The draft is coming fast and hard, and we know the Royals farm is in desperate need of additions after being ranked near the bottom of pretty much all publications during the preseason. The outstanding start to the seasons for MJ Melendez and Seuly Matias show that the farm system wasn’t quite as barren as people at MLB Pipeline and Baseball America thought, but even still, additions need to be made to restart the process after trades and some misses in the draft.
The Current Farm System
Strengths – Catcher – The Royals catching ranks are very strong from top to bottom with MJ Melendez and Sebastian Rivero off to excellent starts in Lexington. While Seuly Matias’ power has been lauded by most prior to this season, Melendez is showing that his pre-draft exit velocities were for real. Meibrys Viloria gets rave reviews from the organization defensively, and potential longterm major league backup Cam Gallagher is waiting in the wings in Omaha for a Drew Butera departure. Organizational depth is also strong with Nick Dini at Double-A and Xavier Fernandez at High-A. Yes, I’ve omitted Chase Vallot from this list due to his lack of playing defense at the position this season. Knowing his weaknesses defensively, I doubt many teams would move him off the position if he was an actual longterm option there considering the needed reps to improve.
Middle Infield – Middle infield represents another strength organizationally considering the Royals have Whit Merrifield under team control should they not trade him. In addition to Merrifield, shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, while without prospect status, still represents upside. Nicky Lopez is showing that his on-base skills and hitting ability have transferred to Double-A after a slight dip following his promotion last season. The Royals addition of Erick Mejia gives them a possible second baseman for the future or utility option alongside Ramon Torres. Organizational depth lasts into the low minors with Jeison Guzman and Cristian Perez, while Humberto Arteaga has received good grades defensively by scouts inside and outside the organization for years and he’s hitting better than expected in the PCL this season.
Weakness – Starting Pitching – The Royals lack potential starting pitchers, especially on the high end, with only Carlos Hernandez giving the appearance of a possible front-line starter currently in the system. There are a few backend option development pieces spread throughout the ranks, but as Dayton Moore once said, it can take ten pitchers to get one starter; currently the Royals lack that number of pitchers to turn into one.
The Current Ranking (Previous Rank)
#1 Khalil Lee (1) – 19 years old, leading the Carolina league in walks, 2nd in OBP while playing CF
#2 MJ Melendez (2) – showing power while playing quality defense in a difficult position at a young age
#3 Seuly Matias (8) – leads the minors in home runs at 19 years of age
#4 Nicky Lopez (7) – hitting .319 with a .387 OBP while committing just one error up the middle
#5 Nick Pratto (3) – showing power earlier than thought, but not hitting at the clip originally thought he would
#6 Carlos Hernandez (UR) – throws and holds mid to upper 90s while flashing the makings of a pair of offspeed pitches
#7 Michael Gigliotti (6) – out for the year with a knee injury
#8 Richard Lovelady (9) – adjusting to better hitters in the PCL
#9 Glenn Sparkman (14) – plus command/control with a good fastball and usable offspeed stuff; has makings of possible 4/5 starter
#10 Emmanuel Rivera (10) – good defense, contact skill and plus raw power that needs to come out more often
#11 Josh Staumont (17) – shown improved control in his first two starts
#12 Dan Tillo (22) – good fastball/slider combination that generates a ton of groundballs
#13 Foster Griffin (4) – needs to get more on the fastball or find another go-to pitch outside of the curve
#14 Erick Mejia (UR) – shown a tad more power and speed, could be a possible major league utility option
#15 Rudy Martin (40) – plus speed, more power than 5’7 frame suggests; injury prone
#16 Meibrys Viloria (18) – solid defensive profile, has some pop in the bat if he can get to it more
#17 Donnie Dewees (15) – has improved his arm, patient approach but needs to get improve hit tool
#18 Sebastian Rivero (25) – good makeup, solid defensive profile with an uncomplicated swing that might hit enough to be a future backup
#19 Scott Blewett (19) – has a three-pitch mix, but needs to find a bat-misser and create more deception or velocity
#20 Ryan O’Hearn (27) – flashes raw power and patience, still just doesn’t exhibit the power enough for a 1b
#21 Gabe Cancel (16) – raw power and some hitting skill but lacks patience and doesn’t get to the power enough, probably has to move to 3b
#22 Elier Hernandez (24) – showing the hitting skill they thought when he signed, needs to create more leverage to get strength out of swing
#23 Samir Duenez (20) – showing power prior to injury but has sold some contact skill to get there
#24 Jake Newberry (60) – ready for Triple-A to prove whether his FB/slider combo is a major league worthy for the 7th inning
#25 Brewer Hicklen (41) – speed, raw power, and some hitting skill will get tested in Wilmington with pitch recognition
Graduated – Eric Skoglund, Scott Barlow and Hunter Dozier
The 2018 Draft – The strength of this draft is in its prep arms. From the #1 prep pitcher, Matt Liberatore, to guys you will continually see coming off in the later rounds, teams will have a large number of prep pitchers in the projectable variety to choose from. It’s a highly risky phylum historically, and with a large supply we will likely see a run on college targets early and perhaps another run of college bats in the second round with a mix of prep pitchers in the late first and sprinkled throughout the second and third rounds. Overall, the college position class is relatively weak with two of the better bats coming into the season, Griffin Conine and Jeremy Eierman, struggling early in the year to see their stock pushed down further than previously expected. With a likely lack of position talent available to them, the Royals can fill a needed area in terms of pitching with eight selections in the Top 152 picks in a draft that is built more on depth than high-end top talent.
Landmines – Beware the injured pitchers. The Royals have drafted quite a few pitchers showing pre-draft injuries thinking they could be minor things but then seeing significant problems later in their development. With plenty of pitchers to choose from in this draft without an injury history, Lonnie Goldberg would be smart to steer clear of these types given the Royals history.
Likely players off the board prior to KC Pick – Joey Bart, Casey Mize, Nick Madrigal, Alec Bohm, Jonathan India, Matthew Liberatore, Cole Winn, Carter Stewart, Trevor Larnach, Brady Singer, Nolan Gorman, and Ethan Hankins
Links to Royals – We know Lonnie Goldberg was scouting players at Dave Evans’ pitching academy in Houston when Bryan Brickhouse showcased his stuff during the offseason. Two draft-eligible pitchers who work with Evans from that area are Grayson Rodriguez and Adam Kloffenstein, so don’t be surprised if the Royals select one or both pitchers during the draft.
Plays Up the Middle and Gets On-Base – The Royals have drafted a pair of up the middle players in the fourth and fifth rounds the past two years who play good defense and get on base in Nicky Lopez and Michael Gigliotti. This could be the start of a new pattern for Goldberg. A player who fits that mold would be Liberty’s D.J. Artis, a player with a career .495 OBP and plus speed that is more than enough to stick in center.
Previously drafted by the Royals
2015 Ford Proctor Rice PG #149
2017 Korry Howell Kirkwood CC PG #346
Day 1 – Monday, June 4 Round 1 through Round 2 Comp Live on MLB Network and MLB.com
Day 2 – Tuesday, June 5 Rounds 3-10 MLB.com
Day 3 – Wednesday, June 6 Rounds 11-40 MLB.com
Royals Draft Pool
|Pool w/out penalty||$ 14,060,090|