In what could be one of the most interesting drafts, the KC Royals obviously need to make the right move. However, the abbreviated high school/college season does complicate things to some extent. Therefore, with the fourth pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, I believe the Kansas City Royals should select…
I’m going to operate under the assumption that the three big names are going to be off the board. Spencer Torkelson and Austin Martin haven’t waivered in projections of going somewhere in the Top-3, and Asa Lacy has pushed himself into the Top-3 with how absolutely dominant he was in the abbreviated 2020 season. If either of those three is available at pick four, then my answer does change. But for the sake of realistic thinking, we will continue as if neither of the three is still on the board for the Royals pick.
Why Nick Gonzales?
This pick really isn’t that hard for me to land on. Gonzales has been one of the most consistent contact hitters in college baseball, and this year flashed an increase in power. According to MLB.com, they rank him as the 5th overall draft prospect, giving him a grading scale of:
- Hit: 60/Power: 45/Run: 55/Arm: 50/Field: 50/Overall: 55
During his three years at New Mexico State, he slashed an amazing .390/.502/.747 over 128 games. He also ended his college career with 79 strikeouts compared to 89 walks, 37 homeruns and 39 doubles.
While his overall power isn’t very high, the 2020 season was looking to be a breakout year for him. In just 16 games this year, Gonzales had hit 12 homeruns and 3 doubles. For perspective, before this year, his career-high in homeruns was 16 over 55 games. At the rate he was going, he would have smashed his career-high.
The knock on Nick Gonzales though…
While this is a bit of an unfair knock, I do understand it. The level of competition that New Mexico State plays against isn’t exactly noteworthy. While NCAA.com has New Mexico State ranked as the 78th best team in college baseball, a lot of the teams they played are outside the Top-100.
Of the 33 different teams that Gonzales and The Pistol Pete’s played against over the past three years, just 11 teams ranked inside the Top-100, and only two were ever ranked (Texas Tech and Texas A&M).
Due to the lack of competition Gonzales faced on a regular base during college, the big question seemed to always be whether or not he can hit against top-end talent. Luckily for Gonzales, his time playing in the Summer Leagues might have put some of that to rest.
During the summer of 2019, Gonzales hit .351/.451/.630 over 42 games, being named the Cape Cod League MVP. Some of the pitchers who cracked the MLB Top-150 pitched in the Cape Cod League, such as Carmen Mlodzinski (No.21), Jarad Shuster (No.78), Ian Bedell (No.89), and Ian Seymour (No.116), all competed last summer.
The rationale for my pick
I feel like Gonzales makes a lot of sense for the Royals. While he seems to be limited to just second base, which is currently occupied by Nicky Lopez, I feel like the Royals can get creative. They are going to have to figure out the infield for the future regardless after drafting shortstop Bobby Witt Jr at No.2 overall last year.
Therefore, a possible solution could be to move Witt Jr to third base, Lopez to shortstop, Adalberto Mondesi to centerfield, Hunter Dozier to first base or right field, which would allow Gonzales to play his natural position of second base. This seems like a lot of movement. In the grand scheme of things though, the most obscured move would be putting Mondesi in centerfield. Lopez has played shortstop, Dozier has played first base and right field, and Witt Jr. is still far enough down in the minor leagues that a shift to third base isn’t a bad move.
Honorable Mentions and Unpopular Opinions
Obviously people have many opinions on who should be drafted at No.4, which is what makes drafts so entertaining. With opinions comes both worlds of agreement and “hot takes”.
The Royals could select two other players at No.4 and I would be able to support the pick. Both of the picks would be telling for where Dayton Moore feels the team is within the rebuild. Those players are high school outfielder Zac Veen and college pitcher Max Meyer.
In my opinion, Veen would be the next logical pick for the Royals if Gonzales isn’t picked. However, that pick would give an indication that Moore feels the Royals won’t be competing in the next 2-3 years. However, it would fit the potential timetable Witt Jr would be on, giving the Royals a potential superstar at shortstop and a top-end talent in center field. Hard to argue with that.
However, I also believe Meyer should be in consideration. I would be lying if I said Meyer has been on my radar for very long. Those honors belong to Lacy, but he seems to have played his way out of the Royals’ reach. However, Meyer has been pretty dynamic as a starter for the Minnesota Gophers. When you read what MLB.com Prospect Rankings has to say about Meyer, it is hard to deny that he belongs in the conversation.
"Desperate for starters, the Gophers shifted him to the rotation a month into his sophomore year and he responded with a 2.11 ERA (second in the Big Ten Conference) before tying for the Team USA lead with a 0.69 mark.Meyer owns the best slider in the 2020 Draft, a wipeout 87-91 mph offering with which he can add and subtract depth. His four-seam fastball is a weapon as well, parking at 93-97 mph this spring, hitting 98 in the ninth inning of one start and maxing out at 100. His fading changeup showed flashes of becoming a solid pitch as he used it more often as a junior."
During an interview with the new Royals owner, John Sherman, he made a comment about how you can never have enough pitchers. Which would indicate that even though the Royals have a lot of great pitchers working through the system, the Royals could still use the No.4 pick on a pitcher, rather than an offensive player.
Which leads me to my unpopular “hot take”
Emerson Hancock would not be a pick I can get excited about. Which seems absolutely absurd, given the fact that MLB Prospect Rankings are quoted saying:
"“Hancock shares a lot in common with Casey Mize“"
So why would I not be excited about this type of prospect? It comes back to his injury he dealt with within the 2019 season. Before his injury, no doubt the best pitcher in this year’s draft. However, he finished the 2019 season pretty inconsistent. Which means he needed to prove he was good to go this year. Unfortunately, with the abbreviated season that COVID-19 forced, his four starts this year mirrored how he finished the 2019 season.
That, to me, is a red flag.
Altogether, the Royals have a lot of options they can go with this year. While it seems pretty obvious who will be going in the Top-3, we could very well be in for a surprise. However, if things go as the majority of people believe, I believe that going with Nick Gonzales is the best choice for the Royals.
What do you think Royals fans? Who is your pick for the Royals?