I was hoping to do my usual long-winded draft preview, but time constraints this year force me to keep this rather short (well, by my standards). Given my complete lack of expertise on this subject, that’s probably for the best. Besides, if you want to get an expert opinion on the draft, I recommend you download the podcast of tonight’s episode, where you can listen to Kevin Goldstein break down the draft from the Royals’ perspective.
For the first time since 2004, the Royals will not be drafting in the top three – let that sink in for a moment – as they are lined up in the #12 slot. It may be fortuitous, then, that this draft is so wide open after the first two picks. Stephen Strasburg will go #1 and Dustin Ackley will go #2, barring unforeseen circumstances, because those are the two best talents in the draft. Strasburg, as you know, is the Greatest Draft Prospect Of All Time. Ackley is a line-drive machine who’s played mostly first base in college but should be able to handle center field; on paper he reminds me of former #1 overall pick Darin Erstad, and if that means the 2000 version of Erstad, that’s a heck of a player.
But the #3 pick tomorrow could be one of about a dozen different players, because the difference between the 3rd-best and the 30th-best player in this draft is as small as it’s been in a very long time. This should suit the Royals, because inevitably someone who’s a Top 6 or 7 pick on paper will fall to them at #12, and if the Royals are content to scoop up whoever falls to them unexpectedly, they should be able to grab a better player than the pick would suggest, with the added bonus that they’ll be negotiating from the position that the player wasn’t selected until 12th overall, and isn’t entitled to Top 5 money.
The Royals can’t afford to screw this pick up, because thanks to Juan Cruz they don’t have a second-round pick, and thanks to the collapse of the subprime veteran market, they don’t have a supplemental pick as compensation for Mark Grudzielanek. The Royals’ second pick is 91st overall. The Royals haven’t entered the draft in a worse position since 1993, when they surrendered their second-round pick for David Cone and their third-round pick for Greg Gagne. They still had the #5 overall pick, but naturally wasted it on Jeff Granger. (In 1990, thanks to the signing of the Davis Brothers the previous winter, the Royals didn’t draft in the first two rounds at all.)
It’s obviously not a good thing that the Royals draft just once in the first 90 picks, but there are certainly ways to alleviate the problem. Namely, the Royals can take the money they would have spent on the draft picks they don’t have and use it on the international market. The Royals already anticipated this situation a few months ago when they spent $600,000 – the equivalent of late second-round money – on a 17-year-old Korean catcher named Shin Jin-Ho. This is, I believe, the first time the Royals have ever spent significant money to sign an amateur player from the
Also, in what appears to be a very good year for amateur talent in
So the lack of a second-rounder notwithstanding, the Royals are still in a position to add some talent to the farm. But their first-round pick is still the motherlode. So with that in mind, I’ll go down the list of Goldstein’s Top 50 draft talents and add some quick thoughts.
1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP,
2) Dustin Ackley, OF,
3) Donavan Tate, OF,
4) Jacob Turner, RHP,
The Royals’ lack of success in finding major leaguers in their own backyard is just inexcusable. Everyone knows about Pujols, of course, but how about Shaun Marcum (3rd round pick in 2003 out of
Turner is probably not going to be available when the Royals pick. If he is, though, you can only hope the Royals have done their due diligence on him. He might have the best stuff of any high school pitcher in the draft, but he (like a lot of the high school pitchers out there) wants Porcello money. He’d be a steal at #12, but he won’t be a steal if the Royals have to fork over $7 million to sign him.
5) Grant Green, SS, USC. The Great White Whale of this draft; let the corks pop and the bubbly flow if he’s there at 12. Came into the season as a potential Top-3 pick, but had a disappointing year. He wasn’t bad, per se, he just didn’t hit quite as well as people were hoping. There’s a little concern that he won’t be able to stay at shortstop. Given what the Royals have been willing to put up with at shortstop of late, a guy who can hit like this can be forgiven some defensive foibles. I don’t know who to compare to him to offensively…Troy Tulowitzki, maybe?
Anyway, the guys at Baseball America have had me excited by projecting that Green will be available at 12 and that the Royals will clock him, but Goldstein dashed those dreams by reporting that there’s no way he’ll be available, as his recent slide down draft lists has been reversed. At the risk of turning colors on my team, I hope the BP guy is wrong and the BA guy is right. But I’m not counting on it.
6) Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints (formerly
7) Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats (formerly
8) Mike Leake, RHP,
9) Tyler Matzek, LHP,
10) Matt Purke, LHP,
11) Zach Wheeler, RHP,
12) Kyle Gibson, RHP,
Others of note:
20) Tony Sanchez, C,
29) Garrett Gould, RHP,
34) Wil Myers, C,
Goldstein’s list of the three most likely players the Royals will select was Gibson, followed by Crow, followed by Leake. You’ll notice a trend – they’re all college pitchers, which isn’t a huge need for the team at this point. Unfortunately, if you look at the list above, every player from 6 to 12 is a pitcher. You can’t force the draft – you have to let the draft come to you. If the best player available is a pitcher, you take the pitcher and figure out the ramifications later.
But based on need, if either of the two hitters listed – Green or Tate – are available, that’s a home-run pick, assuming they can sign them (both are
Ultimately I rate the odds of each player, and the preliminary grade, thusly:
Grant Green, Grade A, 15%
Tyler Matzek, Grade A-, 10%
Donavan Tate, Grade B+, 5%
Jacob Turner, Grade B+, 10%
Mike Leake, Grade B, 10%
Aaron Crow, Grade B-, 10%
Tanner Scheppers, Grade C+, 5%
Kyle Gibson, Grade C, 20%
Zach Wheeler, Grade C, 1%
The Field, Grade D+, 13%
Matt Purke, Grade D, 1%
But again: I am not a draft expert. Doesn’t stop me from pretending to be one every year, though.