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Lesky’s Notes: Let’s talk about the draft

It’s really the closest thing we have to baseball to discuss.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Kansas City Royals
Sep 24, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Bubba Starling (11) hits a three run double in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

I think it’s a good sign for baseball actually happening this year that we haven’t seen any new proposals come out in the last week. It’s just honing in on the current one, which I still think eventually happens. It seems that the players have taken a much better approach to publicly discussing this over the last few days, focusing more on health than on the money, even if the money is still a big issue. They will not prevail in the court of public opinion if they talk about money right now; it’s as simple as that. I did find it interesting that it seems like the teams believe the 67-page safety document is a little bit too intense, which leads me to believe that as long as they can agree on and produce enough tests, that part shouldn’t ultimately be an issue. Of course, testing opens up a whole can of worms that I don’t think are necessary here, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

  • The shortened draft is coming up and I know we’ve talked a bit about both Nick Gonzales and Zac Veen in this spot in recent weeks, but the other name not mentioned by me anyway is Emerson Hancock. Hancock is a starting pitcher out of the University of Georgia. If the Royals went his direction, and it’s very possible they will, he would add to their impressive stable of arms that they started really collecting in the 2018 draft. The concern, if you’re stat scouting, is that the numbers aren’t eye popping. He did post a 1.99 ERA last year, but struck out just more than a batter-per-inning. You’d like more than that. But he also showed excellent control and was pitching against fantastic competition. That said, he is very polished, has a fastball that hits the upper-90s with relative ease plus an already above average slider and changeup. With that repertoire alone, he could shoot through the organization relatively easily to catch up with the draft class from a couple years ago. The stuff is why the strikeout numbers from last season are both worthy of questioning why they weren’t higher (though still just fine) and also worthy of ignoring because you can see how he’ll get swings and misses at the upper levels. In my opinion, if the Royals drafted Hancock, I’d probably slot him behind only Daniel Lynch in my personal prospect rankings. I think he has the realistic floor of a number four starter and is one of the most likely of the entire bunch to become an actual big league ace. Between him, Veen and Gonzales, I think I might almost prefer Hancock as the pick at this point, but ask me again and I’ll probably have a different answer, which is sort of a good thing, I think.
  • I’ve talked before about the undrafted players and how that’ll shake out across the 30 organizations knowing that the most they can make is $20,000. I know for a fact that some organizations aren’t planning to sign a single player after the draft concludes, which, I guess, bully for them. I completely understand players not wanting to sign for that since basically anyone who is draft eligible has the option to play in college again next season, but I really can’t understand why a team would just say no to talent that inexpensive if they’re able to sign a player. Sure there’s likely no place for those players to play in 2020, but at that price, I think I’ve mentioned before that teams would be silly not to sign as many players as they can. The good news for Royals fans is that the Royals are not one of those teams committed to signing nobody. That doesn’t mean they’ll definitely end up with a handful of players, but at least they’ll be trying. And I can see a good reason why players would want to sign with the Royals. There are plenty of opportunities as the system is still somewhat thin in spots and in an organization that seems to be working to reinvent itself from a player development perspective. It could be that in a few years, we’ll think back on the 2020 draft and subsequent signing period as the time that the Royals built a lot of depth for just a couple hundred thousand dollars.
  • The upcoming season actually has a chance to be beneficial to the Royals in a lot of ways with smaller samples leading to more random variance, but from a rebuild perspective at the big league level, the lack of time isn’t great. This was supposed to be one more year for the Royals to be evaluating the talent they have at the big league level, and they even added to that pool of players to evaluate when they signed Maikel Franco. Now they’ll have just three months in less than normal circumstances to determine whether Franco is worth another year or more at third base. Or if Brett Phillips or Bubba Starling can stick in the big leagues. Or if Jorge Lopez can ever put it together or if he’ll always be tantalizing but frustrating. Sure they’ll have some opportunities to see all of them, but especially with expanded rosters and needing to find some time for the prospects who won’t have a minor league season to play, it’s going to be difficult. There is a benefit that they won’t have to make a decision on basically any of the iffy roster spots, but I’m just not sure how much more we’ll know about these guys heading into 2021, a season that the front office has repeatedly said would be when they start the turn from looking to the future to the present. My guess is we see Franco back in 2021 in his final year of arbitration, but I could very easily see any of the rest of the question marks moving on given the lack of ability to evaluate and with better options obviously on the horizon.
  • If I was a betting man (well I am, but I don’t think there’s any place to bet on this), I’d say that there’s an agreement on the 2020 season by this time next week. I think with a start date for spring training of around June 10, they need to have an answer before the end of May, which makes May 29th pretty close to that drop dead date to have a deal for things to start then. I’m guessing there’s some sort of revenue split with the players also receiving a guarantee of a certain amount if revenues don’t get to that point on their split. I think they’ll figure out a way to agree on the safety measures put in place with some revisions to the current plan that’s been circulating. And I think we’ll ultimately have baseball. What concerns me about all of this beyond the obvious immediate health risks, of which there are plenty, is what happens in the fall if there is that second wave that hits. The postseason is scheduled to take up October and into the first few days of November. What do they do if they’re forced to shut down with two weeks to go in the postseason? That’s an issue currently being dealt with in the NBA and NHL to some extent. It could be that, by then, testing and treatments are enough that a second wave doesn’t have the same impact on daily life that it has this time around, but it’s hard to say that will be the case with any real certainty. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m very confident we’ll see big league baseball this year, but I worry about what’ll happen if things get to the point that we need to shut down again. I hope we don’t have to find out.