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Better know a draft prospect: Kyle Teel

Teel is the best catcher in this draft, but should the Royals draft a catcher?

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Georgia Tech v Virginia Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

It may seem unusual for the Royals to target a catcher with their first pick in the draft considering their depth at the position. But consider that Salvador Perez will likely be a free agent by the time their 2023 draft pick reaches the big leagues, and he may not even be catching anymore. We don’t know what position MJ Melendez will play long-term, or whether he is even in the plans. And Carter Jensen has yet to play above A-ball, if he even sticks behind the plate. With the MLB draft, selecting based on need is a fool’s errand, better to draft the best player available. And that player could be Virginia catcher Kyle Teel.

Teel is considered one of the better bats available in this draft. Keith Law ranks him as the #6 prospect in this draft, MLB Pipeline ranks him #7, Baseball America ranks him #11, as does Fangraphs and Kiley McDaniel at ESPN ranks him #17. There could be genuine interest from the Royals in him, as Joe Doyle of Future Star Series writes, the “Royals absolutely love Teel and have spent an inordinate amount of time taking in his games toward the end of the year.” Keith Law of The Athletic also connected the Royals to Teel, adding “he’d be good value here and also a great fit in their system”, calling him a left-handed Jason Kendall.

Teel likely would have been drafted high out of high school in New Jersey, according to Law, until the pandemic hit in 2020. He attended Virginia and hit immediately, earning Freshman All-American honors. His numbers dipped a bit his sophomore season, but he has come on strong this year, batting .407/.475/.655 with 13 home runs in 65 games, earning ACC Player of the Year honors.

The lefty hitter has a high leg kick with an “extremely aggressive” swing with “violent hacks with plenty of moving parts in his setup”, according to Baseball America. But he is not a free swinger, instead bringing a high-contact approach with “excellent bat speed and pitch recognition” according to Law.

The swing generates a lot of line-drives and he hasn’t developed big time power - Baseball America describes it as “fringe-average power”, but Law adds that “he might have another half-grade of power coming if he gets a little stronger.”

Teel is considered to be strong behind the plate, with an impressive pop time and good caught stealing rates. His framing needs some work, but he has improved considerably in his time at Virginia. He runs well for a catcher and is considered athletic enough to move out from behind the plate if need be, with some experience in the outfield already under his belt. He “gets high marks for his baseball IQ and leadership skills”, according to MLB Pipeline, the exact qualities a team would need behind the plate.

Teel did struggle a bit Team USA and in the Cape Cod League against elite competition, but he has been part of a Virginia team that has made the College World Series twice in his three years there.

In baseball, the adage is “draft the best player available.” If you end up with two catchers, well, you can always make trades to address other needs. The Royals may not need a catcher right now, but they need talent. And Kyle Teel may be one of the more talented players in this draft.