Sunday, June 5, 2011

Draft Preview 2011.

(See updates at bottom.)

The first thing you have to understand about my draft preview is that I’m not a draft expert. Of course, I’m not and never was a minor league expert, but that didn’t stop me from writing Baseball Prospectus’ Top Prospect List, debuting the list in 1999 (and continuing until BP hired a real minor league expert in Kevin Goldstein to take over the task in 2006.) And while there were some real howlers on those prospect lists, there were also some real gems – I think you’d find that in retrospect, our lists hold up well with anyone else in the industry at that time.

The point is that while I am not a scout, I know some scouts, or more precisely, I know (and read) people who know a lot of scouts. I will never be able to even approach the work that people like Goldstein and the guys at Baseball America do, the first-hand sourcing and reporting that they do. What I can do is take their work, analyze the historical trends of the draft, and arrive at my own conclusions. It’s cheating a little, I admit.

(This is a good time to point out that Prospectus has opened their vault, making access to articles more than a year old available to the public. What this means is that, if you haven’t read my series of draft articles from 2005-2006, this would be a good time to do so.)

The second thing you have to understand is that, given that statistical analysis is almost useless for evaluating amateur players, and given the Royals’ admirable track record in this regard under the Dayton Moore administration, this might be the only time all year where, no matter what the Royals decide, I will probably defer to their judgment. In my 2008 draft preview, the conclusion I came to was that Eric Hosmer was the riskiest selection of the guys the Royals were considering, both because there was a college first baseman who was much closer to the majors (Justin Smoak), and because my draft analysis had shown that high school first baseman taken in the early rounds had a terrible track record.

My conclusion was, shall we say, incorrect. I was correct that Smoak was a comparable player who would need less development time, but the argument I heard in favor of Hosmer at the time was that while Smoak was a potentially great power hitter, Hosmer was a potentially great pure hitter with power. So far, they’re both playing out that way. And I was correct that from 1984 to 1999, the timeframe that my draft study looked at, high school first basemen almost literally never panned out. Derrek Lee was, I believe, the only high school first baseman taken in the first round in that era that developed into an above-average player.

Since 1999, only three teams have drafted a high school first baseman in the first ten picks of the draft. In 2000, one of the worst drafts of all time, the Marlins nonetheless managed to use the first pick on Adrian Gonzalez. Two years later, the Brewers took Prince Fielder with the seventh pick overall. And in 2008, the Royals took Hosmer third. The lesson, as always: past performance is no guarantee of future results. Also, the lesson is that teams do a much better job of scouting amateur talent than they used to. (Particularly high school talent, owing in large part to the national showcases which allow high school players to show their abilities against elite competition.)

Two years ago, the Royals used the 12th pick of the draft on Aaron Crow, ignoring my advice to take college shortstop Grant Green (who the A’s gleefully snagged with the next pick.) Three months ago, with Crow coming off a terrible season in the minors, and Green hitting .318/.363/.520 last year in the California League, the Royals appeared to have erred. Today the answer is unclear; Green is hitting .289/.346/.381 in Double-A, and is probably a future second baseman. On the other hand, the Royals used the 12th pick in the draft on a reliever. If Crow makes a triumphant return to the rotation, it’s a big win; but even an elite closer doesn’t make for great value in the top half of the first round.

Also, if the Royals had selected Green, they probably would not have turned to his high school double-play partner Christian Colon with the fourth pick last year. I liked the pick of Colon, but he was my second choice behind college catcher Yasmani Grandal. Colon is hitting .239/.308/.318 for Northwest Arkansas; he’s basically Alcides Escobar without the glove. Grandal is still in high-A ball, in a hitter’s league, but his .288/.404/.488 line looks a lot more appealing, particularly for a catcher who can switch-hit.

So the bottom line is: I am not a draft expert, and no matter who the Royals select, I will be reluctant to criticize them too much until we see how things play out. Even 18 months from now it will probably be too soon to have a definitive opinion. Fifteen months ago, nine out of ten Royals fans would have happily traded Hosmer for the eighth pick in that draft, Gordon Beckham, and the tenth Royals fan would have been flogged by his peers for his insubordination.

Fifteen months ago, Mike Moustakas looked like another bust, and the decision to take him over Matt Wieters and Rick Porcello looked like another case of the Royals being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Today, while Moustakas wouldn’t go #2 overall if the draft was re-held, the only first-round picks clearly superior are David Price (who went #1 overall) and Jason Heyward. Wieters would probably go ahead of Moustakas, and Porcello might, but given that the first two seasons for each player in the majors would have already been wasted on the Royals, at this point I’d rather have Moustakas through 2017 than Wieters or Porcello through 2015.

So now that I’ve established that I have no credibility when it comes to the draft, here’s my draft analysis.

Last season, the Royals had the unfortunate position of drafting fourth in a draft with three marquis talents, which made it very difficult to figure out who the Royals should or would be taking. The Royals were linked to Grandal a week before the draft, then to Chris Sale until literally 20 minutes before the draft began, when word came out that they had agreed to a deal with Colon.

This year, once again there’s a good chance we won’t have a firm idea who the Royals will be taking when the draft starts. The reason for that, thankfully, is much different.

Let me back up here and start with this: with less than 48 hours until the draft, six players have separated themselves from the pack. Furthermore, it appears that four of those six players are just slightly ahead of the other two, although that is far from a consensus opinion. Let’s start with those four:

Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA. Cole was a first-round pick of the New York Yankees out of high school. That right there is a point in his favor: he turned down the Yankees. And thank God he did, too, because from his freshman year it was clear there was no way he should have lasted to the #28 pick overall. He’s been talked about as a potential #1 pick in this draft for over two years, and he may yet live up to that assessment.

Cole has three well above-average pitches: a fastball in 94-97 range, touching 99 and even 100; a hard-breaking slider, and a changeup that he doesn’t throw enough but gets excellent reviews when he does. His stock has dropped a little this season, because for whatever reason his numbers weren’t matching the results. In 114 innings he has a 3.31 ERA, and has allowed 103 hits and 24 walks, while walking 119 strikeouts – excellent numbers, but a little underwhelming for a potential #1 overall pick in college, particularly in what is the Year of the Pitcher for the NCAA as well (in college, it’s for an obvious reason – the types of bats that hitters are allowed to use has been limited significantly.)

Friday’s start in UCLA’s Regional is illustrative – Cole struck out 11 batters in seven innings, while walking just one. He also gave up 11 hits – ten of them singles – and three runs, and took the loss.

I’m not that concerned with his performance. Cole’s not some fly-by-night pitcher; he’s not Colt Griffin. He’s been one of, if not the best, pitcher in his age class for close to four years. His stuff is as good as ever; the main complaint I’ve heard is that his fastball sometimes gets elevated and straightens out. If a little bump in the road allows him to drop to #5 overall, well, the Royals just got a gift.

The latest word from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is that the Pirates have decided to take Cole #1 overall. If that’s true, good for them. He’s not Stephen Strasburg, but he’s one level below him, and could be in the majors by the end of next season.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice. I’m not sure whether I should spend much time on Rendon, because it would seem almost inconceivable that he would fall to #5. It seems inconceivable that he would fall to #3; last summer, he was the clear #1 pick in this draft.

Then Rendon broke one of his ankles while playing for Team USA last season. He healed from that, but has been playing with an injured shoulder all season, one that might require surgery, and he’s not a big guy at 6’0” and 190 pounds, and suddenly there are concerns that he might just be injury-prone.

He’s still raked all season, but his power has taken a hit. As a sophomore, he hit .394/.530/.801 with 26 homers in just 63 games. This year, he’s hitting .332/.522/.531, with only six homers. He’s compensated for his lack of power by improving his plate discipline from excellent to ridiculous – he’s walked 79 times in 62 games. He’s also considered an above-average defender at third base.

The Mariners, with the #2 pick overall, have been on him all season. But late word is that the Mariners are at least considering a couple of high school bats (Bubba Starling and Francisco Lindor). If the Mariners go in another direction, the Diamondbacks and Orioles seem locked in on pitching, which means that Rendon could somehow fall to the Royals at #5.

The problem is, there are few things the Royals need less than a third baseman. (Well, a first baseman.) Rendon profiles as a better defensive player than Moustakas, so the Royals could move Moose to right field, I suppose – but then what about Wil Myers? Actually, there’s some word that the Mariners might actually consider him at second base, because apparently the Mariners have an obligation to try every college hitter they select #2 overall at second base. Moving Rendon to second base would be sub-optimal defensively, but man, that would make for a nice offense.

While I think that it’s fair for teams to consider positional weakness as a tiebreaker, you should never draft for need in the first round. If Rendon is there at #5, the Royals will need a damn good reason to turn him down. He’s the safest pick in the draft, and profiles as Evan Longoria with less power. But I have to hope that he’s not there when the Royals pick, because it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Royals take him even if he is.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia: Hultzen doesn’t have the overpowering raw stuff of a Gerrit Cole or the unconventional dominance of a Trevor Bauer. He is a safe, polished, almost boring left-handed starter. His polish and command was a given before the season, but now his velocity has ticked up into the low 90s, pushing him into Top 5 consideration. He might be the closest pitcher to the majors in the draft, and he compares favorably to Drew Pomeranz and Mike Minor and Brian Matusz, the first college southpaws taken in the last three drafts.

Yesterday he threw seven innings in a Regional game, allowing three hits and a walk, striking out 12, and getting the win. That’s par for the course for Hultzen; in 15 starts this year he’s 11-3 with a 1.57 ERA. In 103 innings he’s allowed just 69 hits and 17 walks, while striking out 148. Whichever team drafts him can reasonably project him to be ready for a rotation spot in the majors a year from now. He’s more of a #2 starter than an ace, but the lack of risk more than compensates for his lack of extreme upside.

That team is almost certainly not going to be the Royals. The Diamondbacks love him at #3; if they go in another direction the Orioles are inclined to take him at #4. The wild card here, again, is if the Mariners take a high-school hitter at #2, in which case I don’t know whether Arizona or Baltimore would be inclined to take Rendon instead of Hultzen. If he’s available for the Royals at #5, then something very strange has happened in the draft. Left-handed starters are always in demand; even though the Royals have less need for a left-handed pitching prospect than any other team in baseball, it would be hard for them to turn down a guy who could fill a rotation spot by next summer.

Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso (OK) HS: No right-handed high school pitcher has ever gone #1 overall in the draft, and Bundy is unlikely to break that streak. But the mere fact that he’s even being considered for the #1 pick is testament to his combination of elite stuff and uncanny polish for an 18-year-old. Not only does he throw in the 94-97 mph with his fastball, but he’s also mastered a cutter in the upper 80s which is an equally good pitch. Throw in an above-average curveball and an average changeup, and you have an 18-year-old with the maturity of a 21-year-old.

Nine years ago, much like today, the Royals wanted to draft a college pitcher that would make it to the majors quickly. Fortunately, their Florida scout (Cliff Pastornicky) succeeded in convincing Allard Baird that the quick-to-the-majors college pitcher he wanted was actually still in high school. Zack Greinke made his major league debut less than two years later.

I haven’t heard anyone compare Bundy to Greinke in terms of their stuff or delivery. But simply in terms of a high school pitcher who has the ability to reach the majors quickly and has the potential to develop into a front-line starter, Bundy is giving me the same vibe. He’s “only” 6’1” and 205 pounds, and doesn’t have much projection left. But frankly, he doesn’t need much projection; the stuff he has right now is already ace-caliber. If he’s there at #5, there isn’t another pitcher in the draft I’d rather take with the possible exception of Cole.

Again, though, he probably won’t be there. The Orioles love Bundy, and his brother is actually a pitcher in their system. They also love Hultzen, and could be tempted to take him if presented with the option. But the odds that both Hultzen and Bundy are there for the Orioles at #4 are slim.

If I had to guess the first four picks right now, I’d say it’s going to go Cole, Rendon, Hultzen, Bundy. But I’d also say there’s a 30-40% chance that the draft will not proceed in that order. Maybe the Pirates are sufficiently worried about Cole’s final start that they select Rendon, and the Mariners take Starling or Lindor, and Cole falls all the way to #5. Or maybe Trevor Bauer’s last start makes the Diamondbacks or Orioles change their mind and they select him instead, and Bundy falls to #5. There are a lot of scenarios in play which allows one of the four elite players in the draft to fall.

But if none of them do – or even if one of them does – the Royals have a pleasant decision of their own to make. Specifically, that decision looks like it will come down to the following two players, both of whom have as much upside as anyone in the draft, but both of whom (for very different reasons) have more risk than the four guys above:

Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA: Cole’s teammate at UCLA doesn’t match Cole in terms of his repertoire. But Bauer far exceeds him in terms of results.

Even last year, Bauer was the slightly better pitcher. He threw more innings (131 to 123), had a better ERA (3.02 to 3.37), had fewer walks (41 to 52) and more strikeouts (165 to 153). But this year, Cole hasn’t come close to matching Bauer’s performance. No one in college baseball has.

In 16 starts, Bauer is 13-2 with a 1.25 ERA. In 137 innings, he has allowed 73 hits and 36 walks, and has struck out 203. After Cole lost UCLA’s regional opener on Friday, Bauer took the mound yesterday and threw a complete-game six hitter, walking two and striking out 14. With his last strikeout, he broke the Pac-10’s single-season strikeout record of 202…set by Mark Prior.

Bauer’s season ranks up there with Prior’s junior year and Stephen Strasburg’s junior year and Jered Weaver’s junior year as one of the most dominant statistical seasons by a college starter in a generation.

His raw stuff, while not Cole’s caliber, is awfully good. His fastball is more 91-93, but he maintains his velocity deep into ball games. His breaking ball is a dynamite curveball, and he throws an above-average changeup and dabbles with a slider and even a split-finger. He has tremendous raw intelligence which serves him well on the mound – he graduated from school a year early to join the Bruins, and he doesn’t turn 21 until next January. Combine Brian Bannister’s smarts with elite stuff…that’s quite a pitcher.

So what’s the problem? Well, that complete game yesterday was hardly an anomaly – he’s thrown TEN complete games in 16 starts, and is averaging 8.56 innings per start. Yesterday he threw 133 pitches, and he’s routinely gone over 130 this season. The shame of it is in that many of his starts, the Bruins were up by 5 or more runs in the eighth and ninth inning. I understand that college coaches only care about winning in the here and now and don’t care what happens to their pitchers in the future – but you’d think that, for recruiting reasons alone, the Bruins wouldn’t waste Bauer’s arm on needless innings.

I know that if I had a son that was a highly-recruited pitcher out of high school, there’s no way I’d let him go to Rice, given what that university has done to guys like Wade Townsend and Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann and Kenny Baugh. UCLA has a great reputation for developing pitchers, but if Bauer breaks down, I don’t see how that wouldn’t affect their ability to recruit pitchers.

In any case, Bauer hasn’t made the situation any better with his unique training regimen, which includes throwing up to 60 pitchers at full strength before the game even starts, and throwing between innings, and throwing in his sleep, and…the stories all seem to run together, but it’s clear that Bauer throws a lot. Again, he’s a very intelligent guy, has studied biomechanics intensely, and his idol is Tim Lincecum, whose pitch counts in college put Bauer’s to shame and has, ahem, worked out. But it has to be a concern. The fact that Bauer is younger than your average college junior may actually work against him – as bad as it is to throw this many pitches when you’re 21, it’s even worse when you’re 20.

And then there’s the whole long-toss thing, as Bauer (and Dylan Bundy) are intense devotees to the style of training which involves pitchers throwing up to 300 feet to build arm strength and command while preventing injury. Many baseball teams, the Royals among them, are skeptical of this training regimen. The Royals have already had their issues with Michael Montgomery, who adheres to the same long-toss guru (Alan Jaeger) as Bauer. The Royals and Montgomery compromised; he doesn’t throw as far as he’d like, but farther than the Royals would like him to.

This issue came to the forefront a few weeks ago when Jeff Passan penned this column, claiming that Bauer and Bundy had basically told a few teams – the Royals among them – not to draft them. As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared certain that the Royals would not take Bauer, as much because of their own concerns as his. But Dayton Moore was in attendance scouting him a few weeks ago (of course, since he pitches the day after Cole, it would have been silly for Moore not to stick around.) And I’ve been told that these concerns are vastly overstated, and that Bauer is absolutely in the mix for the Royals’ pick.

The upside here is crazy high, if you think that Bauer and Lincecum are at all comparable. Their pitching style isn’t quite the same, but in the sense that Lincecum’s workload in college has not hurt him one bit in pro ball, and may have helped him – if you knew for a fact that Bauer wouldn’t get hurt, and would be able to hold up to 33-start, 220-inning workload in the majors, how could you not draft him?

On the other hand, he might break down tomorrow. Anyway, he’s one option.

The other option, of course, is Bubba Starling, Gardner-Edgerton (KS) HS. The Royals have had a top pick for so many years that I guess it was inevitable that, eventually, they’d have the option of choosing from a kid in their backyard. Starling is not your ordinary kid, though – he might be the greatest multi-sport athlete in Kansas history. He’s almost certainly the greatest Kansas high school baseball player of the draft era.

In the history of the June draft, the highest a high school position player has been drafted out of the state of Kansas was…drum roll…Lee Stevens, a Lawrence High School grad who went #22 overall to the Angels in 1986 draft. Stevens was horrible for the Angels and disappeared from the majors for four years, but came back at age 28 and was a league-average hitter for about five years. Brian Holman, a right-hander out of Wichita North, is the highest Kansas high school pick at #16 in 1983, to the Expos, and Holman pitched four quality seasons in the majors before his arm blew up at the age of 26, and he never pitched in the majors again.

(Seven players have been drafted out of Kansas in the top 11 picks overall. All seven went to Wichita State.)

So Starling’s emergence as the premier high school hitter in the country is really without precedent in Kansas. He’s a five-tool centerfielder who had first-round talent as a pitcher, in addition to being the quarterback recruit for the University of Nebraska.

If you’re inclined to be suspicious of a team using their top pick on the local high school legend, remember that this is exactly the situation the Twins found themselves in ten years ago, when they had the #1 overall pick and passed on Prior, and Georgia Tech first baseman Mark Teixeira, for a local high school catcher, one of the premier multi-sport athletes in Minnsota history, who was also the #1 QB recruit in the country and had a scholarship waiting for him at Florida State. Time proved that the Twins were right to take Joe Mauer. And time might prove that the Royals ought to take Bubba Starling.

I certainly don’t think that Starling is a reach with the #5 pick, but I do think that some Royals fans are so spooked by the Royals missing on Albert Pujols – and more recently, Logan Morrison – that they want Starling come hell or high water. Taking the local player is fine as a tiebreaker, but you shouldn’t be basing decisions on a player’s proximity to your ballpark. The second-highest drafted Kansas high school hitter, taken #23 overall in 1996, was a kid named Damian Rolls. The Royals passed on him with the #14 pick, and a lot of local fans were upset that the Royals didn’t take the local legend.

Rolls was taken by the Dodgers, and was a bust in the minors. The Royals actually acquired Rolls in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft…and immediately traded him to Tampa Bay in a pre-arranged deal. Rolls played 266 games for the Rays, back before the Rays decided to try to impersonate a major league organization, and was terrible. Then again, with that #14 pick the Royals took Dee Brown, who while a beast in the minors wound up with eerily similar overall numbers to Rolls in the majors.

If the Royals pass on Starling, it’s not because they “missed” on him, like they did with Pujols or Morrison. Every team in the country is well aware of Starling’s abilities. They’re also aware of his flaws – he’s faced very weak high school competition, and while he has speed and raw power in abundance, there are at least some concerns about whether he’ll hit enough to make the whole package worthwhile. Two years ago the Padres used the #3 overall pick on Donovan Tate, a similar all-world athletic talent who need to refine his hit tool, and Tate has been a big disappointment so far. Starling projects as a better hit at this point than Tate did, and it’s worth noting that Keith Law, who doesn’t impress easily and made his first-ever trip to the state of Kansas to see Starling play, ranks Starling as the #3 player in this draft. But the risk is there.

Starling has the highest upside in this draft – a true five-tool centerfielder, a guy who hits .300 with 30 homers and 30 steals and Gold Glover-caliber defense. He also has the lowest floor of anyone likely to go in the first ten picks. There’s a legitimate possibility he won’t get out of Double-A. As with Bauer, the Royals have to decide whether the potential for a perennial All-Star talent is worth the risk that they once again bust on a Top-10 pick.

As recently as a week ago, the odds the Royals would take Starling appeared slim – they were focused on pitching, particularly college pitching, and Starling was not on their radar. Now, if Cole and Hultzen and Bundy are all gone, word is that they’re at least re-considering Bubba. The Royals need another pitcher, and a quick-to-the-majors college pitcher fits the team’s contention window a lot better than a centerfielder who might not reach the majors until 2015 or 2016. But you can’t force these things. If the pitcher isn’t there, take the best player available, and if it so happens that he lives forty miles down the road, even better.

Here’s how I would rank the six guys if I were drafting:

1. Cole
2. Bundy
3. Rendon
4. Hultzen
5. Bauer
6. Starling

But ultimately, as long as the Royals pick any of these six players, I can’t fault the pick. The nightmare scenario here is one in which the first four guys above are off the board, and the Royals decide against both Bauer and Starling – Bauer because they’re worried he’ll get hurt or don’t want to deal with the headache of his long-toss program, Starling because they don’t think he’ll hit or because they want a college pitcher above all.

If that’s the case, they’ll wind up selecting from a host of second-tier pitchers – Matt Barnes of Connecticut, Texas’s Taylor Jungmann, Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray, or Kentucky’s Alex Meyer. I think that would be a horrible mistake.

While the risk/reward equation for the draft has changed over the years, one thing I believe is as true today as it was when I did my draft study is that of the four quadrants of draft picks (high school vs. college, pitcher vs. hitter), college pitchers return the least value. High school pitchers are a better value because major league organizations do a better job of protecting arms than college coaches, and hitters are a better value than pitchers because of the risk of injury. Just take a look at every college pitcher the Royals have taken in the first or supplemental round in the last 25 years. (WARNING: This list contains graphic displays of fail, and may not be suitable for pregnant women or small children.)

2009: Aaron Crow (#12)
2006: Luke Hochevar (#1)
2004: Matt Campbell (#29)
2004: J.P. Howell (#31)
1999: Kyle Snyder (#7)
1999: Mike MacDougal (#25)
1999: Jay Gehrke (#32)
1998: Jeff Austin (#4)
1998: Matt Burch (#30)
1997: Dan Reichert (#7)
1993: Jeff Granger (#3)
1992: Sherard Clinkscales (#31)

Crow, along with Howell and MacDougal, has found success in the bullpen, but all three of those guys were drafted to be in the rotation, and they failed at that task. Hochevar, as much as he drives us crazy, is clearly the best starter the Royals have found from the college ranks in the first round. (Kevin Appier was a JuCo pick in 1987. You have to go back to Scott Bankhead in 1984 to find a college pitcher worthy of a first-round pick.)

That’s not to say the Royals should shy away from all college pitchers, but it does make me very worried about the fate of the second-tier guys I mentioned above. Some will pan out; others will end up in the bullpen, some will get hurt, and some will make people scratch their head three years from now and ask, “how was that guy ever a first-round pick?”

If the Royals go off the board, I hope they do so for someone like Francisco Lindor, a high school shortstop with elite defensive skills who ought to be able to hit well in the majors. Or maybe even Archie Bradley, who’s just the second-best right-handed high school pitcher in Oklahoma, but also the second-best high school pitcher in the country. But if they take a “safe” pick like Barnes and then wonder why he’s topped out as a Quadruple-A pitcher two years from now…well, they get what they deserve.

At the very least, we can be reasonably confident that the Royals will take the player they think is the best available, not the player they think is the best available from among the players that fit their budget. The days of taking Jeff Austin because the Royals didn’t want to pay J.D. Drew’s price tag are, thankfully, over.

Check back here between now and the draft; if there are any updates as to who the Royals will select, I’ll try to update this post with some quick thoughts. And then my usual draft recap a few days later.

(Update 1, 11:52 AM CDT: So the final draft predictions are being filed. Keith Law at ESPN and Jonathan Mayo at agree on the order of the Top 3: Cole, Rendon, and Bauer. This is a good thing, I think - I'm worried that the Royals would pass on Rendon and Bauer if they were there, which might lead to a nightmare scenario. If they're both already taken, that means plenty of good options remain on the table.

Mayo has Hultzen going to the Orioles, and the Royals taking Bubba Starling; Law has the Orioles with a surprise pick of Archie Bradley, with the Royals taking Bundy. Bundy would be a coup - the #2 talent in the draft in my opinion. Starling obviously would be a fine pick as well. Jon Heyman tweeted his top 6, with the same top 3 as the others, but with Bundy going to Baltimore and the Royals taking Danny Hultzen. That would be a surprise, but a good kind of surprise, because no one expected Hultzen to fall to #5.

As I write this, Baseball America has just posted their final draft order, and their top five is the same as Law's. I know fans want the local kid, but Oklahoma is local enough, isn't it?)

(Update 2, 1:39 PM CDT: Kevin Goldstein has chimed in, and he's with the consensus - Cole, Rendon, Bauer, then Hultzen to Baltimore, and Bundy to the Royals. Let's hope there are no surprises in the next five hours - I am quite happy with the consensus here.)


Steve said...

I don't think Barnes qualifies as "safe." He's not your typical mid-rotation, non-projectable college pitcher with average stuff across the board. He's athletic, has a good frame, throws in the low-to-mid 90s and can spin a good breaking ball. In another, weaker draft, drawing from a pool of college pitchers rumored to go in the mid-1st round would get you a "safe," boring pitcher. Not this year. Check out his draft video, if you haven't already. It's very promising. He was considered a possible top-10 pick before this season and the combination of not getting off to a great start while a bunch of his peers did, took some shine of his luster but his talent is not to be underrated. It wouldn't be terribly surprising if the pitchers from the second-tier (Gray, Jungmann and Barnes) turned out equally as good as say Hultzen.

Phil LeBlanc said...

Yes, they could turn out equally as good as Hultzen because Hultzen himself isn't viewed as a bonafide ace. He's simply regarded by most as the safest pick in the draft class which is what makes him so attractive.

Olentangy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Olentangy said...

You didn't mention the possibility that Sterling could choose to just play football at Nebraska and end up in the NFL

Anonymous said...

I want Bauer. I dont see a fault with his regime, especially considering all the people you mentioned that have that routine are not injury prone. I like how he is unconventional.

McGoldencrown said...

Starling wont play football. He's not the same caliber as Mauer was in H.S. He is a 4 star player rated as the 6th best at his position and 119th overall by Rivals. He isnt even the best recruit by Nebraska this season. On top of that, he is a rushing QB and passed for only 800 yds as a Sr. When he's handed 5 mil, he will take it and play the sport he is much, much better at. For the Kansas City Royals.

McGoldencrown said...

...Im still holding out hope for Jeff Granger. I think he's just biding his time right now, keeping his options open. This is the perfect time for a comeback. He is more mature now.....I bet Mike Elkins can still zing the pigskin around....sigh

Steve N said...

Clinkscales is a GREAT name!

ScottM said...

@Joe Royal-- Nobody has a workout regime/routine like Bauer does. He has some similarities to Tim Lincecum, but he throws way more at full steam. He throws 250+ full steam pitches every game (130 in game, 60 or so pregame, and then 10-15 between each inning). Now that said I am not anti-Bauer.

@Rany-- Another comparison for Bundy might be Rick Porcello. Porcello was fast tracked because his fastball was a ++ pitch and his off speed stuff was considered average at worst.

Michael said...

Orioles were long thought to be taking Dylan Bundy at #4, but word is now they are looking seriously at Archie Bradley, another flame throwing Oklahoma high schooler. I'd love it if Bundy fell in the Royals lap!

Fast Eddie said...

Is Sherard Clinkscales any relation to Danny Clinkscales?

Fast Eddie said...

Is Sherard Clinkscales any relation to Danny Clinkscales?

Rany said...


Sherard Clinkscales was (and presumably still is) black, so I'm thinking no. Also, Danny's last name is Clinkscale.

Kenneth said...

thank you for the illumination of a subject I knew nothing about before reading your article

WSPA said...

My guess at this point is Bubba or Archie.

jjhochunk said...

I'm not too worried about the first round pick. They will have the opportunity to get a top 5 talent, although I'm not as positive as Rany that the days worrying about signability are over (Colon last year seemed to emerge at the last minute and I wonder if $$ was a factor).

I am hoping to see more of the same aggressiveness in rounds 2-5 that the Royals have used to snag top prospects by paying over slot. Given the payroll situation, that should not be a problem.

The Royals are guaranteed to fall in the BA organizational rankings, but a good draft should keep them in the top 10 or maybe even top 5.

George said...

If Bubba Starling is available at 5, the Royals would be crazy not to take him. Forget the hometown ties, this guy is the best player in the draft. GMDM has proven he can find pitching a little later (Montgomery, Lamb, Dwyer, et al).

Starling would fill in nicely as our CF of the future. Why is no one making a comp to (a healthy) Grady Sizemore?

Kansas City said...

George is right. Have to take Starling. The possibility of a star center fielder locally produced trumps the long shot possibilitly that any particular pitcher will turn out to be a star.

Kansas City said...

Done. Bubba is the future Royals centerfielder. But what does this do to Cain's future? I realized Bubba is at least two years away, 2013 at the earliest and probably 2014?

Michael said...

Most people think Bubba is at least 3 years away, possibly 4. Cain has plenty of time to prove his worth before he has to worry about that.

Antonio. said...

It does nothing to Cain's future. Let's play fantasyland and say all of our better young players make it. By the time Starling is done (Hosmer was done after little more than two full seasons in the minors, which is insane), you'd have to think the calendar at best says 2014. You'd have to think that it might be nearing a point of moving an Alex Gordon...Cain would be an amazing left fielder defensively and might have enough pop/speed combo to be a really good player over all.

Kansas City said...

Hosmer got up in two years from draft day. That would be 2013 for Bubba. Probably won't happen, but my view is that if you have a stud, get him up as soon as practical, and we should be hoping for Bubba in 2013. You may be right about Gordon leaving to make room for Cain, but that probably is a step backward.

Antonio. said...

Not with finances in mind. And by 2014, the best we can hope for (Hosmer is the insane outlier--Butler, a great hitter as a prospect, wasn't up for good until 4 years after he was drafted; Moose was drafted four years ago tomorrow), Gordon will be 30 and I think that's his last year before free agency. And by then, if there's no long term deal in place, it'll be time to start giving arb to the guys we're seeing this year. Also, while very good and maybe even more valuable as a total package, Bubba Starling isn't as nearly as good as Hosmer/Myers with the bat at this point in their development. Bubba is an athletic monster and he literally has an upside of 30/30 with great defense...but he's pretty raw as well. We might even be salivating over his Double-A numbers in 2014.

Antonio. said...

Also, it'll be three years tomorrow since Hosmer was drafted. He signed late (literally considering it was after the deadline) and only played a few games in '08. He was crap in '09. HUGE in '10 and in the majors a month before his third year out of high school. He had a few games in Rookie, two complete seasons, and 29 games in Triple-A.

George said...

Rany, where would Bubba fall in our organizational Top-10?

Kansas City said...

I guess my bad on Hosmer and two years.

But I think what we need to keep in mind is that Moore is focused upon his own job security, which means making the Royals a contender by 2013, or 2014 at the absolute latest. It explains his odd decision to bring up Hosmer in May. He does not care about dollars spent in 2015 or 2016, because he will either be a success by then and able to handle the dollar issue in some fashion, or he will have been fired.

Antonio. said...

Job security or not, I doubt that we'll ever see more than X-amount spent on team payroll. What that amount is, I really don't know. But under the Glass Family, can you really envision more than say 100 million on payroll? And all we've really seen out of Gordon is 1 season and two months of really good baseball. He's 27. I could easily see him being moved down the line. And this is if Cain and/or Starling and/or Myers doesn't falter, which is light years away from being a sure thing. Prospect developing is such a messy business. There will be plenty of options once Starling is ready, if he ever is. I'm also not sure a rushed Starling will be anything meaningful towards saving Dayton's job if Hosmer/Myers/Moose/Monty/Lamb/Dwyer/Crow haven't done that by then. The beginning was much rockier than now and he somehow got the job extension. If you're looking for a player that'll be here in '12/'13, look for him today.

McGoldencrown said...

If the team wins consistantly with marketable home-grown talent, then KC will draw 30 grand per game as they did in the 80's when they outdrew the Chiefs. Todays generation are their children. Right now KC is already 6th or 7th in attendance in the AL. Their will be plenty of cash to sustain a well run organization in a Twins/ Ath/Rocks/Reds model. Daytons decision to go all HS in the draft is right on. Prep and Int talent is mouldable. Once the team gets good, you just feed the pipeline of HS talent (some exceptions of course). One thing Moore will never do and has never done is rush players. I believe that. I think he has done a fantastic job since the end of last season with the small exception of trying to slip Phil Humber thru waivers.

McGoldencrown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

Well, both Cole and Bundy were off the board, so I'm great with the Starling pick. They were the only two I could definitively say I'd rather see them take over Starling. Any second guessing will be whether we should have taken Rendon over him, but that won't be determined until many, many years from now.

Antonio. said...

I wouldn't count on it. I hope for 30k nightly. But, there are a lot more alternative things to do and they're on TV almost nightly and it'll take quite awhile to build into the 30k. Even in '03, when people were saying attendance would go up when school was out and we had our first winner in ten years, we didn't draw 2 million. We didn't even average 22k. In our entire history, we only averaged 30k once, in '89 when it was 30,589. And like I said, there's a lot more to do now than in '89