The Royals have a chance to add to their farm system with the upcoming amateur draft. Heading the draft this year will be new director of scouting Danny Ontiveros, although Lonnie Goldberg will likely still have input as vice president of player personnel. The draft is now 20 rounds, and has been pushed back from June to July. Here’s what you need to know about this year’s draft.
When is the draft?
The 2022 MLB draft begins Sunday, July 17 at 6 p.m. CT in Los Angeles during All-Star weekend. Teams will draft the first round, competitive balance A picks, second round, and competitive balance B picks on the first day. Rounds 3-10 will begin on Monday at 1 p.m., and rounds 10-20 will be held on Tuesday at 1 p.m. MLB Network and ESPN will provide first-day coverage, with the other two days to stream live online at MLB.com.
When do the Royals select?
The Royals will have the ninth pick in the draft in round one, then the #49 overall pick in the second round. They will have the seventh pick in each round after that. They traded the #35 overall pick, their “competitive balance pick” awarded to lower revenue teams, in a deal with the Braves for three prospects.
Draft order is determined by the reverse order of last year’s standings, with the Orioles selecting first overall for the second time in four years. The Mets will also receive the #11 overall pick as compensation for failing to sign first-round pick Kumar Rocker last year. You can see a complete draft order here.
How much can the Royals spend on draft picks?
Each draft slot is assigned a dollar value by MLB, and each team can spend no more than their total allotted value on all their picks without incurring a tax on the overage and potentially losing draft picks if they exceed their allotment by five percent. By trading the #35 pick, the Royals also traded the slot value assigned to it, meaning they can spend $2.2 million less than they could prior to the trade. Overall, the Royals can spend $9,466,200 in the first ten rounds, 15th-most among all teams. You can see all draft bonus pools here.
Is this a good draft? Who will be the top pick?
This is considered to be a pretty weak draft due to many of the top pitchers getting hurt this spring. It is very possible no pitchers are selected in the first ten picks. There is no consensus on a top player, but most draft boards have Georgia prep outfielder Druw Jones on top, although junior college third baseman Cam Collier, Florida prep outfielder Elijah Green, Oklahoma prep shortstop Jackson Holliday, Georgia infielder Termarr Johnson, and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee are all right up there with him. The Orioles are also known to play “slot games” - meaning they could reach an agreement with a lesser player for a deal less than the slot value, so that they can sign a player for over his slot amount later in the draft.
Who will the Royals select?
The Royals played slot games last year, taking Connecticut prep pitcher Frank Mozzicato in an underslot deal so they could select Kansas prep pitcher Ben Kudrna with an overslot deal later in the draft. There was some speculation they would do the same this year, but with the trading of the #35 pick, the Royals have less flexibility to do that.
The Royals could turn to prep arms as they did in last year’s draft, but Keith Law recently wrote he “can’t imagine them doubling down on high school arms after building their whole draft around three of them” last year. He has heard the Royals connected with Campbell University shortstop Zach Neto, Michigan prep pitcher Brock Porter, and Florida prep pitcher Brandon Barriera. Anne Rogers has heard the Royals are connected to prep outfielder Elijah Green, LSU third baseman Jacob Berry, junior college third baseman Cam Collier, Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross, and Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung.
A few weeks ago on 610 Sports, J.J. Picollo said this was more of a “heavy-laden college draft.”
“I think the first-round you’re certainly looking to take the best player available. Then you may have a bit of strategy, we may have some depth issues here and there. Pitching’s always going to be a part of it.”
Ontiveros also talked about the makeup of this draft this week.
“I think some of the college hitting is better than it’s been the last couple of years, at least a little deeper,” Ontiveros said. “That’s a good thing. The college arms, some of them have had some injuries, so we’ve got to kind of look a little deeper in that regard. And then it’s a good crop of high school players, as usual. So just trying to figure out what the teams in front of you are going to do is what’s hard, the further you go back. You’ve got to be prepared. There are a few players we’re not anticipating getting to us, but we got to do our work on them because you never know what’s going to happen.
Here’s what the latest mock drafts say.
Mike Axisa, CBS Sports: SS Zack Neto, Campbell University
The only thing we know about the Royals’ draft strategy is they are the first team seriously considering a pitcher. That doesn’t mean they will draft a pitcher, just that they’re considering it, unlike the clubs ahead of them. With so many good bats on the board, the bet here is the Royals will go that route, and Neto fits their M.O. as an extreme contact hitter and up-the-middle athlete. Gavin Cross makes sense here too.
Carlos Collazo, Baseball America: OF Justin Crawford, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
There are a few college bats that would make sense at No. 9 to Kansas City—with Texas Tech second baseman Jace Jung and Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross foremost among them—but I’ve also continued to hear high school outfielders linked with the Royals, including Justin Crawford and Henry Bolte. We’ve previously mocked Bolte at this pick, but it’s perhaps a bit bold and I haven’t heard much about that one in recent days.
Jett Williams could make sense as well as a potential center fielder (though I imagine whoever drafts him does so as a shortstop) with hitting ability, but Crawford is as solid a link as I have at this point.
If you couldn’t tell, this is around the range where my confidence in the picks and the player pool itself starts to fall off.
Keith Law, The Athletic: OF Elijah Green, IMG Academy (FL)
I think this is a dream scenario for the Royals. I’ve heard them with Cross and Neto, as well as Brock Porter and Barriera, although I can’t imagine them doubling down on high school arms after building their whole draft around three of them (Frank Mozzicato, Ben Kudrna and Shane Panzini) last year.
Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com: OF Justin Crawford, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
If Carl’s kid doesn’t go here, he could go 11 or be more of a mid-teens type of pick. Kansas City also traded away its comp pick, shrinking its bonus pool. Whether that has an impact on what they do here remains to be seen, but they did go under slot for Frank Mozzicato last year.
Kiley McDaniel, ESPN: RF Gavin Cross, Virginia Tech
This is where the next juncture of the draft really starts and there have been rumors galore on what the Royals could do here. They could take the first pitcher, it could be a prep pitcher, it could be Cade Horton, it could be the best available college hitter, it could be Justin Crawford on a deal, etc. I think this is also the area where the teams themselves still don’t know who they will take and are actively exploring options.
The Royals’ brass (all the way to the top) was in Omaha to see Horton at the College World Series, and I think he gets a long look from teams starting here and he probably goes by pick 15 because there’s so much interest. In a bad college pitching year, catching fire down the stretch in the biggest games. while also having a high school track record to match, seems to be the most marketable of the options. I’m looking at picks 9 and 10 together as both K.C. and Colorado are more traditional in style, and I think one of them would take Cross and the other Horton in this scenario. Later, the Royals are tied mostly to upside, making me think a cut option is also being explored here, with Gavin Turley and a number of prep arms like Jacob Miller.