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Better know a draft prospect: Cam Collier

The youngest hitter in the draft could have one of the highest ceilings.

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Despite the emergence of rookies like Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez, and prospects Nick Pratto and Vinnie Pasquantino, the Royals farm system still needs an infusion of bats. The top of this draft is expected to be very hitter-heavy, and one intriguing bat near the top is third baseman Cam Collier of Chipola Junior College

The son of former big league infielder Lou Collier, Cam is considered one of the top prospects in this year’s draft, with Baseball America ranking him #10, MLB Pipeline ranking him #12, CBS Sports ranking him #6, and Keith Law ranking him #2. It is not unheard of for the Royals to select a junior college player this high - they selected Kevin Appier as the ninth overall pick in 1987 out of Antelope Valley College.

Collier was expected to be one of the top prospects for the 2023 draft, but couldn’t wait that long to begin his career. He reclassified for the 2022 draft, withdrew from high school and earned his GED, and enrolled at junior college baseball powerhouse Chipola College. He is the youngest hitter in the draft, and won’t turn 18 until November, but is putting up solid numbers against older competition at the junior college level with a line of .333/.419/.537 and 8 home runs in 52 games.

The left-handed hitter stands at 6’2’’, 210 pounds, but has a swing that features a “loose stroke with outstanding bat speed and uncanny bat-to-ball skills”, according to MLB Pipeline. Baseball America praises his “quick hands and a clean bat path paired with excellent pitch recognition and an ability to let the ball travel, trust his hands and use the entire field.” Keith Law notes Collier has “had some expected issues with breaking stuff but also shown he can adjust to some of those pitches and stay back to take them the other way” and needs to add some strength, but sees him as a “plus hitter with average power.”

MLB Pipeline adds he has “good raw power in his swing, with more likely to come.” Baseball America likes his “raw power”, but notes his approach is “more geared for balls sprayed into the gaps than homers to the pull side.”

Defensively, Collier has a plus arm with a low-90s fastball in his pitching days. Baseball America writes he has “solid hands and defensive instincts” but his big size could limit his lateral mobility, necessitating a move to first base or outfield eventually.

Collier brings both a mature approach to the plate, with advanced pitch recognition skills, but at an age many draft prospects are still trying to refine their tools. He brings the high upside of a high school hitter with the advanced development of a college player. His sweet swing from the left side should translate well in Kauffman Stadium even if the raw power doesn’t translate into big home run numbers, as a guy that can get on base and hit gappers.

Still, his defensive limitations raise some questions, and there is still a long path from 17-year-old junior college player to big leaguer. While Collier is advanced, he may not be quite as advanced as an older college player who has already filled out.

There is a very good chance that Collier is not available for the Royals at #9. But if the Louisville commit falls to the Royals, they’ll have to take a good long look at his ceiling and determine whether they can see him pairing with Bobby Witt Jr. in a Kauffman Stadium infield one day.