In 1987, the draft was just a tad bit longer than it is today. That year the Royals would select 74 players as the other teams all bowed out in the 71st round or earlier before the Royals were the last team to wave the white flag. After drafting the franchise’s 2nd most valuable player by rWAR, Kevin Appier, with their 1st round pick (9th overall) Art Stewart’s crew didn’t connect on another successful pick until the 58th round. In that round, they selected a UCLA 3rd baseman by the name of Jeff Conine who, despite being a late selection, would work his way through the Royals minor league system until he would be knocking on the door in 1992 after a solid season at Triple-A Omaha.
Despite a possible hole at third base, the Royals would leave Conine unprotected for the expansion draft that November, likely due to a trade they were navigating with the Mets that would land them Gregg Jefferies just one month later. That move and the moves that would come after would be a mistake as Conine would establish himself as a key part of two different championship squads in Florida. Despite that mistake, the Royals have an opportunity to right that wrong some 25 years later.
Griffin Conine, Jeff’s son, has proven over the course of two summers that he can do some major damage with a wood bat, hitting 25 home runs between the Northwoods League in 2016 and the Cape Cod League in 2017. The right-fielder does this with a powerful swing that, while long, stays in the hitting zone for a decent amount of time. Operating with an open stance that he keeps open throughout the swing, Conine has a leveraged cut that should continue to create plenty of fly ball contact once converted to pro ball. A pull oriented swing with his stance, Conine could need to close it some once in pro ball to cover the outside of the plate even with his extension. The power and swing aren’t all he brings to the table. He possesses good speed and the movement needed to play above average defense in the outfield. In addition to the movement, Griffin inherited his father’s above average arm giving him two above-average tools from which his game is built on while working with three other average tools.
Coming off an impressive Cape season, and after connecting on 13 home runs during his sophomore season at Duke, there is some chance that Griffin pushes his way into the Top 10 picks. It’s possible, but not probable as just two college corner outfielders have been chosen in the Top 15 picks of the draft over the past five years. That means there is a legitimate chance that he could be available to the Royals when their selection comes around. A strong-armed corner outfielder who could move quickly through the system while offering depth to that position alongside Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias and current Royals outfielder Jorge Bonifacio would be very valuable in the rebuild of this farm system.
As we can see from the playoff runs by the Royals, Cubs and more, relief pitchers are suddenly extremely valuable commodities. In addition to the example of success from the playoff teams, the free agent relief pitchers have earned some of the biggest contracts available the last two seasons at a time when the free agent market has been depressed. Pitchers Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis, and Brett Cecil have outpaced starting pitchers the past two offseasons. In addition to the postseason success and free agent money, relievers have produced decent returns in the trade market when one looks at what Chapman, Davis, Melancon and others have returned. While KC isn’t likely to compete during the next few seasons there is still no reason why a team like the Royals who has been extremely good at discovering power arms in the bullpen should shy away from using a pick on a power armed quick moving reliever. Even non-contending teams need quality arms in the pen, and should the Royals once again discover a closer or setup man they can always turn that player into additional prospect pieces to improve their farm system.