I went on Between the Lines on Tuesday while the second day of the draft was going on and I was asked when we might start to see some trades. I said it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if trades started going down as soon as the third day of the draft was over. The Royals traded Jon Jay to the Diamondbacks literally within hours of making their final selection, so I guess I got that one right. We all know it’s the first of many moves, but this one I think was always going to happen quickly for two reasons. One, they’re about to face an outfield logjam with Jorge Bonifacio eligible to come back in about three weeks. And two, there’s a decent chance Jay’s value will never be higher. And I think they did well to get back a guy who could maybe be a LOOGY as well as a live arm who might turn into something. Jay was brought in to fill a hole short-term and hopefully bring back a prospect you could sort of dream on in a deal. He did his job.
- I touched on this in my article Wednesday, but the Royals seem to be exhibiting some pretty big faith in the prospects they currently have. I have my worries about that because there just isn’t a slam dunk prospect in that group like there was in the first group with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, but I do like what they’ve done this season. If we’re looking at this rebuild as I’ve thought we are as just one a decade later than the first, that means we’ll start to see the guys find their way to the big leagues in 2021 and then go from there. That seems reasonable. So what does the lineup look like in mid-August of 2021 if the Royals are right? If all goes well, they should have some combination of Bonifacio, Jorge Soler, Khalil Lee, Michael Gigliotti, Seuly Matias and Brewer Hicklen to roam the outfield. The infield figures to include Nick Pratto, Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi and maybe Emmanuel Rivera or John Brontsema and the catching group can include Salvador Perez, M.J. Melendez, Meibrys Viloria and Sebastian Rivero. Add to it the 781 college pitchers drafted and an experienced but still relatively young bullpen and you can close your eyes and really dream on what that team could look like in a few years. As optimistic as it all sounds, I don’t think it’s all that difficult to see it falling apart either. They definitely have the numbers in the offensive prospects and some of the guys we don’t even talk about like Hicklen, Rivero, Rivera and some others could step up if the big names don’t, but it still makes me wonder if the strategy of getting arms to match the bats currently in the organization isn’t a little too risky. But, you know, just because it’s not the way I’d have done it doesn’t mean it can’t work and doesn’t mean it isn’t a better strategy than how I’d have drafted. I guess now we just wait to see how Mission 2021 plays out.
- All in all, I think there’s a pretty good argument to be made that the 2018 season has gone about as well as could be. They’re horrible, so they’re not going to be in some weird middle ground of 75 to 84 wins. Their current prospects have mostly performed well enough to be considered potential cornerstone players in a few years. Many of their trade chips have performed well enough to get back a decent or better return in trades. And a lot of their younger big league players have performed well enough that you have to think they have a few pieces already up. Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Jorge Soler all have showed plenty already this season. Add in Whit Merrifield who fits in either the trade chip category or the potential piece of the future playing very well again this season, and I think 2018 has been a pretty big success to date. The next step is making sure they actually move the pieces they need to move and get back a quality return. Of all the potential trades, the only ones I think they have to do are trading Mike Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera because I don’t think they get a first round pick for Herrera if they offer him the qualifying offer and you can’t simply let Moustakas walk for nothing. So we’ll see how that goes, but so far, things have worked out pretty well. It’d be great if Jason Hammel or Ian Kennedy were pitching well enough to move, but you can’t have everything.
- If you want something to get excited about on the farm, one thing to keep an eye on is Khalil Lee’s power seeming to come back lately. After showing very good power in his first couple seasons in the organization, he got to Wilmington and the power went away. That’s actually not entirely true. He was hitting .393/.514/.750 in his first eight games and looked like he was on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate star in waiting. He didn’t homer again until Tuesday. And then he homered again last night. He also doubled. He’s now hitting .279/.425/.437. Obviously the OBP is phenomenal. He has a 17.9 percent walk rate and his strikeout rate is at a very manageable 24.2 percent. You’d obviously like to see that come down a bit, but that’s playable, and Lee knows the zone so well that he might actually see that drop as umpires get better in the upper levels. I should also mention for those who don’t know that Frawley Stadium is an absolute wasteland for hitters. And while Lee did homer there for each of his last two, he’s hitting .316/.438/.490 on the road. Oh yeah, he’s also a very good defender who probably has a floor of a fantastic right fielder defensively and if he can stick in center field, look out.
- I know you’re probably tired of hearing this, but I wanted to reserve some space for a special shoutout to Clint Scoles for all the awesome draft work he’s done. It’s not just this year. It’s every year. Clint and I have been writing together for almost seven years now, and the amount of information he has in his brain about prospects and the draft and all that just blows my mind. So make sure you’re reading all his draft work. He’s the only person I see out there actually talking to college and high school coaches and hitting gurus and really anybody who can give inside information about the players the Royals drafted. He’s probably going to read this and be super embarrassed, and I would be too if I was that nerdy, but he’s just amazing at what he does and I’m glad to have worked with him for as long as I have.