On a night where people anticipate teams drafting on projection and future ceiling, the Royals loaded up on college arms with their first five picks in the 2018 MLB draft.
With their first two picks, Lonnie Goldberg and company selected Florida Gators right-handers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. Those two were key cogs in the Gators run through the College World Series and national championship last season. Despite being college arms, both pitchers still exhibit upside. Currently, Singer is the better and more consistent pitcher with better control and command while having two pitches he can turn to every time out. Kowar might actually have the higher ceiling with three pitches that all flash plus in his fastball, curve, and changeup. Prior to the draft, I said the Royals need to examine the psychological element of the picks they were making; in these two pitchers I believe they have more than done that, adding a pair of highly motivated and ultra-competitive pitchers.
Next to the two Gators, the two pitchers the Royals took at the 34th and 40th slots share similarities in that they both pitched quite well in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Cape is the premier summer league for college players and the performances of Kris Bubic and Daniel Lynch truly stood out, with Bubic being named the League’s most outstanding pitcher. While Bubic maintained a level he had already put on the field at Stanford, Lynch established a new benchmark in the Cape and then took that performance over to the Virginia college season. Both lefties work on pitchability with Lynch hanging his hat on his four-pitch mix and Bubic with three pitches topped by an excellent changeup. In addition to those two, the Royals added a Memphis big-bodied right-hander that works 91-97 mph in Jon Bowlan. At his best Bowlan can dominate with his fastball-slider, but he also exhibits outstanding control with just 18 walks in 85 innings against 11 K per inning. It’s a two-pitch mix mostly that might ultimately send him to the bullpen, but the control is good enough that you let him go out and try to refine that changeup in an attempt to land as an innings-eating pitcher.
This strategy was a shocker no doubt as we thought at the 18th spot the Royals would likely be looking at high-risk high ceiling prep players and there were a couple on the board in Nolan Gorman and Brice Turang. Instead, the Royals looked at the board, looked at their weaknesses and went a route that they haven’t previously, drafting five college arms, two with good ceilings and two more with high floors in an attempt to load up a position that is nearly devoid of talent. Given their lack of pitching development in the past, it could be considered a risky play or it can be considered a safe play. Whichever side you land on, it was a surprising move indeed by Lonnie Goldberg and Dayton Moore to push all their chips in on five college arms.