Over the past few weeks, I’ve been shielding my eyes to the growing pains of the Royals and digging into the possibilities that this year’s upcoming Amateur draft could bring.
Oh, what a time to be a prospect – especially one of the guys projected to go in the first round. On one hand, you’re staring the fact of becoming an instant millionaire directly in the eyes. You’re wrecked with anticipation of where the future will take you. While your friends wait to complete their college degrees and start fishing for a job in the real world, you’re grabbing the last 25 pack of Ramen Noodles that you’ll ever have to buy.
On top of that, most of these top guys still have their eyes on an appearance in the College World Series. The Series falls after the draft every year, so college coaches face the challenge of keeping their best players focused on winning a championship. The trouble is, that for these 22 year-old studs, it’s tough not to see the dollar signs in their eyes.
While scanning multiple Mock Drafts, there is a pretty consistant trend at the top. Well, at least for the top four picks. Odds are that the Pirates will take a pitcher first overall. There is definitely some pressure picking first of all – just ask the Royals. A first overall pick is sort of a dubious honor, but it’s a huge opportunity. The Pirates pick will set things in motion for the few teams that follow.
As we’ve mentioned, some of the top pitchers available for that overall #1 pick are:
-Gerrit Cole – RHP – UCLA
-Dylan Bundy – RHP – Owasso (OK) High School
-Trevor Bauer – RHP – UCLA
-Danny Hultzen -LHP – Virginia
(we haven’t previewed Hultzen yet because he is the top lefty in the draft & should be gone before the Royals pick)
Almost every mock draft has the Mariners picking Rice 3B Anthony Rendon at #2, so you can take him out of the mix. With the Diamonbacks at #3 & Orioles at #4, odds are that two more of those pitchers will be off the board. I mean, the Diamondbacks drafted Danny Hultzen once already, why not pick him again if he’s available?
So what does that leave for Kansas City at #5? The fifth pick is where these mock drafts started to waver. Either one of the UCLA pitchers could still be available. Other guys who could be in the mix are:
-Jed Bradley – LHP – Georgia Tech
-Sonny Gray – RHP – Vanderbilt
-Taylor Jungmann – RHP – Texas
Then there’s Bubba.
My bet is that if Bubba Starling is still available, the Royals will have to make a choice between the best pitcher available and the local High School Hero. Starling recently announced that he plans to be in Lincoln on July 10th. Well, that depends…
Since there’s been no hints coming out of One Royal Way other than the rumor that they are targeting a college pitcher, we have to wait and see who is still around when it’s KC’s turn to name the next best hope for the future. The Royals had better make this pick count, because after picking fifth overall, they don’t get another one until #65.
My guess for the college pitcher who will be compared and contrasted to Bubba Starling during the minutes after the Orioles pick would be Georgia Tech LHP Jed Bradley.
Bradley is referred to as the second best left-handed pitcher in the draft. And while you’d still love to get the best one in Danny Hultzen – it’s highly unlikely.
Another factor to consider are the barriers to a draft pick signing a contract with the Royals. We’ve already mentioned Trevor Bauer’s unorthadox approach and his unwillingness to conform to a team that disagrees. Also, the “Boras factor” where a prospect demands a bigger contract than a team can afford, thus leaving the team empty handed after the signing deadline in August. Bubba Starling has a couple of barriers – one being Boras, but the other being his desire and commitment to play football and baseball at Nebraska in the fall.
Whatever happens, you can expect the Royals to place a lot of stock in this draft pick. It’s a big deal, and one that a team like the Royals cannot afford to get wrong. This player will be welcomed into the best minor league system in the game, and will have plenty of examples to follow on his path to Kauffman Stadium.