The 2017 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft was held on June 12, 2017. Now that the Kansas City Royals are rebuilding, their drafts will be carefully examined and scrutinized more than ever.
With the new collective bargaining agreement, all non-injured members of the 2017 draft were able to play a few months last year and have played a little over half the year this year. Let’s take a look and see how the first ten picks in the draft have been doing.
Nick Pratto | 1B | First Round, 18th Overall
Pratto will always be compared with Eric Hosmer for the rest of his Royals career. Both were premier high school first base prospects with a good defensive reputation and the ever-elusive “plus makeup” designation. Both were drafted by the Royals in the first round and, if everything goes right, both with be at the forefront of a rebuild.
But Pratto shares something else with Hosmer—an underwhelming pro debut. Pratto slashed .247/.330/.414 in his Arizona League debut as an 18-year-old last year, barely league average. This year hasn’t been any better, as he is slashing .249/.310/.366 for the A-ball Lexington legends. Pratto’s biggest issue is a strikeout rate in the upper 20s without the requisite walk rate or power to survive the lack of contact. However, Hosmer didn’t really succeed in the minors until 2010, when he crushed High-A Wilmington in his second go round at the level as a 20-year-old. Pratto still has time to turn it around.
MJ Melendez | C | Second Round, 52nd Overall
Melendez was selected as a defense-first catcher, but his response last year and this year has been a statement about his bat. His .262/.374/.417 slash in the Arizona League was quite strong, and his .232/.299/.474 line in Lexington isn’t as good, but is still above average for his level.
Like Pratto, Melendez has struck out a lot—about 30% of the time—but like Pratto he has had decent walk rates, and unlike Pratto he is showing some serious power. Melendez is 19 years old, still a defensive-first catcher, and has 15 home runs and a .242 ISO in A-ball. That’ll do.
Evan Steele | LHP | Second Round, 73rd Overall
Steele threw eight innings last year. He has yet to throw an inning this year. His Twitter account still says he’s in the Royals organization, and while there’s no news floating around, he probably suffered some sort of injury and is rehabbing. Knowing Kansas City’s reputation with starting pitchers, it seems unlikely you’ll hear from him for another year or two, if ever.
Daniel Tillo | LHP | Third Round, 90th Overall
The Royals Way for failing to develop starting pitchers means that Tillo is performing better than expected, despite a meager 4.50 ERA in High-A Wilmington and a ghastly strikeout-to-walk ratio. If the lefty Tillo can’t improve on his peripherals, his days as a starter are numbered.
Michael Gigliotti | OF | Fourth Round, 120th Overall
Our own Shaun Newkirk ranked Gigliotti as the Royals’ ninth-best prospect before this season. Completely destroying two separate levels in your first year will help you in that regard. Gigliotti put up a 152 wRC+ in the Appalachian League and then a 133 wRC+ in Lexington after being drafted. Then, this year, he put up a 164 wRC+ in six games with Lexington before injuring his ACL. He will not return this year.
If you’re looking at a guy who could climb quickly, though, keep Gigliotti in mind. Toolsy outfielders who hit well tend to have pretty good careers.
Charlie Neuweiler | RHP | Fifth Round, 150th Overall
Neuweiler has actually been pretty good so far. The righty was drafted out of high school, and so is still only 19 years old. In six starts for the Lexington Legends this year, he has a 2.53 ERA and has averaged a tick over five innings per start. Among all levels this year and last, he has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.54 and a 2.60 ERA.
Tyler Zuber | RHP | Sixth Round, 180th Overall
Zuber has not started a game in his career. He never will. That’s ok—the 23-year-old is Greg Holland-sized and worked his way to High-A Wilmington through a ludicrous 12.0 K/BB ratio in 23 games in Lexington this year. He’s got a 3.18 ERA overall this season. He had good strikeout numbers last year, too.
Brewer Hicklen | OF | Seventh Round, 210th Overall
Hicklen is following the “mash and then get promoted” way up the minor league ladder, which is perfectly fine for everybody. The 6’2”, 22-year-old outfielder smacked 13 home runs in 66 games in Lexington before getting promoted to Wilmington, and crushed the rookie leagues last year. He’s hit a bit of a snag in Wilmington, but he has also played only 11 games there so far.
Holden Capps | P | Eighth Round, 240th Overall
Ah yes, Holden, captain of the warship Rocinante. Not that Holden? No. Would you believe that this Holden has a 6.9 K/BB ratio in Lexington as a 23-year-old? Nice, right? He’s old for his level, though, so we’ll see what he does when he’s pitching to guys his age and older.
JC Cloney | LHP | Ninth Round, 270th Overall
Cloney is a 23-year-old who hasn’t yet made his full season debut. He turns 24 this week. That’s all you need to know.
Jordan Floyd | LHP | Tenth Round, 300th Overall
Floyd is Cloney but with worse K/BB numbers.