KC Royals “changeup” the pattern and draft a high school arm
The KC Royals switched things up a bit with their third pick of the draft, looking towards a younger arm to add to their arsenal.
There is a lot of buzz around the MLB right now. There is of course the always looming possibility that the 2020 season will start up soon, or continue to be put off. But on a more positive note, there is a lot of talk about the draft and the selections that were made, especially by the KC Royals.
This will likely continue for a while, as fans get to know more about the selections their favorite teams made, and as teams continue to sign non-drafted players and add them to their organization.
For the Royals, the first pick of Asa Lacy may have come as a bit of a surprise, as he wasn’t expected to make it to pick 4. But like many of the Royals recent draft picks, he fit the profile of highly regarded college pitcher.
On night 2, though, with pick 41, the Royals went a slightly different route. While the pitcher they took could be considered highly regarded in some aspects as well, the Royals went for a high school arm instead of college this time.
The Royals took Ben Hernandez, a pitcher from De La Salle Institute in Chicago, who has committed to Illinois-Chicago University, though the Royals obviously see him as signable.
If reading a bit deeper into Hernandez, it’s easy to see why the Royals made a pick like this. He has a decent mid 90’s fastball that he can locate as an 18-year-old, he has a curveball that he could improve but still plays well, he has a good delivery and seems to just have pitchability, and to top it off, he has a nasty changeup.
It’s easy to see the attractiveness of this signing, but after what looked to be a pattern of college pitcher signings that seem to be paying off, why would the Royals take a chance with a high school arm?
There are multiple reasons as to why Dayton Moore may have thought it was time to go with a high school pitcher, but one can never be to sure what the real motive is behind the pick unless the team reveals it.
It’s obvious Hernandez stood out to the Royals and his ability was something they wanted to see more of. If wanting to give some credit to the Royals drafting ability, the pick could also be an attempt to start setting up the team for long term future success.
After the 2015 World Series, Kansas City went downhill fast. They lost key players due to money and didn’t have many in the minors to help cover the losses. Now, the Royals have been setting themselves up for a monster future in the near future with plenty of pitchers almost ready to go.
What would happen, though, if they lose a pitcher to free agency, or injury, or something else? The Royals need a contingency plan. College arms are great, and of course, the staggering of age and readiness is available from year to year, but they are often also clumped together due to the closeness of age and experience. With a pick like Hernandez, the Royals have the option to continue development.
If Kansas City’s current top minor league pitchers are ready in 2021 or 2022, Hernandez will still have time, along with any other young non-drafted free agents they sign, to develop into what the Royals need.
While Kansas City continues to stockpile their college pitching arsenal, Hernandez may be the sign of a new strategy based around maintaining success for longer, instead of losing future players to trades and declining quickly after contention.
Whatever the reason, Kansas City seems to have a plan surrounding pitchers and they don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. In the coming weeks, it will be interesting to see what type of players they sign from the non-drafted free agents.
The Royal’s motives are still unclear but it’s obvious they believe that pitching is the right way to go in the draft. Whether Hernandez was signed to start a new group for the future, or based only on the fact that he stood out to the organization, the future in Kansas City grows more interesting every day.