The KC Royals need a good catching prospect, but absolutely couldn’t pass on drafting pitcher Asa Lacy Wednesday night. There are still good catchers available in today’s final four draft rounds.
I made no secret of my admittedly unconventional thoughts about the KC Royals’ first-round pick In the days preceding MLB’s 2020 amateur draft. The rich pitching, infield and outfield talent notwithstanding, I wanted the Royals to pick a catcher with the fourth overall selection.
As I recently wrote, the post-Tommy John surgery version of Salvador Perez will require a few less games behind the plate (and he can’t play forever), Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are best-suited for backing up everyday catchers, and MJ Melendez, the best backstop in KC’s minor league system, needs to reprove himself after a disastrous 2019 season. So picking a top catching prospect made sense.
But picking fourth put the Royals at the mercy of Detroit, Baltimore and Miami, the teams holding picks 1-3 because they were even worse last season than KC. The Tigers unsurprisingly picked Spencer Torkelson; when the Orioles and Marlins stunningly passed up arguably better choices to take Heston Kjerstad and Max Meyer, respectively, leaving Asa Lacy and Austin Martin on the board, the Royals had to snatch up one or the other. So Lacy, a marvelous southpaw hurler with a dirty, dirty slider, became KC’s first-round pick.
Grabbing Lacy, who simply shouldn’t have been available (there are reasons the Orioles and Marlins flounder) was an excellent move, the exciting details of which I’ll leave to others of my Kings of Kauffman colleagues. But picking him doesn’t change the Royals’ need for a solid catching prospect.
Wisely picking Lacy meant the Royals had to wait a long time–all the way to their competitive balance pick, the 32nd slot in the draft–to make another selection. And there were four good catchers on the board after the Lacy pick: Patrick Bailey (my personal choice), Austin Wells, Tyler Soderstrom and Dillon Dingler.
San Francisco angered me for the second time in the last few years by taking my guy Bailey with the 13th pick. Time will tell whether he’ll fill Buster Posey‘s Giant shoes.
The A’s then took Soderstrom at 26. He has tremendous upside but just completed his high school career; inexperience could be a factor for teams wanting to rapidly develop a catcher.
Wells went to the Yankees two picks later.
The KC Royals then used their Competitive Balance Round A pick on Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin to conclude their first-day selections. San Diego then chose Drew Romo, who wasn’t on my top-four list. The other CBR-A teams–Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Colorado, Cleveland and Tampa Bay–didn’t draft catchers.
Dingler, then, is the last of my favorite four backstops left standing. Baseball America’s final mock draft (subscription required) had Dingler going to Milwaukee with the 20th pick. The Ohio State junior started slowly at the plate (.244) as a freshman two seasons ago, but improved to .291 in 2019 and was hitting a hot .340 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 50 at-bats when COVID-19 brought the 2020 NCAA campaign to a halt.
And Dingler, like Bailey, has a steal-killing arm–he’s gunned down half (21 of 42) of the would-be Big 10 base thieves who’ve tested it in two-plus seasons.
The KC Royals have the fourth pick (41st overall) when the draft resumes today; it will likely be their last shot at Dingler, who probably won’t be available when KC goes on the clock in the third round (Pick 76), much less the fourth (Pick 105) or the fifth (Pick 135). Whether he’s on the board in the third depends on what the Tigers, Orioles and Marlins do ahead of them. The Royals should pick him if he’s still there.
But if Dingler’s gone by then, the club could turn to three prep catchers all ranked among the top 100 of mlb.com’s Top 200 draft prospects–Kevin Parada (48), Corey Collins (65) or Daniel Susac (67). Their inexperience might count against them, but Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore hasn’t been shy when it comes to drafting high school players.
Today brings the final four rounds of the 2020 draft. We’ll see if it brings the KC Royals a catcher.