The Royals will add to an improving farm system with six picks in a limited five-round draft this week, beginning Wednesday evening. Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson is considered a lock to go first overall to the Tigers, and the Orioles are expected to take Vanderbilt third baseman Austin Martin, although there is some talk they could take someone else underslot. The Marlins are reported to have zeroed in on Texas A&M pitcher Asa Lacy.
That leaves the Royals with the fourth pick to select among several attractive candidates including New Mexico State second baseman Nick Gonzales, Florida prep outfielder Zac Veen, Georgia pitcher Emerson Hancock, Minnesota pitcher Max Meyer, and Arkansas outfielder Keston Hjerstad, among others.
In five years, it will be easy to say who the Royals should have taken, but I want to get you all on the record before the draft. Who do you think the Royals should take?
Shaun Newkirk: I think I’d go with Emerson Hancock (RHP Georgia). While I like Zac Veen, I think it might not hurt to work with a bit more of a safety net this year with such limited information. Hancock is well rounded, with arguably four above average pitches and above average command. Maybe he isn’t a star pitcher as he’s lacking a truly lethal pitch but if Casey Mize went strongly 1.1 in 2018, Hancock is not much different than him.
I think given the choice between Nick Gonzales, Emerson Hancock, and Zac Veen, they’d go with either of the two college guys. I think they play it a bit safer this year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tapped back into the college pitching well. This is one of the deeper college classes in years but I don’t see that as meaning you can wait (the Royals have 28 picks between their first and second choices) but that you need to come away with someone from that class. There is also a big difference in talent there too, not dissimilar to the NFL draft this year and wide receiver. Sure, you could get someone like KJ Hamler after the first but there is a big difference between Hamler and someone like Jerry Jeudy.
Max Rieper: I think the Royals have several good options, and I would be pretty comfortable with any of Hancock, Gonzales, or Veen, and there is even a lot to like about Max Meyer. But I think with the #4 pick you are looking for upside, a potential star that can carry your franchise. I have always been wary of high school hitters because of their unpredictability, but Zac Veen looks legit. He already has the frame and the swing to be able to generate good power, the only question will be whether he can adapt to professional pitching and the ungodly breaking stuff and velocity he has never seen before. The Royals recently revamped their minor league hitter development, so this will be a good test of what they can do. If he reaches his potential, the Royals will have their best hitter since Carlos Beltrán was in Royals blue.
Alex Duvall: I’ve been driving the Zac Veen train for while now, and I fully expect that to be the Royals selection later this week with the fourth overall pick. He’s the best prep player in this draft, has enormous upside, an incredible work ethic, and would fit in beautifully alongside Erick Peña and Bobby Witt Jr. on the Royals farm.
Matthew LaMar: There are two scenarios for the draft. The first, and most likely, is that Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin, and Asa Lacy go 1-2-3 as the clear-cut top three players in the draft. The second is that a team like the Baltimore Orioles decides to play some underslot game for Nick Gonzalez or Zac Veen, allowing one of Torkelson, Martin, or Lacy to fall to the Royals. In the second scenario, the draft choice is easy: just pick whoever falls from that group.
But, again, the first scenario is most likely—and unfortunately, it’s the murkiest. After the first group, the candidates at #4 seem to be Veen, Gonzalez, and Emerson Hancock. Personally, I would like it if the Royals ended up with Veen or Hancock. Veen probably has the highest upside in the draft, and small clubs need all the upside and star potential they can get. He’s also a good fit with Bobby Witt, too, in the timing department (a la Moose and Hosmer). On the other hand, I think Hancock has been unfairly judged in the short college season. After all, he only had one bad start, and he was in the discussion as a possible first overall pick before the season started. He could be a sneaky good choice.
I think the Royals take Veen. The Royals like high-upside guys with athleticism, and they’ve shown a willingness with Witt last year to spend a top-five pick on a high school player. Veen also strikes me as Eric Hosmer-esque.
What are some other names you like in this draft?
Shaun Newkirk: Don’t get me started here, there are a few guys I like: Heston Kjerstad (all around hitter with long track record of hitting in the SEC), Garrett Mitchell (similar to Kjerstad but plays CF well - dinged for having diabetes), Robert Hassell (best prep hit tool in the draft and could stick in CF), and Dillon Dingler (college catcher who also was a CF at one point and can hit).
Matthew LaMar: I quite like Pete Crow-Armstrong, but it seems he’ll be gone long before 32. If the Royals had the 10th-15th pick I think he’d be in the conversation, but he’s in the group of players the Royals just won’t be able to get.
Max Rieper: Jordan Walker really intrigues me as a prep hitter with a big 6’5’’ frame that is already able to generate good pop that will only increase as he fills out. He’s a smart kid, with a commitment to Duke, with a good arm that would play well in right field. I can also see the Royals being all over Casey Martin at Arkansas. The club seems to really like that program (Dayton Moore’s son is his teammate) and he has the plus speed they covet and he could be a possibility at #32.
Alex Duvall: I say all of this with the caveat that Spencer Torkelson (1B, Arizona State) and Austin Martin (SS/CF, Vanderbilt) are the best prospects in this draft. If either of them are available for KC at #4, the Royals should take them over Veen. It just doesn’t seem like either of them will be there at this point. While Miami appears to be all over Asa Lacy with the 3rd pick, Zac Veen ought to be a great addition to the Royals organization.
Two guys I like later on for KC, with the 32nd and 41st picks, are RHP Slade Cecconi from Miami and 1B Aaron Sabato from UNC. There is a lot of depth in this college class for KC to pick from after their initial pick on Wednesday night.
Who do you think has bust potential?
Shaun Newkirk: I think Asa Lacy is being overrated. We’ve learned so many times how tough it is to walk the thin tightrope of command and often good stuff blinds that fact. He’s certainly a top 10 guy but I’d take a few players before him rather than at #2/3 where he is expected to go.
Max Rieper: I think Robert Hassell kinda seems like a tweener who will top out as a fourth outfielder.
Matthew LaMar: Ironically, I think Nick Gonzalez has an awful lot of bust potential and a lot of upside, which I know doesn’t jive with his reputation. The way I see it: Either he is truly an excellent hitter and everyone is overthinking him, or he’s a somewhat limited athlete at a non-premium position whose numbers have been inflated by the altitude he plays in (read: Christian Colon).
Assuming the first three picks are Torkelson/Martin/Lacy, who would you take with the #4 pick?
This poll is closed