The draft is such an important event for a small market team that needs talent in the organization. The Royals will have a chance to add to their improving farm system beginning Sunday, when the 2021 MLB draft begins in Denver. Kansas City will have the #7 overall pick, which could put them in a good position to catch a prospect that falls, or perhaps go underslot in an effort to get a difficult sign later in the draft.
We had Alex Duvall of Royals Farm Report join Matthew LaMar and Shaun Newkirk to discuss what might happen next week.
How do you see this draft playing out and who might be available when the Royals pick at #7?
Matthew LaMar: I see chaos playing out in the top ten. There’s not really a consensus #1, and though it seems that there are seven or eight players at the top, the order isn’t super defined. That means an increased likelhood of teams playing signing bonus games, and therefore means that there are a lot of different scenarios for the Royals at that point. I’m relatively certain that Marcelo Meyer, Jack Leiter, and Henry Davis will be off the board by then. But beyond that, it’s just a waiting game to see what chaos ensues.
Shaun Newkirk: I think most Royals fans have keyed in on Kumar Rocker as the “dream” scenario, but I always say players fall for a reason. Either it’s injury, performance, or just a re-rating of their evaluation, as they say in finance “value will out.” I’d give Rocker a 50/50 shot of being there for the Royals, as six teams prior will have to unanchor enough from their March-ish evaluation of him as the best college pitcher (it’s Leiter in my opinion).
If Rocker isn’t there, then sounds like one or perhaps two of the three non-Mayer prep SS prospects will be; Jordan Lawlar, Brady House, and Khalil Watson. In Lawlar’s case, he’s similar to Rocker, where he’s “fallen” due to more evaluation (he was the #1 prep player coming into the year) rather than something more classic like an injury.
I think those are the four that will likely be available at #7 and the four highest on the Royals board.
Alex Duvall: I truly think there could be some fireworks on Sunday night. I really don’t think we know as much about this draft as we think we do, and certainly not as much as we thought we knew about prior drafts. The lack of a 2020 season threw a wrench into the scouting of these players and I think at least one player that no one expects to fall to Kansas City at #7 will do so. Be it Jordan Lawlar, Henry Davis, or Kahlil Watson, I truly think one of the players that seems to be a consensus top five on these big boards is available for KC at #7. If you gave me a free $100 bet, considering the odds, I’d bet the Royals walk away with Brady House on Sunday, but that is a total guess at this point.
What do you think the Royals will look to do?
Alex Duvall: I think the Royals stick to their guns and take the best player on their board at #7. I think pick #43 is too far down the board to get a great under slot deal done and the talent that they may want to wave some money at to get there will be too far gone by then. Look for KC to go best player available at #7 and then potentially add a few bats in rounds 2-5.
Matthew LaMar: The Royals will do one of two things, and I give it a 50/50 chance of each happening. Depending on what happens in front of them, the Royals will have a relatively easy choice; maybe Kumar Rocker is available, maybe Jordan Lawler drops into their lap, that sort of thing. That’s dependent on what happens before them. The other thing that could happen is the Royals picking somebody absolutely random that no one predicted ahead of time, either to play signing bonus games like they did with Hunter Dozier and Sean Manaea in 2013 or just because they really, really like a guy.
Shaun Newkirk: If Rocker is there, they’ll go Rocker. If it’s between Lawlar, House, and Watson, I think they take Lawlar - who isn’t as electric as Watson but is more complete as a player - then Watson, then House.I’ll not ignore the tails of this distribution, and I will say that sleepers could be Jackson Jobe or Colton Cowser (I know I’m just naming six of the top ten draft prospects here but it really is a function of who goes in front of them).
Are there any other names in this draft you like?
Matthew LaMar: I like Rocker. I think he’s been in the public eye that there are more than a few wandering eyes who are a little bored of him and looking for the next big thing. He’s the clear choice, if available, and I’m not too worried about dead arm velocity dips that happened this year. He was the kind of college pitcher workhorse that won’t happen in the pros in the pitch count era.
Alex Duvall: I love Jordan Lawlar and Henry Davis. Any scenario that plays into them being available at #7 is a best-case scenario. Outside of the big names at the top of the draft, Blue Valley Southwest RHP Ben Kudrna is outstanding. I love his profile and think he’s being underrated. Fordham LHP Matt Mikulski is another guy I really like. Totally reworked his delivery as a senior and has hit 100 mph with good command of three offspeed pitches. SS Jackson Merrill out of Severna Park HS in Maryland is a name that’s flown up boards lately. Would love him at #43. Another prep SS, Izaac Pacheco from Friendswood HS in Texas, could be in play there.
Colton Cowser, CF Sam Houston State - crazy good bat control with some existence of speed and power, who probably winds up as a good not great MLB player for a decade.
Sal Frelick, CF Boston College - Not dissimilar to Cowser but swapping some power Cowser has for some speed.
Harry Ford, C North Cobb HS - It’s incredibly stupid of me to like a high school catcher given their abominable track record of development, but Ford is unlike a lot of prep catchers. He has really good speed, above-average power, and he could abandon catching and switch to centerfield to speed development up.
Aaron Zavala, OF, Oregon
Jordan Wicks, LHP Kansas State - Need to insert the Vince McMahon pleasure face meme here for Wicks. College pitcher? Nasty changeup? Above-average command? Rising fastball?
Are there players you think the Royals should stay away from?
Shaun Newkirk: I...actually don’t like Rocker that much? He’s fair enough value for the Royals at #7, similar to JB Bukauskas from a few years ago where it was “okay, even if you don’t love him that’s fine to take him there given the risk/reward at that pick.” It’s kinda like Brady Singer too in that you could convince yourself he is the best college pitcher in the draft early on and now you get him at #7!?! What a steal! But really he fell because of re-evaluations than teams being stupid.
Brady House I don’t really like either and would prefer Mayer, Lawlar, Watson to House.
Picking at #7, you still get a shot at one of the best guys in the draft, so it’s hard to say “stay away” from a player when there isn’t as much dispersion and out of consensus with guys later in the first and beyond.
Matthew LaMar: I’m spooked by guys “with helium” like Will Taylor. The draft is so much of a crapshoot that a track record of success is important, and those who are just now bursting on the scene worry me.
Alex Duvall: I hope they stay away from Sal Frelick and Jackson Jobe. Not because I don’t believe in the players, more because of the Royals circumstances. Frelick would feel like a panic pick, trying to get a college CF just because they need a CF to be able to catch up with the current core of prospects. Jobe, being a prep RHP, is going to require a bit of development and well…you can piece that puzzle together.
Many thanks to Alex Duvall at Royals Farm Report for participating. You can catch all his great coverage of the draft and Royals prospects at royalsfarmreport.com