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Kansas City Royals 2011 MLB Draft in Review

Royals 2011 MLB Draft Selections

How can you be a fan of the MLB Draft and not love the Royals picking local hero Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS) OF Bubba Starling with their first round pick? It really is a tremendous story. I can’t even begin to imagine how much Starling’s development is going to be scrutinized by obsessive fans (that’s said with much love, by the way) of the minor leagues. It’ll be like Aaron Hicks times one billion…

I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t have a great feel for what kind of player Bubba Starling is at this point. In many ways, his scouting report reads as Generic High School Dual-Sport Five-Tool Centerfielder/Pitcher, if that makes sense. He runs, he throws, he shows classic light tower power, and he catches anything and everything hit to him in center. Even his much discussed (alright, much maligned) hit tool improved a ton over the past year. As the pre-draft note says, Starling is “everything you’d look for in a prep player.” What worries me are the reports already trickling out of instructs that the Royals have had to make drastic changes to both his swing and throwing mechanics. Said reports are often spun in a positive light – after the changes were made, Starling looked great! What a quick study! – but the thought of investing $7.5 million on a high school player and then almost immediately changing some of the fundamental ways he plays the game makes raises a teeny tiny red flag for me. This hardly qualifies as hard-hitting analysis, but I’ll say it anyway: no player in this year’s draft has as drastic a difference between best-case and worst-case scenario as Bubba Starling. He is the quintessential boom/bust prospect. I realize there’s a chance he’ll have value almost no matter what based on his speed and defense alone (pretty sure first round prep outfielders with other worldly tools have to actively go out of their way to keep from advancing through a system…as a Phillies fan, I present you Exhibit A and Exhibit B), but I’m talking “boom” with respect to his draft position. If Starling isn’t an everyday player, he’s a major bust in the eyes of the majority. If he’s not a middle of the lineup fixture, he’ll always be known to fans as an underachiever. If he’s not a consistent All Star performer, his name will always be spoken with a ting of regret that he never was able to truly put it all together. The expectations are sky high for the young Kansas, and rightfully so.

[plus speed; really good bat speed; patient approach; plus raw power; 88-93 FB; very good 73-76 CB that could be plus in time; 6-4, 180; plus CF range; hit tool is legit; everything you’d look for in a prep player, including rapid improvement in last year]

Plus raw power, good arm, and physically strong: that’s Manheim Township HS (PA) C Cameron Gallagher in less than ten words.

The “local” guy that I’ve seen this year a few times – 90 minutes away is local, right? – has had himself an oddly inconsistent year for a potential top five round draft prospect. He reminds me a good bit of Tyler Marlette, except with a tiny bit (we’re talking teeny tiny) less arm strength and a good bit more raw power and physical strength. So, basically, he reminds me of Marlette except for three pretty big differences – maybe that’s not the best comp after all. Gallagher is still a very raw defender, but steady improvement throughout the spring has led me to believe he can remain a catcher, assuming he doesn’t experience another growth spurt. The raw power is undeniably his biggest strength and there are some who think he’s got enough bat to handle first base if the whole catching thing doesn’t pan out. Not sure I’m buying into the bat that hard, but also not sure he’ll be moving to first any time soon.

Maybe it is just a byproduct of my simple mind making the association between fellow The Woodlands alum, but The Woodlands HS (TX) RHP Bryan Brickhouse’s scouting profile reminds me a little bit of a less athletic Kyle Drabek.

RHP Bryan Brickhouse (The Woodlands HS, Texas): 88-92 FB, 94-95 peak; 75-77 knuckle CB; solid 80-85 SL with upside; emerging low-80s CU; good athlete; 6-2, 190

Some versions of my pre-draft high school pitching rankings had Santaluces HS (FL) RHP Kyle Smith in the back end of the top ten. Getting him this late is a major coup for Kansas City. His secondary stuff is as good as any non-first round prep arm in the country, and his fastball, athleticism, quick tempo, and, yes, intangibles all point him in the direction of becoming a very good big league starting pitcher.

RHP Kyle Smith (Santaluces HS, Florida): 88-92 FB with late burst, 93-95 peak; potential plus CU; excellent 77-78 CB; great pitchability; quick worker; good athlete; 6-0, 170

I like the move by Kansas City to get St. Thomas HS (TX) OF Patrick Leonard away from the infield, so he can instead concentrate on hitting. Leonard should be fine defensively in right field; his chances of showing a bat capable of handling the demands of a corner outfield spot are less than fine. Funny how a position switch can totally flip a player’s future: Leonard went from an interesting hitter with defensive questions at third to a prospect likely good enough to handle right field who might not have the bat to carry him in the outfield.

Leonard has a fun mix that includes an above-average hit tool, impressive power upside, good athleticism, and above-average arm strength. Questions about his defensive future keep him lower than his bat warrants, at least for now.

I have to give it to Kansas City for unearthing Caribbean JC LHP Cesar Ogando. Even with a few thousands of names in my files, Ogando slipped through the cracks. He’s got his youth, size, and a fastball peaking at 94 at the wonderfully named Excellence Games (per Baseball America), but was scary wild (24 BB in 31.2 IP) in his pro debut. That kind of thing happens when you are nineteen and trying to figure out how to get your 6’3”, 210 pound body familiar with throwing a baseball harder than 99.999999999% of the planet consistently in the strike zone for the first time as a professional. Or so I would guess.

There’s definitely some sleeper potential with Oregon RHP Kellen Moen. The former Ducks reliever was tried as a starter after signing because he has shown the makings of three solid pitches, but I think the difference between his upper-80s fastball (90ish peak) and the low-90s fastball (93-94 peak) makes him a better option in the bullpen, now and in the future. His breaking ball looks better in relief as well: we’re talking a mid-70s loopy curve compared to a much tighter upper-70s breaker. I understand the Royals wanting to get him as many innings in as possible, but he’s a reliever all the way for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing the big, talented South County HS (VA) RHP Evan Beal pitch for the two-time defending national champs in the future. College was a good choice for him. Assuming he stays injury free, he’s got the chance to be a very early pick in 2014.

I’m not sure what the Royals see in Cal State Bernardino RHP Aaron Brooks that I’m missing, but I would have rather targeted another bullpen senior sign (e.g. Kellen Moen) for half the price than spend close to six figures on a pitcher without an above-average offering. Of course, what do I know? Brooks was outstanding in his debut, getting that sexy mix of strikeouts and groundballs that drives all the real baseball groupies wild. Brooks was just far enough off the beaten path as a college prospect that we’re free to speculate that his signing scout must have really fought for him during pre-draft meetings.

The numbers that Brooks (73 K in 79.2 IP, 2.74 GO/AO) were more in line with what I expected out of Georgia Southern RHP Matt Murray’s debut. Murray’s numbers were fine (58 K in 53 IP), but it was a surprise to see his nasty sinker/slider combo get as few groundball outs as it did. I remain intrigued at his upside, either as a back of the rotation starter or a steady, groundball inducing (hopefully) 7th inning reliever.

Georgia Southern JR RHP Matt Murray: 88-92 FB with heavy sink; ground ball machine; solid upper-70s SL; better than solid CU that has come on a lot since getting to school; CB; 6-4, 240 pounds

I’m all in on incoming Louisville freshman Park Hill South HS (MO) LHP Adam Schemenauer (Round 12). A 6’9” lefthander with a fastball that hits 93 MPH and above-average athleticism? Sold! He’s a long way away from being what he’ll eventually be (if you follow), and the track record for jumbo-sized prep pitchers isn’t as strong as the handful of pro outliers might have you think, but I’m a sucker for upside and Schemenauer has it in spades.

Hey, speaking of upside… American LHP Stephen Lumpkins (Round 13) is a 6’8″ lefthander with a fastball that hits 92 MPH and above-average athleticism. Bonus points for being the rare college prospect to come out of a family member’s alma mater. My three siblings and I all went to private universities in the northeast (sure, DC stretches the limits of “northeast,” but let me have this one), never once considering the potential ramifications to our baseball prospect watching. Ah, to be eighteen again to go back and realize the importance of spending four years somewhere warm. Lumpkins, like Ogando, struggled with control in his debut, but, also like Ogando, his struggles can be forgiven for now.

I would have bet anything that UCLA 1B Dean Espy (Round 15) would wind up back in sunny Southern California for another year after his disappointing junior year. He found his missing power stroke after signing, but there’s still not enough power upside or plate discipline to envision him as a big league player. He’s yet another prospect in purgatory: a first baseman only without the bat to carry him there. Sad.

Deltona (FL) HS SS Jack Lopez (Round 16) might have been one of those players who benefited from my pet theory that defensive studs up the middle, especially at shortstop, benefit from three years of college more than any other type of prep prospect. If Lopez had decided to attend Miami and showed himself to be competent with the bat over a few seasons, his standing as a plus defender with a playable bat could have made him a first rounder. Then again, by bypassing school, Lopez wound up getting the same bonus as second rounder Cameron Gallagher. Maybe it’s for the best for all involved (except Miami, but they at least already have the college version of Lopez, Stephen Perez, in tow) that Lopez is getting an early start on the pros.

Plus defensive tools will keep Lopez at short until the day he retires from the game to go sell life insurance (or whatever it is ex-ballplayers do these days).

I have a hard time explaining why, but I just plain like Virginia C Kenny Swab (Round 21). He does everything pretty well, but nothing so spectacularly that you’d notice a specific play he was involved in during the course of a game. At the end of that game, however, when you think back to what players could help a big league club someday, you remember the athletic, confident, strong armed Swab and come away impressed with his righthanded pop and balanced swing. I’d love to see Kansas City get creative and get the most out of Swab’s athleticism by using him at a variety of positions.

Here’s what was said here about Mr. Swab back before the season started: “He’s got a live bat with above-average power potential, but it’ll take some serious lineup juggling from Brian O’Connor to get him the at bats he’ll need to boost his draft stock. As is, Swab is a potential 10-20th round player based on upside alone.” Not a bad preseason prediction on a fairly unheralded junior college transfer, right? In the at bats Swab’s earned this year, he’s impressed. Good power, good patience, good defender, good arm, and good positional versatility. He’s not a star by any means, but he’s a good player. That sounds pretty good to me.

Louisiana Tech 3B MarkThrelkeld (Round 25) gives you just about what you’d expect from a pla…you know what? Just check the pre-draft notes on Threlkeld below. That says it all, I think.

Threlkeld gives just about what you’d expect from a player this far down the ranking: huge raw power and a strong arm. The reason Steranka gets the one spot edge over him is because of Threlkeld’s questionable defensive ability.

The Royals convinced Chris Dwyer, draft-eligible Clemson lefty, to sign a few years ago, but couldn’t come to terms with Clemson LHP Joseph Moorefield (Round 26) this time around. Moorefield will take his low-90s heat and intriguing four-pitch mix back to Clemson rather than make the jump to pro ball. He’ll be joined on a stacked Clemson staff featuring a slew of future pros like Kevin Brady, Dominic Leone, Scott Firth, David Haselden, Mike Kent, Jonathan Meyer, Kevin Pohle, Matt Campbell, Daniel Gossett, Patrick Andrews, and Kyle Bailey. Not bad.

SO LHP Joseph Moorefield hasn’t gotten a lot of notice outside of Pickens County, but lefties with low-90s and four usable pitches don’t often get overlooked for long. His control is probably his biggest question mark right now; it’ll probably be the key in determining his role for the upcoming season which in turn could be the key in determining his 2011 draft stock. 

I was so sure that Rock Falls (IL) HS RHP Jake Junis (Round 29) would end up at North Carolina State that I recently had to delete his name of their roster in my college draft follow list. Junis has the three pitches – solid upper-80s fastball, good hard curve, and a solid change – to start as a pro and should go down as one of the great overslot signings of this year’s draft. Well done, Royals. Brickhouse, Smith, and Junis is a heck of a trio to build on.

RHP Jake Junis (Rock Falls HS, Illinois): 88-91 FB; good upper-70s CB with plus upside; solid CU; great athlete; 6-3, 200

Seems like the Royals like to gamble on size when it comes to their overslot late round high school pitching picks, no? 6’7” Mercersburg Academy (PA) RHP Christian Binford (Round 30) certainly fits the bill. Binford was below the radar for much of the spring, but has shown flashes of three average pitches in the past. Child of the 90’s that I am, I always think of Binford Tools and JTT (so dreamy!) when I hear his name.

Despite missing the entire 2011 season with a broken wrist, Southern Illinois 1B Chris Serritella (Round 31) went ahead and got himself drafted. That’s pretty badass. I’m just crazy enough to think that another year or two at Southern Illinois could turn Serritella into a viable righty mashing platoon bat at first base.

An unfortunate wrist injury has knocked Serritella out of action. Luckily, he retains two full years of draft eligibility to help rebuild his depressed stock. I still might take a chance on him this year because of his phenomenal track record against righthanded pitching.

There was lots of positive buzz surrounding the well-traveled Nova Southeastern OF/RHP Andrew Durden (Round 38) as a hitter this spring, so it came as no surprise that Durden was announced as an outfielder on draft day. However, his only pro experience so far is made up of 6.1 innings pitched for the AZL Royals. I’m intrigued and confused all at once; call it intfusion or, better yet, I’m contrigued.

South Carolina 3B Adrian Morales (Round 49) was first mentioned on this site back in February of 2009. Ah, memories. Morales should serve a purpose as an organizational soldier capable of helping out young pitchers by playing solid defense anywhere in the infield. Any upside with the bat is a bonus.

Morales’ best tool is probably his defense, but a lack of offensive upside slots him in as an organizational player at the next level. 

College First Basemen Revisited – 2011 MLB Draft

Not every draft is like 2008. Not every draft is like 2008. Not every draft is like 2008. That’s my mantra as I check and recheck the list of 2011 draft-eligible college first basemen. Are you sure this is everybody? There are no Justin Smoak’s, Yonder Alonso’s, or, heck, even Ike Davis’s hiding anywhere? Sure, David Cooper and Allan Dykstra went bust, but there were both highly thought of at the time. This may be over the top negative (it’s what I do best, after all), but I’m not positive there is a slam dunk top five round college first baseman this year, let alone five players capable of cracking the first like in 2008. Incidentally, when looking back over that draft I’m always amazed at the stones, for lack of a better term, Kansas City showed by taking Eric Hosmer third. I know he was an outstanding high school hitter, but taking a prep first baseman before accomplished college talents like Brian Matusz (4th), Buster Posey (5th), and Justin Smoak (11th) took some serious intestinal fortitude. Posey is a stud and both Matusz and Smoak have shown enough promise that we can expect big things going forward, but Hosmer has a chance to be one of the elite middle of the lineup hitters in all of baseball in very short order. The book is far from closed on any of these players, and I’ll acknowledge that Posey would be a tremendous addition to the emerging Royals core, but, man, I have to give credit where credit is due on that pick. Loads of high picks year after year will often lead to good things, but in any sport, especially baseball, you still need to identify the right guy. Hosmer might not have been the only right guy in 2008, but he certainly looks like one of them.

Oh, right. 2011 college first basemen. Here is the original list. I don’t see a clear big league starter in the bunch, though I’m admittedly all aboard the Preston Tucker bandwagon. If any guy winds up starting for a big league team, it’ll be him. The rest look like potential four-corners utility guys (1B/3B/corner OF), pinch hitters, or platoon options. No shame in any of those outcomes, of course, so long as nobody out there is banking on getting a close to the big leagues power hitting college first baseman this year.

1. Florida JR 1B Preston Tucker (.361/.424/.627 – 15 BB/18 K)

I wrote a bit about Tucker in the past, so I won’t get into too much detail now. Here are the money quotes from last time, if you’re too cool to click the link:

To be an above-average first baseman in the bigs, you either need to have a special bat, outrageously good defense, or a well above-average mixture of the two. To that end, I’m not sure Tucker, or any other college first baseman in this class, is a prospect that will wind up receiving a first round grade, from me personally or any of the thirty big league scouting departments…

…Late first round seems like his draft ceiling. Fifth round, like fellow SEC 1B Andy Wilkins in 2010, could be his floor, barring injury.

2. Southern California JR 1B Ricky Oropesa (.384/.459/.582 – 21 BB/30 K)

There’s still too much swing and miss in his approach than I’d like, but the fact Oropesa fits the classic slugging first baseman mold better than Tucker could help him become the first college 1B off the board. Scouts want the best players, obviously, but they do have their biases. I think said bias could help Oropesa this June.

3. St. Mary’s JR 1B Troy Channing (.292/.366/.454 – 11 BB/34 K)

I know for a fact one team preferred Channing to Tucker heading into the season, though I can’t imagine that is still the case after his down showing so far this year.

4. Fresno State SR 1B Jordan Ribera (.206/.293/.382 – 13 BB/30 K)

Take a minute and process Ribera’s 2011 numbers. That’s one complete and utter collapse. I can’t believe that it is entirely the new bats to blame, like some have insinuated. Unlike Channing, Ribera doesn’t have the option of returning to school in 2012, so he can’t do much more than to hold out hope some team saw him at his best in 2010.

5. Washington State JR 1B Taylor Ard (.301/.374/.431 – 12 BB/15 K)

All of the numbers are park/league adjusted, but sometimes even more context is needed. Ard isn’t your typical college junior. As a former junior college star, Ard’s acquitted himself well enough in his first year of major college ball that I think a team that liked him heading into the season would still be on board now. His upside rivals that of any first baseman in the class.

6. East Tennessee State SR 1B Paul Hoilman (.275/.441/.580 – 38 BB/46 K)

How could you not possibly love this year’s draft Three True Outcome hero? Over half (54% to be precise) of his at bats end in a homer, walk, or strikeout. Cool.

7. Cal State Fullerton JR 1B Nick Ramirez (.280/.401/.440 – 24 BB/23 K)

I’m really, really fond of Nick Ramirez the college baseball player (his pitching stats: 12.1 IP – 1.51 FIP – 13.86 K/9 – 3.65 BB/9) and think he’s a viable option either at first or on the mound professionally. He has a reputation as a guess hitter, but I’ve heard his approach has gotten much better in 2011. As a pitcher, his upper-70s changeup is a legit out pitch, though it is kind of a shame that it isn’t even the best cambio in his family…

8. UCLA JR 1B Dean Espy (.299/.354/.381 – 10 BB/23 K)

Probably time to start thinking about the 2012 Draft with numbers like that…

9. Vanderbilt SR 1B Aaron Westlake (.377/.505/.596 – 32 BB/33 K) – I can live with ranking a player highly only to see him flame out. I realize the risk that comes with sometimes being too optimistic. I hate it when a player I like but am too chicken to rank appropriately plays great. Pretty sure all of that makes me a bad person – being indifferent if a player struggles, but annoyed when a player succeeds rates seems pretty selfish. If it helps, I always feel guilty about it. Westlake is one such source of annoyance. The Vanderbilt senior ranked as high as second on my original, off the top of my head list, but wound up ninth after I shuffled up some other names that I felt had more upside. Dumb move. All Westlake does is hit.

10. North Carolina State JR 1B Harold Riggins (.302/.442/.442 – 29 BB/46 K)

Another personal favorite coming into the year who hasn’t delivered quite what was expected in the power department. Positional versatility could help him make it as one of those four-corners utility guys we talked about earlier.

11. Mississippi SR 1B Matt Snyder (.273/.396/.445 – 21 BB/32 K)

Haven’t seen him myself, but have heard less than nice things about his defense. When scouts wonder if you have what it takes to stick at first, you’d better be able to hit a ton. Snyder is a nice college thumper, but nothing about his scouting profile or college numbers scream big league hitter to me.

12. Northwestern JR 1B Paul Snieder (.352/.450/.544 – 22 BB/24 K)

Snieder is reportedly a tough sign, but I like him as an org guy for a lot of the same reasons I like Western Kentucky C Matt Rice.

13. Cal State Fullerton SO 1B Carlos Lopez (.329/.400/.447 – 11 BB/7 K)

Only 85 at bats, so we’re dealing with a limited sample but I remain intrigued at Lopez’s skill set and performance to date.

14. Oklahoma JR 1B Cameron Seitzer (.331/.429/.476 – 20 BB/20 K)

I was lower on him than most, and remain cautiously optimistic at best, but I’d remiss if I didn’t point out a lot of positive chatter about Seitzer’s more mature frame and subsequent transformation from guy with big raw power to guy with loads of in-game power, despite what the relatively modest slugging numbers may indicate. He’ll probably go higher than a few names listed above him here, but, hey, it’s my list, right?

15. Southern Illinois JR 1B Chris Serritella

Serritella has missed time due to wrist injury and has a whopping 0 ABs this year. Have to imagine the injury will keep him at Southern Illinois for another season or two.