Another year down, somehow. This will have been I believe my sixth draft at Royals Review and it was certainly unique. What was stable for the second year in a row was the Royals having a high pick and plenty of money to spend (Royals always seem to have dough given they qualify for a CBL pick).
To recap, the Royals took:
1.4 Asa Lacy (LHP, Arizona State)
1.32 Nick Loftin (SS, Baylor)
2.41 Ben Hernandez (RHP, De La Salle Institute)
3.76 Tyler Gentry (OF, Alabama)
4.105 Christian Chamberlain (LHP, Oregon State)
5.135 Will Klein (RHP, Eastern Illinois)
I want to start off my thoughts with a tweet from, well, my own thoughts
If anyone says "the system needs ___" the Cubs won the World Series without having any real pitching prospects— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) June 11, 2020
Systems need talent and talent is position agnostic
Going into this draft, you could argue that the Royals should have attacked hitting. They drafted a ton of pitching the past few years (47 of them since 2018 per Alec Lewis) and pretty much all of their hitting prospects went broke in 2019.
I’d argue, you would be wrong. The NFL should adopt a new maximum: draft for value, sign players for need. If Jerry Jeudy fell to the Chiefs at pick #32, do you think the Chiefs would pass on him because “well, we already have a few wide receivers?”. That’s drafting for value, which the same principle exists in the MLB. You don’t go into a draft saying “they need hitters” when really, the Royals just need good players. The holes in their roster are both deep and wide. They need to attack the draft with a sledgehammer, not a scalpel.
Let’s be clear here: prospect wise the Royals are not set at any position. MLB teams are never really set at any position when it comes to prospects. Remember the Rangers a few years ago looked stacked up the middle and now Jurickson Profar is on his third team, Rougned Odor can’t walk from his kitchen to his couch without swinging, and I don’t know where the hell Luis Sardinas is. I don’t even need to remind you of the pitchers from the Royals 2011 farm system.
Now it appears the Royals have gone against the “they need...” argument (which is good!) and just kept loading up on pitchers. Whether that is because they think (and Dayton Moore has said this) that they need several good pitching prospects just to get one or they just kept taking who they had as BPA, one strategy - the latter - is better. Whether the Royals just kept plugging away at BPA? We won’t know.
The Royals didn’t really play around with their money much, for the third year in a row. In 2018 they surprisingly went overslot with Brady Singer which didn’t allow them to go crazy later and they kept it pretty calm. In 2019 they weirdly went overslot on Brady McConnell and that limited them mostly to what they could do as McConnell ate up a lot of the pool money.
This year was more of the same. They’ll probably pay Asa Lacy slot, maybe a bit under, and there is talk that Nick Loftin might get above slot (which would kinda be the McConnell thing again).
Teams should always be trying to maximize their money while balancing the best player available. Over the past three years, the Royals haven’t really done that (which might be neither good nor bad).
I don’t have a problem with the Asa Lacy pick in a vacuum. He’s got two really good pitches, the changeup isn’t non-existent, and he might have enough command to start long-term. I just would have preferred Austin Martin instead, who was surprisingly also available and if not Martin, then Emerson Hancock. But you can understand what they see in Lacy and why they went with him over those other two who might feel a bit safer but don’t wow you with any one tool.
I like Loftin more than McConnell if we are comparing college middle infielders taken with the Royals second pick but mainly because Loftin doesn’t have the strikeout concerns the McConnell had (and continues to have). He could wind up being a decent 27th man (or whatever the roster max will be at that point if he makes the majors).
I think I like the Ben Hernandez pick the most. Pretty much everyone has come around to the idea that prep pitchers are the worst type of player to draft (well, prep catchers are really) but unlike too many times before the Royals didn’t use a first round pick on one. I’m actually kinda surprised that Loftin is the one getting overslot (again that is the rumor) and not Hernandez.
Tyler Gentry I’m not very constructive on. Our friend Clint Scoles (of Royals Academy) compared him to current Royals prospect Brewer Hicklen and I think that’s a good fit (he’s definitely more Hicklen and Kyle Isbel). Brewer has some appetizing tools but just can’t get out of his own way with plate discipline which might also end up being the case for Gentry.
Chamberlain and Klein both are probably relievers, and after the 3rd round getting an okay reliever is a decent outcome. I think I would have rather taken a bit of a shot on upside (if you assume those two cannot start) given both the systems need for it and the shortness of the draft (each pick was 16% of the draft).
Overall I’d give it a B- or C+. It hinges a bit on the Lacy over Martin/Hancock pick for me and also Loftin just doesn’t bring much excitement. Like I said I like the Hernandez pick but Gentry right after dilutes it.
My shadow draft would be:
1.4 Austin Martin (SS, Vanderbilt)
1.32 Dillon Dingler (C, Ohio State)
2.41 JT Ginn (RHP, Mississippi State)
Then probably go cheaper underslot guys the rest of the way. I considered Jared Kelley at 2.41 and would be fine with him there too but I went with the college guy and Ginn was already missing 2020 due to Tommy John so the lack of MiLB season won’t end up mattering.
Post-draft I’d probably rank the top 10 as
- Daniel Lynch
- Jackson Kowar
- Asa Lacy
- Kyle Isbel
- Brady Singer
- Bobby Witt
- Khalil Lee
- Gabe Cancel
- Kris Bubic
- Michael Gigglioti
I think you could sneak Ben Hernandez somewhere right after Giggs (or possibly even in at #10) if you make the case that John Bowlan and Austin Cox are 100% relievers.
The television coverage
I’ve long bemoaned about how little coverage the MLB draft gets nationally (partly due to the length of it of course). Having expanded coverage this year was excellent and the ESPN broadcast was great. For the first time in years I didn’t have to listen to Harold Reynold’s coverage and terrible race-centric player comps. Instead we were treated mostly to the fantastic duo of Karl Ravech (who I had the pleasure of interviewing many years ago) and Kiley McDaniel (who I’ve long been a fan of his work at FanGraphs and his first time around at ESPN before that).
Kiley has talked about the institutional knowledge that is needed for prospect analysts and scouts, where you have to see 1,000 bad hitters to truly tell the difference between a 40 bat and a 50 bat. He brings that, something that the MLB Network anchors don’t bring unless they cut away to Jim Callis or Jonathan Mayo from MLB Pipeline.
The ESPN crew (Ravech, McDaniels, Jessica Mendoza, Kyle Peterson, Eduardo Perez, Chris Burke, and of course local guy Jeff Passan) was well rounded and diverse, with folks who could speak on anything. Whether it was the scouting side (McDaniel), the news/economics (Passan), college baseball (Burke), the experience of being a minority in baseball (Perez), and the human passion side (Mendoza), it offered so much more than Dan O’Dowd giving 60/60 grades to guys taken in the 4th round.
Here is to hoping ESPN does coverage again next year and this wasn’t just due to the shortened draft.