with a polished bat that could advance quickly. He hit .345/391/.496 with two home runs and 15 steals for the Cardinal and was a three-year starter there. He showed much better power in the wood bat Cape Cod League, but probably won’t ever be much of a power hitter. Despite that, he could still be an offensive-minded right-handed hitting infielder with a good strikeout-to-walk ratio, and no major flaws to his game.

Seth Beer, Clemson University

Baseball America rank: #46

MLB.com: #45

With a name like “Beer”, you just knew he had to be a big dude who play first base and mashes home runs, right? Seth Beer was College Freshman of the Year in 2016, and has mashed at Clemson, hitting .301/.456/.642 this year with 22 home runs and 54 walks. Beer has struggled a bit in wood bat competition and some question his “less-than-smooth stroke”, according to MLB.com.

Beer won’t be much of a defender, and will be a 1B/DH-type who will have to hit homers to earn his meal ticket. If a team believes in his power, he could be the best “three true outcomes” player in the draft.

Jameson Hannah, Dallas Baptist University

Baseball America rank: #48

MLB.com rank: #32

Dallas Baptist has been a program on the rise and Hannah could become their first player ever drafted in the first round. He brings the speed and defense the Royals covet, and he should be able to stick in centerfield. He is not a slap hitter either, hitting .363/.451/.554 with six home runs and 24 doubles in 59 games. He has improved his plate discipline and MLB.com notes “he recognizes pitches and manages the strike zone well.” Hannah has a quick left-handed bat that has performed well in wood bat competition and could become a double-digit home run producer as a pro, according to Baseball America.

Griffin Conine, Duke University

Baseball America rank: #50

MLB.com rank: #50

The son of former Royals first baseman Jeff Conine, Griffin led the Cape Cod League in home runs last summer after a terrific spring with 13 home runs. He has regressed a bit his junior year, hitting .273/.396/.574 with 15 home runs, but is still one of the best college power bats available. Conine strikes out a lot, and Baseball America writes he “struggled to make contact with offspeed offerings of varying quality.” Like his father, he is probably a corner outfielder or first baseman at the pro level, with limited defensive ability.