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Five first-round draft scenarios for the Royals

The Royals hold the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft. Here are five options they could follow.

Syndication: The Tennessean Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

This year’s Major League Baseball Draft begins July 17. For the fourth straight year, the Royals hold a top-ten draft pick as they own the ninth selection. Additionally, the Royals have two other picks among the first 50 selections—Nos. 35 and 49.

In 2019, the Royals used the draft’s second selection on shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. The following draft, Kansas City drafted left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy with the No. 4 pick out of Texas A&M. Last year, with the number 7 selection, the Royals chose another left-handed pitcher, this one out of a high school in Connecticut, Frank Mozzicato.

When the Royals’ first-rounder comes up this draft, the team could go a number of different routes, from a high-ceiling, high-school player who’s fallen down the board to another high-school pitcher to a young man drafted last year who chose not to sign. Or the Royals could even go with a bat-first college player.

Here are five possible scenarios for the Royals at pick number 9:

By the big board

Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford (GA) High School

If the draft follows MLB.com’s list of top baseball draft prospects, then the Royals would be selecting a high-school pitcher for the second consecutive draft. Of course, there’s a risk with that, as that pick would be Lesko, who is currently committed to attend Vanderbilt.

Not only is Lesko the top-rated prep arm in this draft, he’s the top rated arm, period. On the 20-80 scale, MLB.com rates his changeup as his best pitch, grading it at a 65. He also has two other above-average pitches, his fastball (60) and curveball (55).

The Royals would have to pony up the proper sum of money to convince Lesko to forego his college commitment to a program that’s recently been at or near the summit. Then again, maybe the Royals should take a break from drafting pitchers so high in the draft.

Alternative Pick: Robert Moore, 2B, Arkansas

Falling Down the Board

Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (FL)

Might this be wishful thinking? Sure it is! Green looks like a future star, and all Royals fans should be incredibly ecstatic if he fell down the draft board to No. 9.

Could he? Well, if there’s one reason why that might happen, it’s because of his hit tool as he’s a bit swing-and-miss.

In fact, his hit tool is only rated at 50 by MLB.com, well below the rest of his grades, with run being ranked the highest at 70. His power is rated at 60, as is his arm and fielding. He’s currently committed to Miami.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound 18 year-old falling to the Royals would be a dream come true.

Alternative Pick: Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech

Hit First, Ask Defensive Questions Later

Jacob Berry, 3B, LSU

Jacob Berry rakes. And rakes. And rakes some more.

Last year, playing in the Pac-12 for the Arizona Wildcats, the switch-hitter slashed .352/.439/.676 with 17 home runs, 70 RBI, 19 doubles, and 54 runs scored, This year, in the SEC, through 35 games, he’s slashing .364/.448/.629 with 10 homers, 36 RBI, seven doubles, and 32 runs scored. He’s also cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walk-rate.

Foremost, Berry is a hitter. He doesn’t have much speed, and he may be destined to be a career-long DH as MLB rates his arm at just 50 and his fielding even lower, at 40.

And yet, his bat is so dynamite, he should be a top-ten pick. Would the Royals use a high draft pick on such a one-dimensional player? It will be interesting to find out.

Alternative Pick: Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech

The Re-Drafted

Kumar Rocker, RHP, No School

Last year, when the Royals were on the clock in the first round, I very much wanted them to take Kumar Rocker, then a starting pitcher for Vanderbilt. It stung when they passed him, but then he fell even farther, finally getting selected 10th overall by the New York Mets.

And then, of course, he didn’t sign. After that, he did not return to school.

What now for Rocker? MLB ranks him as the 30th best prospect in this year’s draft. He had an excellent college career in two plus seasons in Nashville, helping the Commodores win it all in 2019 and then get back to the finals in 2021. He cuts an imposing figure at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. When he’s drafted this year, it will be the third time he’s been drafted, after last year and in 2018 by Colorado in the now non-existent 38th round.

I’d still love to see him as a Royal.

Alternative Pick: Jud Fabian, OF, Florida

The Surprise

Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt

When drafting, the Royals seem to love two things: toolsy players and surprises. Back in 2019, after selecting Witt Jr. at No. 2, the Royals went out and drafted yet another toolsy, up-the-middle player with their next pick, Brady McConnell. And last year, when Mozzicato wasn’t even close to being ranked in the top 10, the Royals took him seventh.

Maybe they’ll combine their loves this year and surprise everyone by drafting a shortstop ranked No. 25 by MLB.

Young’s OBP has jumped from .341 in 2021 to .389 this season. He’s also cutting way down on his strikeouts, though his power seems to be the price for these changes. His arm and fielding are a tick above-average, both getting graded at 55 by MLB. Young could be yet another in a long line of players drafted by the Royals who can play all over the diamond.

Alternative Pick: Mikey Romero, SS, Orange Lutheran (CA) High School