The Royals have had a busy offseason, and will continue to have a busy spring leading up to the MLB draft come June.
General Manager Dayton Moore shipped away four blooming prospects, including Minor Leauge Baseball’s top prospect last season and the Royals’ top pitching prospect, for the pitching services of James Shields and Wade Davis.
Moore traded away some major pieces to the farm, but for the most part, the farm system is still intact and developing. However, it will be Moore’s and his player evaluation staff to patch the holes left by the departure of Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard (but mainly Myers and Odorizzi).
The Royals will hope to restock the pantry through the draft, starting with a very important pick at No. 8. Now, the Royals can go a few ways with this. There is an abundance of talent in this class, possibly not as deep as recent drafts, but certainly a variety of options.
When you look at the big league roster as a whole, you see lots of young talent. There will be very few needs from an age perspective seeing as the oldest every day player will be Jeff Francoeur at 29 years old. However, the key loss in the Shields-Davis trade was obviously Myers, a young, 22-year-old slugging outfielder with one of the highest ceilings on a prosect from a hitting perspective. This leads me to the first scenario for the Royals.
Sitting at No. 8 gives the Royals the advantage of gaining legit talent ahead of just about everyone else. Some names which continue to cover the boards in connections to the Royals:
Wilson is a big strong kid, 6-5, 245 pounds, who some describe as raw but exploding with potential. In 2012, Wilson hit .285, with 10 home runs, all while driving in 54 RBI. This season will dictate whether he’s seen as that top 10 type prospect, or if his stock will plummet. It should be noted that through 11 games this season, Wilson only has three plate appearances with two strikeouts
Dominic Smith-Sr. (HS)-California HS-1B/OF
Smith is one of those guys who has still yet to lockdown his premier position. Some say the 6-1. 200-pound lefty, lacks the defensive skills to play outfield, but has the bat to supply power from either position. He excels at making consistent hard contact and while his defensive skills may need to be refined, scouts say he has a very strong arm to field the position.
Clint Frazier-Sr. (HS)-Loganville HS-OF
Frazier may not be catching headlines like some of his classmates, but after watching only a few seconds of his HR Derby tape, you see why his name is legit mention in the first round. The 6-1 righty has lightning quick hands (think Bryce Harper fast) and can really extend his arms for some major pop. He’s young, talented and committed to Georgia, so this pick may come with a bit of a risk factor.
Trey Ball-Sr. (HS)-New Castle HS-LHP/OF
Ball definitely benefits from being a left-hander, gaining attention as an outfielder and standout pitcher. His arm speed was clocked at 93 MPH on the hill, but his 6-6 frame and athleticism indicates he could show some flash as an outfielder. His bat is described as smooth and strong, with power and strength to come as he matures. Ball could definitely be groomed to be a major league pitcher, as well.
Ervin is my dark horse at No. 8 in the outfield group. The 5-10, 200-pound outfielder collected MVP honors over the summer in the Cape Cod League, hitting .323 with 10 home runs and 11 stolen bases. At Samford, Ervin is on an offensive tear, hitting .340 with six home runs and 12 RBI. Last season, he batted .327 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI.
The Royals can definitely afford to go after a big bat and outfield impact with the pick, but there will be plenty of pitchers for Moore to choose from, if he so chooses. Most of the arms the Royals should be interested in are already at the college level, but a few high school pitchers will certainly catch the eye of the Royals.
Appel was selected last year by the Pirates, but chose not to sign and return to Sanford for one more season. The righty is projected to go ahead of the Royals, but still carries a risk to sign, which could turn off some teams ahead of KC. Appel is 2-1 this season for the Cardinals and has a sub-1.20 ERA to start the season. He’s by far the most advanced and big league-ready arm in the draft.
Crawford has some critics who doubt he will have the ability to make it as a big league starter. Crawford currently only uses two pitches, a mid-90s fastball and sweeping slider, and pitches from a funky delivery which some say uses too much effort and will causes problems later down the road. However, the kid went 6-2, with a 3.13 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 72 innings of work.
Jordan Sheffield-Sr. (HS)-Tullahoma HS-RHP
The big knock against Sheffield is his size. At 6-3, 195-pounds, some say his frame is too small for a big time work horse in the pros, but his strong arm and use of secondary and third pitches could make him a steal. He has a standing commitment to Vanderbilt, but being taken in the top 10 would be a hard thing to pass up over a college career. Rumors swirled that Sheffield peaked out in the upper-90s over summer.
Robert Kaminsky-Sr. (HS)-St. Joseph Regional HS-LHP
Kaminsky measures in at 6-foot, 190 pounds, but already has the measures of an advanced arm when it comes to his pitching ability. The lefty sits mid-to-low 90s on his fastball, with a healthy back up of off-speed pitches. Many agree he is legitimate first-round talent, but not sure where he exactly falls. The Royals may want to take a gamble on Kaminsky at No. 8 for his advanced potential.
As you can see, the player scouting and evaluation department for the Royals has a bit of a task on their hands. There’s plenty of talent out in the draft this year, some which may make a late push to the top of the boards as the season progresses.
The hardest part with evaluating baseball talent is the shear amount of talent in the United States. With so many rounds and picks, it can be a gargantuan task finding the talent to fill all the picks. As June approaches, the Royals will make it clear their intentions on who will fill the No. 8 spot on the big board.