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After Witt, Royals double down on college talent in 2019 MLB draft

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It’s clearly a concerted approach

Dayton Moore general manager of the Kansas City Royals watches batting practice prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dayton Moore general manager of the Kansas City Royals watches batting practice prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Kauffman Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Coming into this year’s draft, there were two main storylines for the Kansas City Royals. First: who would the Royals select with the second overall pick, the first time they had that pick since they took Mike Moustakas at second overall in 2007? Second: would the Royals continue with a college-heavy strategy after selecting 11 consecutive college players to open last year’s draft?

After the three-day draft, we have answers to both questions. The Royals selected Bobby Witt Jr., son of 16-year MLB vet Bobby Witt, with the second overall pick, a selection that surprised nobody. Witt has been on scouts’ minds for years, and after a wildly successful senior year of high school that saw Witt win the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, the hype led to his selection at second overall. Witt has prodigious power for a shortstop and has been compared to Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.

And for the second year in a row, the Royals leaned heavily on college players for almost the entirety of their draft. After two straight years of this, it’s not a fluke anymore. Kansas City had three additional picks within the first 100 overall. Shortstop Brady McConnell—Florida teammate of 2018 Royals draftees Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar—was the 44th pick. Pitchers Alec Marsh out of Arizona State and Grant Gambrell out of Oregon State were the 70th and 80th overall selections, respectively.

The Royals selected only six high schoolers overall, and the only other high schooler within the top 1000 selections was Erick Figueroa, selected 469th overall. The Royals’ preference for college arms in particular was striking. Out of 41 overall selections, the Royals picked:

  • 12 college position players
  • 23 college pitchers
  • 4 high school hitters
  • 2 high school pitchers

Not all players will sign, but many will. Most players will go to either the Arizona instructional leagues or one of the two short season rookie leagues in Burlington or Idaho Falls.

Royals 2019 Draft Class

Round Pick Player Position School Notes
Round Pick Player Position School Notes
1 2 Bobby Witt Jr. SS Colleyville Heritage HS (TX) Potential five-tool shortstop with excellent intangibles
2 44 Brady McConnell SS Florida Draft-eligible sophomore; elite tools except questionable hit tool
CBB 70 Alec Marsh RHP Arizona State Five-pitch mix, all of which grade as average pitches
3 80 Grant Gambrell RHP Oregon State 6'4" righty with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and good curveball
4 109 Michael Massey 2B University of Illinois High-contact, low-power infielder with defensive acumen to be a utility guy
5 139 John Rave CF Illinois State Plus runner with decent power, could stick in center long-term
6 169 Dante Biasi LHP Penn State Three-quarter arm slot yielded 102 strikeouts in only 74 innings this year
7 199 Noah Murdock RHP Virginia 6'8" with 6.33 ERA, but is returning from Tommy John; has mid-90s fastball when healthy
8 229 Drew Parrish LHP Florida State Short righty with solid pitchability, a 3.87 college ERA, and a good changeup
9 259 Clay Dungan SS Indiana State Hit .305/.406/.481 in the leadoff role with Indiana State
10 289 Anthony Veneziano LHP Coastal Carolina Large 6'5" southpaw with low-90s fastball, raw pitcher with some walk issues
11 319 Vinnie Pasquantino 1B Old Dominion Hit career high 15 home runs, walked more than he struck out
12 349 Adam Lukas RHP Evansville Hard thrower that can throw triple digits but below average control
13 379 Tyler Tolbert SS Alabama - Birmingham Significant improvements each year of college but remains a contact shortstop
14 409 Justin Hooper LHP UCLA Threw mid-90s from a 6'8" frame before Tommy John in 2018, throws low-90s now
15 439 Sean Bretz RHP Houston Career college ERA of 2.29 with a K rate of over a batter an inning
16 469 Erick Figueroa RHP Juan Jose Maunez HS (PR) 6'6" pitcher, played at 6'4" and 229 lbs as a 13-year-old in Little League World Series
17 499 A.J. Franklin LHP Vanderbilt High strikeout rate but high ERA in return from 2018 injuries
18 529 Burle Dixon OF Cosumnes River College Long and lanky with power that he could grow into, has a chance to stick at center
19 559 Austin Manning LHP USC Boom or bust reliever with sky-high strikeout and walk rates
20 589 Cody Davenport RHP Central Arkansas Excellent control, closed out senior year with 1.98 ERA in 15 games started
21 619 Matthew Stil RHP Rowan College at Gloucester County Low-90s fastball, turns 19 after the draft
22 649 Jake Means 3B Indiana State .312/.414/.475 hitter over college career with walk rate at 10%
23 679 Elliott Anderson LHP Auburn 4.13 ERA and 9.11 K/9 over 24 games
24 709 Alex Smith LHP Memphis 9.42 K/9 over college career to go along with a 5.35 ERA
25 739 Josh Broughton 3B Valdosta State University Two-way player with a .357 average over 221 AB
26 769 Jay Charleston OF Tennessee Speedy center fielder with 38 stolen bases in only 56 games, but a .591 OPS
27 799 Zack Phillips LHP Ole Miss 3.81 college ERA over 36 games
28 829 Riley Boyd RHP Jefferson College Mid-90s fastball, struck out over a batter per inning in college despite control issues
29 859 Jon Beymer RHP Wabash Valley College 6'3", 180lb righty with 15.3 K/9 over 10 innings
30 889 Jimmy Govern 2B Eastern Illinois OPS of 1.002 senior year, walked as much as he struck out with 14 HR
31 919 Mikey Filia CF University of California - Irvine .653 OPS over 54 games with 6 stolen bases
32 949 Saul Garza C LSU .309/.366/.493 slash with 5 home runs in 146 PA
33 979 Patrick Smith LHP Purdue Reliever-turned-starter with a 5.10 ERA in 17 games and a 2:1 K/BB ratio
34 1009 Justin Fall RHP Brookdale CC Overpowered JUCO competition with a 1.95 ERA with a good fastball and not much else yet
35 1039 Jonah Dipoto P UC San Diego Son of Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto, throws 89-92 with high spin rates on secondary pitches
36 1069 Andy Martin CF Hialeah Senior HS (FL) Plus rnner, brother of MLB outfielder Leonys Martin, toolsy
37 1099 Reggie Crawford RHP North Schuylkill HS (PA) 6'4" two-way player, could hit or pitch if he signs
38 1129 Augue Sylk RHP USC Effective in limited action out of the bullpen after injury
39 1159 Jorge Corona C Miami Killian HS (FL) 6'2" outfielder with commitment to Louisiana
40 1189 David Estevez RHP Pembroke Pines Charter HS (FL) 6'1" reliever, also plays football