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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Kansas City in 2016
123 – Chris DeVito
170 – Logan Gray
183 – Khalil Lee
201 – AJ Puckett
253 – Nicky Lopez
404 – Jace Vines
455 – Dalton Griffin
2.67 – RHP AJ Puckett
Not having a pick until after sixty-six prospects have already been chosen presents a unique challenge for any drafting team. The Royals opted to approach this conundrum by selecting a college performer with a long track record of success and a high probability of reaching his modest yet plenty useful ceiling. Fair enough. AJ Puckett (201) carved up hitters for three straight seasons at Pepperdine as one of the west coast’s most underappreciated collegiate arms. He’s been really good yet never dominant peripherally — 7.74 K/9, 7.52 K/9, and 8.61 K/9 — though his junior year dip in ERA to 1.27 after two seasons of 3.60 and 4.36 ball could obviously qualify as dominant run prevention in most quarters. Still, his good yet never dominant strikeout numbers dovetail nicely into a discussion about his good yet not dominant stuff. Puckett’s biggest strength is his ability to throw three average or better pitches for consistent strikes. His fastball ranges from 88 to 94 MPH (96 peak) with solid sink. His 73-78 MPH curve is an average pitch, but only in the sense that it sometimes flashes much better (above-average to plus) and sometimes has very little bend and gets hammered. Puckett’s changeup (79-85 MPH) isn’t all the way there yet, but shows signs of being an average to above-average pitch with continued use in the pros. With some projection left in his 6-4, 180 pound frame, a best case scenario could be a career not unlike what we’ve seen out of Alex Cobb to date.
3.103 – OF Khalil Lee
If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.
Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.
4.133 – RHP Jace Vines
Draft-eligible sophomore Jace Vines (404) looks like a classic sinker/slider (88-92, 94 peak for the former; 83-86 and flashing plus for the latter) reliever to me with an outside shot at sticking in the rotation depending on how his changeup develops over time. I don’t hate it.
5.163 – SS Nicky Lopez
On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…
Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.
From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.
6.193 – OF Cal Jones
Cal Jones is a classic, old school Royals draft pick. Take a special athlete with legit plus speed and more than enough range for center, and see if you can coach him up into a viable big league hitter. Great find by the Kansas City scouting staff. Now the really hard part comes for the development staff tasked with guiding Jones through the ups and downs of pro ball. I’m oddly optimistic on this one.
7.223 – RHP Travis Eckert
The Royals may have found themselves a late-bloomer in Travis Eckert, a steady yet unspectacular performer in two years at Oregon State who saw his stuff jump up across the board upon entering pro ball. What was once a fairly standard three-pitch command-oriented repertoire has been elevated to a slightly more interesting all-around profile thanks to a faster fastball (more flashes of mid-90s than his old 88-93 heat) and tighter 77-81 MPH breaking ball. Those two pitches combined with his solid 79-85 MPH changeup give him the requisite mix many teams require for a future in the rotation. I wouldn’t have put that that expectation on him six months ago — his immediate post-draft evaluation would have been something between unlikely middle relief help to minor league depth — but sometimes pro ball just agrees with a guy.
8.253 – 1B Chris DeVito
On Chris DeVito (123), the highest ranked player drafted by the Royals in this class, from March 2016…
I’m not yet sure what to make of Chris DeVito as an all-around prospect, but the confidence that he’ll hit as a pro grows by the week. The improvements he has made as a hitter, especially as he’s found a way to retain his big power while significantly decreasing the length of his swing, are real. One friend of mine affectionately refers to him as the “western Zack Collins.” My prospect love for Collins runs far too deep for me to go there, but I still like it. If DeVito can convince pro teams he can catch professionally, there’s no telling how high he can rise. I’m unsure if that’ll be the case – literally unsure: haven’t heard much in either direction about his glove, so I legitimately do not have an updated opinion on the matter – but I look forward to finding out more about his defense in the coming weeks. He’s a potentially great (top five round?) prospect – though I’d caution taking his offensive production with his offensive environments in mind — if he catch, and a good one (round six to ten?) if he’s forced to first base.
Of course, the Royals drafted DeVito, that same friend said after the fact, they already have his right-handed hitting counterpart in Chase Vallot. DeVito played exclusively first base in his pro debut, a sure sign that his number one job as a Royal will be to hit. Whether or not he’ll do so enough to be an everyday option going forward remains to be seen. I remain bullish on the Red Hercules as a plus power bat with patience and enough feel for contact to make a meaningful offensive impact at the highest level, so count me in on DeVito as a future regular.
9.283 – RHP Walker Sheller
Walker Sheller could be a quick-moving middle relief option for Kansas City as a funky strike-throwing fastball (87-93 MPH, 95 peak) and slider (low-80s, average but flashes better) righthander. It’s not the most explosive stuff or the highest ceiling, but it’s the kind of skill set that should play well in short bursts in the pros.
10.313 – LHP Richard Lovelady
It should be a pretty fun race to the big leagues between Walker Sheller and tenth rounder Richard Lovelady, a lefty reliever who can run it up to the mid-90s (sits 88-92ish) with a quality mid- to upper-70s breaking ball and usable upper-70s change. Good college numbers (10.26 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) and a strong pro debut (10.80 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9) paint a pretty picture of a potential big league reliever.
11.343 – OF Vance Vizcaino
A big redshirt-sophomore season year at Stetson seemed to set Vance Vizcaino up for stardom at the college level, but his 2016 was a step back in just about every offensive area. That dip in production allowed the Royals to wait it out and and snag Vizcaino in the eleventh round. Getting someone closer to the 2015 version of Vizcaino would be a steal, but I can’t help but think that season will look more and more like an aberration the longer his career goes on. It isn’t that Vizcaino is a bad prospect — he isn’t — but he’s the epitome of an outfield tweener. He’s playable in center, sure, but much better in a corner. His speed is impressive, no doubt, but not quite on the level that I’d call it a clear carrying tool. His power is decent, yes, but not good enough to profile as a regular, especially in an outfield corner. Add it all up and the Tennessee transfer could be a useful backup outfielder in time if everything goes right. There’s no shame in profiling as a bench player, but I’d want a little more in a round that has turned into one where most teams target high upside, overslot gambles. That’s not Vizcaino.
12.373 – RHP Jeremy Gwinn
I was no Jeremy Gwinn expert in the spring and I’m no Jeremy Gwinn expert now. What I do know about him, however, I like. He’s got size at 6-5, 200 pounds. He’s got a good fastball at 90-94 MPH (95 peak). He can reach back and use one of three offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) in any count. His numbers at Colby CC this past year (11.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 79.0 IP) were excellent. There is a lot to like here.
13.403 – 2B Logan Gray
Plate discipline is at or near the top of my list of required skills for any college hitter I’ll champion. It does seem, however, that every year there is a player or two who I can’t help but like in spite of consistently ugly BB/K ratios. One of those guys this year was Logan Gray (170). An optimistic take from April 2016…
All Logan Gray does is hit. There’s no point in me doubting him anymore. I’m sure there are scouts who don’t love every aspect of his swing or his bat speed or the way he circles the bases after hitting yet another home run, but at some point his extended run of hitting, hitting, and hitting some more has to matter. His athleticism and speed should translate to some steals (double-digits upside?) as he climbs the ladder and his power should play.
And a slightly more measured take from June 2016 right before the draft…
Logan Gray’s approach never took the step forward I was hoping to see (his sophomore to junior numbers are eerily similar), but he’s still so tooled up otherwise that he’s more than justified being a long-time FAVORITE. This class is dying for real third base prospects, so a raw yet highly athletic guy like Gray is very much welcomed.
There is so much about Gray’s game to like. He can run, he has power, he’s a great athlete, he’s capable of playing multiple spots…but the elephant in the room has been and figures to continue to be his approach. The downside to his game couldn’t have been made more clear in his 132 plate appearance debut in the Royals organization. Gray struggled to make contact (.187 BA), was unable to get into his plus raw power (.073 ISO), struck out a ton (34.8%), and barely walked at all (4.5 BB%). I’m not hopping off the bandwagon altogether after just 132 lousy plate appearances, but the fact that his struggles were so on the nose with what he’s had issues with in the past is more than a little concerning. Still, players with the kind of natural ability that Gray has shown don’t come around all that often, especially at the low low price of a thirteenth round pick. I had Gray valued at something closer to the fifth round — too early, probably, but defensible in this class when upside is taken into account — so it should go without saying that I love it in round thirteen. Whether or not Gray ever figures things out at the plate and gets past AA won’t make this pick any less clever to me. Process over results forever.
14.433 – RHP David McKay
David McKay joins a big group of relief prospects that could include every pitcher taken by Kansas City past their first overall selection. Competition for innings should be fierce in the early going, so McKay will need to impress as much as possible with his strong fastball (88-93) and breaking ball (once a plus slider, now far more of a curve as he’s adjusted to life post-Tommy John surgery) when called upon. So far, he’s done just that…
8.32 K/9 – 3.05 BB/9 – 44.1 IP – 2.64 ERA
7.96 K/9 – 3.14 BB/9 – 74.2 IP – 3.74 ERA
Top is what McKay did in his pro debut, bottom shows his redshirt-sophomore season at Florida Atlantic. Can’t knock the man for being consistent, that’s for sure. I like this pick a lot.
15.463 – LHP Mike Messier
I know it happened almost three weeks ago, but I still can’t get over Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL points list. Jagr was old (but awesome) when I had the pleasure of watching him nightly with the Flyers and that was five years ago. This has nothing to do with Mike Messier and I apologize for that. Turning our attention back to baseball, kudos to the Royals for sticking with Messier despite a somewhat rocky junior season (4.75 ERA, highest among the three weekend starters) at Bellarmine. His peripherals remained solid (10.50 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9) and his stuff (88-92 FB) never wavered. Lefthanders with a certain baseline of velocity will always appeal to teams on draft day.
16.493 – OF Nick Heath
The pre-draft take on Nick Heath…
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
That feels pretty fair to me. Heath does enough well to potentially keep rising and make it as a reserve speed/defense outfielder, but the absence of power keeps his ceiling low. Solid depth piece at this point in the draft.
17.523 – RHP Dillon Drabble
A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space. Sounds a little bit like Twitter on a slightly larger scale. I’m much too dumb to write fiction, but let’s try to write a drabble about Dillon Drabble.
Dillon Drabble was drafted in the seventeenth round by Kansas City out of Seminole State JC in Oklahoma. He pitched well as a sophomore (10.45 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9) using a solid fastball (88-92) and cut-slider combination to get more than his fair share of swings and misses and a boatload of ground ball outs. He kept it up in his pro debut, notable mostly for a whopping 65.15 GB% on all batted balls in his 60.1 innings pitched. One contact who saw them both pitch in 2016 said he preferred Drabble to Kansas City’s similarly skilled fourth round pick, Jace Vines.
102 words! So close! I didn’t even get to talk about the comic strip as planned. Can’t win ’em all.
18.553 – LHP Vance Tatum
Two players named Vance in one draft class has to be a record, right? Vance Tatum is a fine find this late in the draft. The big lefty from Mississippi State has always done the job when called upon (7.73 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 in 96.2 career college IP) thanks to enough velocity (85-91 FB), a true plus changeup, and a usable 76-81 MPH breaking ball. An imperfect comp for him that may have some merit, especially if he picks up a little velocity: Luis Avilan.
19.583 – RHP Tyler Fallwell
No matter what Fangraphs says, it’s Tyler Fallwell and not Falwell. The real Fallwell had a final draft year at Cochise (10.96 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) and throws three pitches (88-92 MPH fastball, up-and-down slider, decent changeup) for strikes.
20.613 – RHP Anthony Bender
With a 9.94 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, and 1.65 ERA, Anthony Bender made his abbreviated sophomore year (16.1 IP) at Santa Rosa count. Armed with a fastball that could flirt with triple-digits in time (up to 97 already), Bender is exactly what you want in a mid-round quick-moving potential reliever.
21.643 – OF Dalton Griffin
I like a lot of elements in Dalton Griffin’s (455) game. He’s a solid runner with a strong arm, enough range to handle all three outfield spots (not at the same time though, that would be nuts), and a mature approach at the plate. Or, if that one sentence synopsis of Griffin doesn’t do it for you, how about just celebrating the fact that literally any high school prospect signed this late is worth getting at least a little excited about.
22.673 – RHP Cody Nesbit
Sometimes, just knowing a guy’s numbers can be enough. Cody Nesbit dominated this past spring at San Jacinto JC to the tune of a 15.60 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. Knowing nothing beyond that, I’d still say that’s enough for me.
The Royals gave Nesbit $100,000 to sign. For those new at this, that’s the maximum amount allowed to a draft pick past the tenth round without dipping into the bonus pool allotment. The fact that Nesbit, a dominant junior college arm, got one hundred grand is wholly unremarkable. The fact that Nesbit is the is the twelfth Royal in a row to get a real signing bonus — ten of whom got six-figure bonuses — is pretty damn great. I love that Kansas City threw around that extra cash to get the players they wanted. I also love that the players got some real money upfront to help supplement their meager minor league salaries. I know Major League Baseball isn’t a charity, but if I was in charge of the draft room I’d push hard to give literally every player taken past round ten the full $100,000. There’s no penalty to doing so with the only real cost being a few extra bucks missing from the owner’s bottom line. I know it’s easy to say since it’s not my money, but the amount of good will around the game and potential for positive PR could pay for itself in time. A relatively small investment — the Royals signed 27 guys past round ten, so that would be $2.7 million if they followed my plan to the letter — that opens up the talent pool and could engender good feelings that resonate for years to come? Seems like something you could sell an open-minded owner on to me.
23.703 – OF Kort Peterson
UCLA has a deserved reputation of being a pitching factory in recent years. Everybody knows the big names like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but the Bruins have put big league pitchers like Charles Brewer, Erik Goeddel, Matt Grace, Rob Rasmussen, and Adam Plutko in the big leagues since 2009. James Kaprielian will join those guys shortly — he’s far more Cole/Bauer than any of those others — with Griffin Canning, Jake Bird, Justin Hooper, and Kyle Molnar all waiting in the wings. But the Bruins deserve equal credit for recruiting, developing, and sending off a slew of interesting high-contact, well-rounded offensive players to the pro ranks of late.
Maybe the group of Eric Filia, Kevin Kramer, and Tyler Heineman doesn’t have quite the same star power of that Cole/Bauer/Kaprielian trio, but all three are professional hitters who could carve out long pro careers if things fall the right way for them. I’d put Kort Peterson in that same class. Peterson doesn’t have any clear standout tools, but he’s a smart hitter with enough speed, range, and power to make a little noise in pro ball. His biggest selling point is his athleticism, so there’s more growth potential here than his good but not great college track record might suggest. I think my own track record (such as it is) of being bearish on college players who haven’t put up great numbers as amateurs (like Peterson) should indicate that I like the former UCLA outfielder’s overall skill set more than most.
24.733 – C Mike McCann
A torn thumb ligament cut short Mike McCann’s breakout junior season at Seattle, but the Royals made him a twenty-fourth round pick anyway. I heartily approve. McCann’s bat is ahead of his glove for me, but I still think he has the smarts if not the physical gifts to remain a catcher for the foreseeable future. A case could certainly be made that you’d rather have the smart catcher who can think along with your young pitching in the middle rounds than a bigger armed, better all-around defensive player lacking in the baseball IQ department. I’d take the latter guy early — big league tools are big league tools, after all — but, knowing what we know about the realistic success rate of players drafted at this point, getting a guy who will help with the overall development of his teammates makes perfect sense to me. Make no mistake, McCann is no slouch as a prospect in his own right. In a class loaded with college catching, his half-season (.319/.491/.445 with 37 BB/19 K) stands up to almost anybody’s. Great value here.
25.763 – 1B Robby Rinn
Robby Rinn is an older prospect (turned 24 this past October) confined to first base, so he’ll have to hurry up and start hitting if he wants to keep getting steady playing time in pro ball. His pro debut was fine (.280/.341/.386, 109 wRC+), but it was all in the AZL. That’s not Rinn’s fault — you can only play where you’re assigned — but he has to hope now that the Royals move him a lot quicker than that starting next spring. I believe in him as a hitter, but acknowledge that the odds are against him for a whole bunch of reasons.
26.793 – 3B John Brontsema
I don’t really understand this one. John Brontsema was already in my 2017 MLB Draft notes as a potential senior-sign — he has a solid glove and can play multiple spots — because I figured his unexciting junior season (.289/.364/.389 with 16 BB/44 K) would cause him to go undrafted. The Royals saw differently. Brontsema has rewarded that faith so far with a .337/.386/.396 (13 BB/33 K) debut.
27.823 – LHP Rex Hill
Rex Hill fell a little bit further than a three-pitch lefthander with good size (6-3, 200) probably should have. Perhaps it has something to do with Hill’s upper-80s fastball not being what pro teams want. I’d take it when combined with two average or better offspeed pitches (77-81 change, upper-70s breaking ball) and the chance he’ll gain a tick or two of velocity in a more consistent relief role. Worth a shot.
28.853 – C Yordany Salva
Yordany Salva hit .276/.339/.429 with 15 BB/33 K and 12/14 SB in his sophomore season at Broward CC. That’s all I’ve got. Typically those numbers wouldn’t be enough to be on my draft list, but the Royals obviously like him. We’ll see. Early reports on his defense have been positive, so at least there’s that to build on.
1/17 EDIT: As Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review points out, Salva has already been released by the Royals. It was fun while it lasted.
29.883 – RHP Grant Gavin
From 10.29 K/9 and 3.53 BB/9 (2.64 ERA) in 30.2 IP at Central Missouri to 8.57 K/9 and 0.91 BB/9 (2.01 ERA) in 49.1 IP in his pro debut: not a bad spring and summer for Grant Gavin. With a fastball up to 94 MPH, emerging offspeed stuff (CB and CU), and plenty of athleticism, Gavin could wind up one of this draft’s sneakier quick-moving relief prospects.
30.913 – RHP Geoff Bramblett
An established workhorse pitcher from the SEC with solid stuff across the board — 87-93 fastball, good low-70s breaking ball, improving sinking changeup — and plus athleticism still on the board tor the Royals in the thirtieth round? This is a pick you run to the phone to make. Nice work here.
31.943 – RHP Malcolm Van Buren
There’s literally nothing not to like about Kansas City taking a shot on Malcolm Van Buren in the thirty-first round. Athleticism, velocity (low-90s, up to 93), intriguing assortment of offspeed stuff (CB, CU, SL), and a 6-4, 185 pound frame with plenty of growth potential. The only issue here is his recent Tommy John surgery, but teams knew about the heading into the draft. If anything, strictly from a draft value perspective from the Royals point of view, Van Buren’s injury can be considered a positive. A healthy Van Buren goes twenty rounds sooner. As if I didn’t like this pick enough, the selection of Van Buren gives me an excuse to link to the classic clip you see below. When (fine, if) I sit down and try to determine my favorite picks across baseball from this draft, it’ll be hard to leave this one off.
34.1033 – RHP Nathan Webb
Very cool piece from a story on Nathan Webb, a pitcher I pretty much know nothing else about…
Safe to say he is the only member of the draft class who already has been presented with a World Series ring from the team.
That’s right, Webb, a right-handed pitcher, is one of four members of his high school team who works on the Royals’ grounds crew. The crew received rings.
“More than a replica,” said Lee’s Summit North baseball coach Mike Westacott. “They were really nice.”
How great is that? Good for the Royals.
35.1063 – C MJ Sanchez
When I start compiling notes for these draft reviews, I do so by collecting any and all relevant links that can add to the discussion about a given player. For reasons not particularly clear to me now, I found this link and decided it was worth saving. I can only guess that it had something to do with correctly guessing that the Jets would trade up to take Mark Sanchez. From there I linked Mark Sanchez to MJ Sanchez since MJ’s given name is also Mark. This is what passes for analysis in the thirty-fifth round. For what it’s worth, Sanchez hit well (.323/.384/.455 with 13 BB/15 K) in his redshirt-junior season at California Baptist. Have to figure that experience catching Tyson Miller, the highest drafted player in Lancers history, doesn’t hurt, either. It certainly helped Sanchez get multiple looks from scouts when he might have otherwise been given just a passing glance. I love it when a big-time prospect helps draw in scouts and gives exposure to talented teammates. I’m convinced there are way more good players out there than there are scouts on the road capable of seeing everybody. If you’re good they’ll find you, but getting a little serendipitous help along the way makes things a lot easier.
36.1093 – RHP Alex Massey
Alex Massey going all the way back to 2012 (!) at Tulane…
2012: 8.06 K/9 – 2.45 BB/9 – 51.1 IP
2014: 9.92 K/9 – 4.13 BB/9 – 32.2 IP
2015: 7.47 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 88.1 IP
2016: 7.89 K/9 – 3.11 BB/9 – 75.0 IP
Four pretty solid seasons, all in all. Massey did it with a good sinking fastball (88-92 as a starter, but can run it up to 94-95 in shorter outings) and an above-average slider. That’s more than enough to warrant inclusion in the great big future middle relief pile the Royals have assembled through this draft.
37.1123 – RHP Justin Camp
Justin Camp had a weird college career at Auburn. He was basically the same guy in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but something much more in 2015. What do you do with that? I guess if you’re the Royals you take it in the thirty-seventh round and hope for the best. Camp has good stuff — 90-93 FB, low-70s CU, low-80s breaking ball — with decent command. Tough to see him being much more than an organizational arm, but he’s a bit more talented than your typical bottom of the draft selection.
39.1183 – C Chase Livingston
Chase Livingston was drafted by a MLB baseball team — the defending champs no less! — and I was not, so he’s clearly got plenty going for him and doesn’t need my approval in any way whatsoever. That’s why I don’t feel bad in pointing out that he might have the worst body of work of any 2016 MLB Draft pick. Livingston hit .202/.273/.267 with 25 BB/86 K in 337 AB at Rhode Island. His big senior year saw him put up a career-best .309 SLG as he hit .216 with a .275 OBP (11 BB/39 K). Naturally, he turned into a much better hitter (or had a nice run of fortune on balls in play in a small sample) in pro ball as he hit .273/.375/.273 (8 BB/11 K) in 66 PA split between two levels of rookie ball. With college numbers like his, the only way I can begin to rationalize this pick is to assume Livingston is the world’s greatest defensive catcher. It’s basically Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense come to life.
40.1213 – RHP Taylor Kaczmarek
Some teams end with pointless nepotism picks, others pick players they have developed lasting long-term relationships with — the Royals originally drafted Taylor Kaczmarek out of South Mountain CC in 2012 — battling their way back from beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kaczmarek is a feel-good story to be sure, but he’s not some total charity case selection: the reliever from San Diego has been up to 90 MPH with his fastball in the past.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist), Kam Misner (Missouri), Joey Fregosi (?)
I don’t typically put a ton of thought into the organization of these pieces, but this one was a no-brainer. We need to talk about C Nick Dini (407) first. I’d talk about him first, second, third, and forever, but a paragraph or so will have to suffice for now.
Nick Dini hit .392/.489/.625 in his senior season at Wagner. He walked 30 times and struck out only 7 times. He stole 14 bases in 15 tries, a total that boosted his career mark to 33 of 35. He’s relatively new to catching (played it off-and-on throughout his college career), but has taken to it in a full-time role as well as one possibly can. He’s a really good athlete who has experience catching high velocity arm, so the learning curve should continue to be quite manageable for him. At the plate, he’s shown a consistent feel for hitting that puts him years ahead of his peers. His approach is as good as it gets and is power, while not nearly as impressive as his senior season spike suggests, is enough to keep opposing pitching honest enough to let him keep getting on base at a high clip even against better arms. On the downside, he played at Wagner and…he’s short? I guess those are negatives for some, but I don’t care. He’s Austin Barnes 2.0 with a realistic floor of Tucker Barnhart. Just a really good all-around player who will become a fan favorite (and statistically-leaning prospect analyst favorite) sooner rather than later.
(I’m glad we had a chance to do that. People I know in real life are tired of me initiating conversations with “Hey, how about that Nick Dini?” and “Whoa, did you see what Nick Dini did last night?” and “We need to decide on a good nickname for Nick Dini – is ‘Who’ too corny? It works on two levels!”)
1B Taylor Ostrich is a fine senior-sign get in the 34th round. He he can hit, he’ll take a walk, and there’s average or better thunder in the bat. He’s also a strong yet nimble 6-3, 220 pound athlete who has posted average run times underway and fields the position extremely well. With reasonable platoon or bench bat upside (and maybe more…), I’m not really sure what more you could ask for in a pick this late.
Here’s where I was at with C Alex Close before the season…
SR 1B Alex Close (Liberty) has been a favorite for some time – not a FAVORITE, but a favorite – because of his playable present power. If an area guy can sell his bosses on Close as a potential 1B/3B/C hybrid, then he could go higher than even I think.
I stand by the assertion that a 1B/3B/C hybrid is best for his long-term pro future. Even with the defensive versatility, there might be too much swing-and-miss in his approach for him to lock in on his considerable power upside thus negating what he does best as a hitter as a professional. I’m not sure how good his stuff is, but I’ve heard from at least one contact that they’d put him on the mound. That belief was based on his strong senior season as a pitcher, his raw arm strength, and the unfortunate reality that he likely won’t make enough contact to have a real future as a pro hitter. OF Colton Frabasilio gets a lot more interesting when you look back at his college track record (catcher!) and then realize he split time between catcher and left field in his pro debut. The bat isn’t thrilling, but the bar isn’t all that high for a catcher. If he can stick behind the plate, consider him a super deep sleeper to follow.
It appears that the Royals identified outfield as a position group of need heading into the draft. Either that or the board just happened to shake out a whole bunch of outfielders they liked in rounds that made sense. My favorite before the draft was OF Tanner Stanley (67). Stanley does many of the things that I personally like very well: he’s a patient hitter who has a plan at the plate with every at bat, he’s instinctual in the outfield and on the base paths, and he’s got enough physical ability (arm, speed) to make a difference even on days he’s not hitting. As so often is the case in players like Stanley, the transformation of raw power to in-game production is an open question. I put Stanley in the group that has “enough pop to keep opposing pitchers honest” before the draft, but that aspect of his game remains my biggest concern going forward.
Keeping all that about Stanley in mind, I have to admit that I don’t really know why I ranked him quite so highly relative to some of his peers. I’ll wear it, of course, but his was an overly generous ranking that I would scale back if I could do it all again. For example, I’m not sure he’s all that different from OF Cody Jones (495). If anything, Jones runs and defends on a higher level than Stanley. I prefer the latter’s all-around offensive game, but the two are close enough that almost 400 spots on the pre-draft ranking seems silly. The Royals obviously preferred Jones, the sixth rounder, over Stanley, their thirty-sixth rounder.
An argument could also be made for OF Anderson Miller (145) as the top outfielder taken by the Royals. Heck, in terms of draft position he’s it. Miller shares a lot of the same positive traits as Stanley, but comes with more upside and uncertainty. The former two-way star has a chance to really break out now that the shackles of pitching are off. He leads the way in raw power (average or slightly above) of any Kansas City outfield pick. His chief competitor there would be OF Ben Johnson (238). Johnson is a really neat prospect. I’ll allow past me to explain some…
The outfield is where things get really interesting in the Big 12. I know I say this about so many prospects that it probably renders the distinction meaningless, but Texas JR OF Ben Johnson has to be one of this year’s draft’s most fascinating prospects. Johnson’s name has come up over and over again so far this season as a tooled-up prospect finally turning into a deeply skilled player. Or so I thought. All of the chatter over Johnson excited me because I had assumed he was finally doing the things that he’ll need to do to be a better pro. Full disclosure: I haven’t gotten any updates about him this season (since the fall) from anybody I know who has seen him and (I’M NOT A SCOUT) I’ve only personally seen him twice this year on the tube. So I’m not working with all the needed info to make any overarching statements that should be taken as fact. I’m just theorizing that maybe college analysts (and perhaps certain pro scouting staffs that weigh projection significantly ahead of production [they aren’t wrong for this, by the way]) are getting a little ahead of themselves in proclaiming this to be the start of Johnson’s ascension to day one of the 2015 MLB Draft. Johnson has been absolutely phenomenal this season by most every measure: .432/.463/.659 is damn good work in 88 at bats. Maybe he’s made adjustments as a hitter that the public will hear about as some of the best prospect writers begin doing some digging. Maybe (hopefully) I’ll hear something from one of my contacts sooner rather than later that brings some good news on his outburst. Until then, however, I think Ben Johnson is just doing Ben Johnson things. I won’t say that I anticipated this kind of start, but his numbers aren’t out of line with what you’d expect from a player with his kind of tools at the college level. It’s not crazy to say that he, like about a dozen or so players in this and every class, is too physically gifted for the college game. Johnson is a pro-level glove in center with an average or better arm, average or better raw power, and, most interestingly, the kind of jaw-dropping athleticism and game-changing speed that puts the whole package over the top.
Again, Johnson is putting up a ridiculous .432/.463/.659 line so far this year. That’s really great. With only 2 walks to 12 strikeouts, however, I’m not sure how all his considerable offensive gifts will continue to play as he climbs the ladder. For all the positives he brings to the table he still looks like a very high potential pick since athletes like him often provide value well beyond what they do at the plate (running, defending, you get it). That relatively high floor makes Johnson extra appealing; using a supplemental first, second, or third round pick on him is not likely to completely blow up in your face simply because he’s almost too damn athletic to do nothing. On the off chance he puts it together, watch out. If that paragraph reads like I’m hedging my bets on him, then you’re on the right track.
I’m obviously glad I hedged my bets on him, especially after seeing him fall to the eleventh round. Overslot or not, he was outstanding value there. As was written in his pre-draft blurb: “approach remains a mess, but the raw edge to his game, grinder mentality, and outstanding defense make him intriguing despite his flaws.” That’s the kind of guy to gamble on for a little extra dough in round eleven. A quick prospect-to-prospect comparison could work if you’re willing to buy he’s a more talented version of sixth round pick Cody Jones. An even easier comparison would be to former Longhorn Drew Stubbs. I’m sure others have connected those dots elsewhere.
I really liked the pick of the underrated (including here) OF Roman Collins in the fifth. It’s much earlier than I thought he’d go, but he’s a good player and who knows how the rest of baseball viewed him. Before the year I said…
Collins is a guy who falls out of bed ready to hit each morning. I don’t doubt that his big raw power will continue to play against more advanced arms.
His pro debut was outstanding, though presumably he’s figured out a more palatable sleep schedule. I mean, I like to get up at the last possible second before work as well, but I couldn’t actually suggest somebody try to roll out of bed and hit a 90 MPH fastball. Sounds like a great way to get hurt. Lame jokes aside, Collins can hit. I think he was slept on (no pun intended, I swear…but I’m keeping it) by many because of only playing one year of D-1 baseball. He got on my radar before his one and only season at Florida Atlantic after hitting a decent .435/.512/.766 in 209 at bats at junior college in 2014. Then he more than held his own (.296/.394/.481) at FAU while showing off an impressive display of power and speed (above-average in both areas) on a weekly basis throughout the spring. He would have been ranked much higher by me heading into the draft if I had caught on to how smooth his transition was this year; such is life as a one-man operation. The nice thing is by writing this, I can begin to make up for the error. Roman Collins is really good. You should like him too.
OF Luke Willis can really run and defend in center. I’m sufficiently intrigued by the thirtieth rounder out of George Mason (by way of Coastal Carolina). Like many of these outfielders, he’s a very Royals type of player.
For as much as I like and appreciate what the Royals did in the outfield, I can’t quite put my finger on their infield strategy this year. 2B Jonathan McCray is an intriguing junior college talent who has shown some of the pop/speed combo needed to keep advancing as a second base only prospect.
SS Trey Stover can play any infield spot, but doesn’t have the bat to keep going at the moment. Same could be said for SS Brian Bien. SS Austin Bailey has the most advanced stick of this trio of college senior-sign shortstops, but seems like a better fit at second base over the long haul. Maybe you hit on one of the three as a future utility guy, but I don’t love the odds here.
I do love SS Travis Maezes (169) even though I don’t think he’s a shortstop professionally…
I’ve written about Michigan JR 3B/SS Travis Maezes already, so I’ll just give the short version here: his skill set reminds me of the 25th pick of last year’s draft, Matt Chapman. The biggest noticeable difference in their games comes down to arm strength. Maezes has an outstanding arm, but it’s not in the same class as Chapman’s; that’s how crazy Chapman’s arm is. Besides that, the similarities are striking. I think Maezes has a chance to put an average hit tool with average power (maybe a half-grade above in each area) to good use as a professional ballplayer. Even if he doesn’t hit as much as I’ll think, his defensive value (good at third and playable at short, with intriguing unseen upside at 2B and C) should make him a positive player. It’s not the typical profile we think of as “high-floor,” but it works. I’ve talked to a few people who think I’m overstating Maezes’ upside as a pro. That’s fine and it’s relevant and I’m happy to hear from dissenting viewpoints.
Weird doesn’t have to be bad, so I have no problem being the high man on Michigan JR 3B Travis Maezes for now. His hit tool is legit, his power should play average or better, and he has the athleticism, arm strength, and instincts to be a really strong third baseman in the pros. Real life work commitments and frustration at the death of College Splits put me way behind on writing about last year’s draft. If I had written all that I wanted to, I assure you that many glowing pieces on Cal State Fullerton 3B Matt Chapman would have been written. I absolutely loved Chapman as a draft prospect and think he’ll be an above-average pro player for a long time. I don’t bring him up just to relive the past, of course; from a skills standpoint, Maezes reminds me a lot of Chapman. I swear that’s a comparison that I came by honestly through watching them both, hearing from smarter people than myself, and reading whatever has been written about them from the comfort of my couch. Then I looked at the numbers (top Maezes, bottom Chapman) and…
.307/.403/.444 with 54 BB/64 K in 530 PA
.295/.391/.443 with 73 BB/84 K in 702 PA
…whoa. That’s pretty good. Another player comparison that I’ve heard for Maezes that takes me back to my earliest days as a baseball fan is former Phillies 3B Dave Hollins, he of the 162 game average of .260/.358/.420 with 18 HR, 27 2B, 76 BB, and 113 K*.
Maezes’s down junior season (not included in the statistical comparison above) didn’t quite reward my pre-season faith, but he hit well enough to remain a solid top five to ten round prospect in my eyes. Getting him in round 13 is excellent value for Kansas City. I look forward to seeing what they decide to do with him defensively going forward. The thought of his bat waking back up and him being able to handle the move to catcher is quite appealing, though I acknowledge how difficult getting those two things to go right at the same time can be.
I also kind of like SS Gabriel Cancel even though I know of him more than I know him at this point. Still, when looking at the shortstop group drafted by Kansas City this year (Cancel, Emmanuel Rivera, Bailey, Bien, Stover) from a more detached view, I’d be surprised if they got even one big league contributor five years from now.
Since I love to bury the lede, a few words on RHP Ashe Russell (17). Russell is pretty close to an ideal version of pitching projection personified. He has the size, arm action, delivery, and present fastball (90-96, 98 peak) that all just scream first round high school righthanded pitching prospect. I happen to love what he’s doing with his fastball (not just the velocity*, but the life) and his breaking ball (78-84 and a little bit of a hybrid SL/CB for now, but best when thrown more as a true slider) already, so you don’t have to sell me on him needing to grow leaps and bounds ahead of where he presently is. There’s obviously still stuff to work out — commanding that darting fastball, gaining more trust and consistency with the breaker, improving the nascent change — but what’s already there is damn impressive. He’s more of a future two than a three for me if it all comes together. Dayton Moore compared him to Garrett Richards immediately after the draft and that sounds about right to me. I think a younger Shelby Miller also fits.
* I ranted on this once in the very early days of the site, but it always bothered me some that “velocity” is the word used when discussing what’s almost always meant to be “speed.” Velocity is speed and direction, so it should imply movement. So often, however, it’s written (I do it all the time) that a pitch is impressive both for it’s velocity AND it’s movement. That’s redundant, right? I realize language is fluid and different words can have different meanings in different contexts, but if I could go back and change one ultimately inconsequential fundamental thing about baseball writing/scouting, that might be it.
The Royals stayed in the great state of Indiana to nab another top high school prospect in RHP Nolan Watson (90). Watson joins Russell as a potential long-term fixture of what could be a loaded Kansas City rotation one day. He jumped out at me early in the draft cycle because of the Vanderbilt commitment attached to his name; it’s become almost a chicken and the egg thing where you can argue what comes first, but if the Vandy staff puts their seal of approval on you as a young pitcher, the scouting community takes notice. Watson is easy to like because he’s one of those guys who seems to get better with every start. He may not have quite the same upside as Russell, but the well-rounded pitching arsenal he brings to the mound each outing (88-94 FB, 96 peak; average or better 76-80 CB; average or better low-80s CU; low-80s SL with promise) makes him an excellent bet to remain a sturdy starting pitcher into the future. If Russell and Watson are two-fifths of a future KC rotation, as I think they’ll be, I wish the rest of the AL Central luck.
Calling a player your favorite doesn’t necessarily make him the best. We’re clear on that, right? Well RHP Josh Staumont (76) might be my favorite player (apologies to BFF Nick Dini) in this class. He’s just so damn authentic. He takes his huge fastball (93-99, 101 peak) that he holds deep into starts, dynamic breaking ball (80-84 CB with plus upside), and a difficult to control because it moves so much low- to mid-80s split-change, and just does what he does. At Azusa Pacific, he struck out 14.38 batters per nine in almost 70 junior year innings pitched. He kept up with that as best he could (13.05 K/9) as a pro. Unfortunately, all those missed bats came with a price. Staumont walked 7.18 BB/9 at Azusa Pacific. Staumont walked 7.20 BB/9 between the Royals AZL team and Idaho Falls. Miraculously, his ERA at Azusa Pacific was 3.67…and his ERA as a pro is 2.48. That’s the definition of “effectively wild” if I’ve ever seen it. I’m not sure there’s precedent for a pitcher this wild this early in his pro career to climb the ladder all the way to the top (first thought was Randy Johnson, but I’m not going to touch that one…), but I’m not betting against Staumont, his awesome stuff, and his competitive demeanor. I think he can keep advancing even with his wild ways and if he can ever gain even a semblance of control…damn. If you argued on Staumont’s behalf for highest upside pitcher in the entire class, I wouldn’t get in your way.
(A fun/imperfect comp I got for Staumont recently: former Blue Jay minor leaguer and one half of the Phillies return in the Ben Revere trade, Alberto Tirado. Also: Staumont’s GB% in his first 40 professional innings is 70.89. Not a typo! 70.89 GB%!)
Kansas City went pitching with four of their first five picks. We’ve covered Russell, Watson, and Staumont, so let’s meet lucky number five. LHP Garrett Davila was a very slick pick for the Royals in the fifth round. Considered a tough sign by many all spring, KC did their HW on him and knew just what it would take to get his signature on a contract. What they got for their due diligence is a possible lefthanded starter with average-ish stuff (88-92 FB, 93 peak; mid-70s CB) across the board. A little bit of growth and a more refined third pitch and you might be looking at a back-end starting pitcher in a few years.
I think it’s good club policy to target college relievers with solid stuff (86-92 FB, really good 82-84 kCB) and dynamite results (8.50 K/9 to 10.04 K/9 to 11.00 K/9 in three healthy seasons) past round fifteen or so. By that point you’re out of the top ten rounds and you’ve given yourself some time to target potential overslot prospects in the first few double-digit rounds. The Royals did just that this year in waiting until round 16 to make a play for one of college ball’s most accomplished relief pitchers. As noted above, RHP Matt Ditman (402), has had great success with a quality on-two punch of pitches and good control. He’s no spring chicken (23 already), so he’ll have to move quickly, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem for a guy ready to pitch in AA at the start of next season. Love this pick.
I also like the 27th round shot on RHP Jacob Bodner. The Xavier product flashes wipeout stuff at times, but the three C’s (command, control, consistency) have kept him from much more than marginal collegiate results.
I’ve stuck with Xavier rJR RHP Jacob Bodner through the good (flashes of dominance in 2013) and the bad (consistently inconsistent control, 2014 season wiped out due to injury), so might as well stick it out to the end. At his best he has the look of a really good big league reliever, flashing a mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider. His stature (5-11, 180 pounds) will turn some teams off, but he more than makes up for his lack of physicality with some of the best athleticism of any pitcher in his class. He’s an arm strength/athleticism gamble at this point, but one I feel comfortable with considering the lack of relative upside among his Big East pitching brethren.
If he can get one of those C’s under control, he’s a prospect to keep in mind. If he fixes two, he’s the real deal. All three and he’s a no-doubter big league reliever. Easier said then done, naturally, but the talent is there.
RHP Alex Luna is identified in my notes as a “ground ball machine” thanks to a sinking fastball and impressive extension coming out of a 6-5, 200 pound frame. The pro data so far (59.15 GB%) backs it up, but he’ll have to start missing more bats to be taken more seriously as a pro prospect. LHP Andre Davis matches Luna in stature (6-6, 230 pounds), but outstrips him when it comes to velocity (upper-90s when right). It’s a beautiful thing when a SWAC player gets taken this early (8th round), so I’ve got nothing but love for Davis as a pro. If he can begin to harness his newfound crazy velo, he’s one to watch. LHP Joseph Markus matches Davis and Luna in stature (6-7, 220 pounds…and perhaps we’re seeing the start of a theme) with big stuff but little idea where it’s heading. I like that the Royals double-upped with lefthanders with big projection even though the odds of these types of college projects working out aren’t great.
RHP Daniel Concepcion has a little middle relief upside with solid stuff (88-92 FB, good CU), good size (6-4, 225), and a strong track record. LHP Mark McCoy does much of the same, but from the left side. LHP Matt Portland offers similar strengths to McCoy, but with a curveball as his primary secondary offering. LHP Jake Kalish has the goods to start for a bit, but that has as much to do with his decent yet diverse repertoire of pitches as it does with his advanced age (24 already).
One thing that jumped out to me about the Kansas City draft as I wrap this up is the willingness to look past a player’s geographical location in order to find talent. The Royals drafted players from seemingly everywhere. Whether this was a stated mission from within the front office or a happy coincidence, consider the following. The Royals first two picks were pitchers from Indiana high schools. That bit of weirdness set the tone. From there, they drafted players out of Azusa Pacific, Delta State, St. Joseph’s (IN), Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Wagner, and Hartford. Slightly more traditional baseball schools like Xavier, Old Dominion, Liberty, Florida Atlantic (two), and George Mason (two) were also on the menu. Sure, they hit up bigger universities like Rice, Texas, Northwestern (I’m stretching), Rutgers (still stretching), TCU, Michigan, Richmond, San Diego, and VCU, but they also selected seven junior college players including one straight from a Puerto Rican juco. Maybe you could do this with more teams than just the Royals — I’m far too lazy to do an exhaustive search of what team drafted the “weirdest” — but it’s an impressive collection of talent found from places big and small. That scouting staff earned their keep this year, Mike Farrell especially.
Some of the players drafted from all over that wound up on my pre-draft top 500 prospect list…
17 – Ashe Russell
67 – Tanner Stanley
76 – Josh Staumont
90 – Nolan Watson
145 – Anderson Miller
169 – Travis Maezes
238 – Ben Johnson
402 – Matt Ditman
407 – Nick Dini
495 – Cody Jones
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.