Jun 23, 2017; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators pitcher Jackson Kowar (37) pitches in the first inning against the TCU Horned Frogs at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Your Draft Pick Goes to College

If you have followed the MLB Draft during the first two days, you certainly noticed the seemingly strange trend that the Royals drafted a whole lot of college players in the first 10 rounds. In all, they picked up 13 players, 12 of whom were drafted out of college. And while they did go seemingly overly college heavy in the first 10 rounds, it’s not really that different overall than in past seasons.

Take a look at the top 10 rounds for the Royals in the Dayton Moore era and you’ll actually see a fair amount of college guys taken. It was certainly more than I expected coming in.

Year # of Picks College Players Percentage
2017 11 8 72.7%
2016 9 7 77.8%
2015 11 7 63.6%
2014 12 8 66.7%
2013 11 9 81.8%
2012 10 5 50%
2011 10 4 40%
2010 10 8 80%
2009 9 7 77.8%
2008 11 2 18.2%
2007 10 3 30%

 

I don’t know if this tells us anything, but, like I said, it was not what I was expecting to see given all the talk about the Royals and Dayton Moore drafting high school players so often. Clearly early in his tenure they were high school heavy early, but it’s sort of evened out over the past few years before swinging drastically to the college side this year. I think what makes this year’s draft so interesting is that it went against basically anything anybody was saying heading into it. And obviously mock drafts aren’t a science, especially once you get beyond the first few picks where things are more defined, but nobody saw this coming.

I don’t profess to be a draft expert like Clint Scoles, who does an amazing job covering that for us, but I do have some takeaways from the first two days of the draft and what it might mean for this organization. I believe it’s pretty clear the mindset in the organization was to get pitching, pitching, more pitching and then even more pitching. And I understand why the team might have some interest in that tactic. As it stands right now, the best starting pitching prospect in the system is probably Carlos Hernandez, a pitcher very few have even heard of. He has 86.1 career minor league innings and is at least two or three years away and that’s if everything works perfectly.

After him, Daniel Tillo is likely the best bet to be a quality starter among Royals prospects and while I like Tillo, that’s a good sign it’s a very thin system when it comes to pitching. So the Royals drafted nine pitchers, and nine college pitchers at that. No, not all of them will end up in the starting rotation, but I would guess the vast majority will at least begin their big league career starting games. I expected them to go for plenty of pitching, but to lean toward upside plays. High school arms like Ethan Hankins, Mason Denaburg or Shane McClanahan were names I thought were decent bets to be called by the Royals. They most definitely were not.

Of the picks on day one, the only one I really don’t like much in a vacuum is Daniel Lynch. I can’t pretend to know how things are going to turn out, but I’m just not enamored with what he brings to the table. The rest I understood. I’m not sold on the strategy as I’d have much rather they gone with a higher upside play to Lynch (like Hankins) at the 34th pick, but I do like what they did there. Brady Singer at the top of the draft seems like a pretty safe bet (as safe as pitchers can be) to be a big leaguer. I’m not sure he’s a top of the rotation guy, but if he’s a three, you’d certainly take that at 18. Jackson Kowar is intriguing to me. He’s not a finished product, but he’s the guy I think could be the ace of the group if one does come out of it.

But honestly, you’re better off leaving the analysis of the actual players to Clint and those who follow much closer than I do. What I found intriguing is what this seems to represent for the organization. For one, I think it’s clear they wanted to add pitching to a very pitching poor organization. I think that’s a big reason why they went the way they did, but it also appears that they went with college pitching for a reason, for better or for worse.

I believe the Royals look at their lower levels (and some of the big league roster probably) and see the makings of a big league starting nine. With M.J. Melendez, Nick Pratto, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, Michael Gigliotti, Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias, Jorge Soler, Jorge Bonifacio, Hunter Dozier and Salvador Perez  (and there are certainly others), I think the Royals see a 2021 line-up featuring many of those names. Who’s going to pitch on that team though? If what the Royals have done on the first two days works out, we have the answer. Some combination of Singer, Kowar, Bubic, Lynch, Bowlan and others are the answers to join Jakob Junis and maybe a surprise or two to make up the rotation of the next good Royals team.

That’s if it all works out. My concern here is that the Royals are putting all their eggs in the basket of the current prospect group. As much as I like these guys, there just aren’t enough sure things for me to really be a fan of that strategy. That worries me. I can’t pretend to know for sure that the future would have been brighter had the Royals selected Nolan Gorman, Hankins and Griffin Roberts on day one and made a splash to try to keep Cole Wilcox or Kumar Rocker from going to college. I do think the upside of those picks would have been higher, so the potential reward would have been as well.

What I know is I understand why the Royals have gone in the direction they have, and I think it has a chance to work. If it does and they get two or three starting pitchers and a couple bullpen pieces from this group, they’ll be geniuses. If they end up with a fringe big leaguer or two out of this, well, it’s not going to look good in the end. It’s an interesting strategy. Now we sit back and wait to see what they do on day three and if it all works.

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