KC Royals Draft: There’s a pitcher just down the road

(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo by Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Who the KC Royals will select with their first pick in the 2021 amateur draft is anybody’s guess, just as it should be with the July 11 start of the event still almost three weeks away. The question won’t be answered until the club actually makes the first of their 21 selections (KC has a Competitive Balance B pick after the second round).

Kansas City gets its first crack at the talent pool with the seventh pick; by then, Pittsburgh, Texas, Detroit, Boston and Baltimore will probably have swept up the bulk of such highly-touted prospects as Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, catcher Henry Davis from Louisville, and a quartet of shortstops—prepsters Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar and Brady House and Wake Forest’s Kahlil Watson—off the board.

Baseball drafts are quirky, though, and like last year when the Royals grabbed pitcher Asa Lacy after he surprisingly went undrafted through the first three selections, there may be a surprise or two available for Kansas City’s first pick.

If not, a good choice has been pitching just a couple of hours west of Kauffman Stadium.

He’s Jordan Wicks, a skilled lefthanded pitcher who posted an excellent record in two full seasons and the shortened 2020 campaign at Kansas State.

Wicks, 21, is no stranger to draft gurus. mlb.com ranks him the 16th best player available and, perhaps more importantly, the top lefty hurler. And his college credentials justify that status.

Wicks earned the Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year award in 2019 by going 6-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 15 starts. He had good control (2.8 BB9) and struck out 86 in 84.2 innings.

Expectations were high for Wicks in 2020 and he delivered. He was 3-0 and had surrendered just one run in 26 innings (0.35 ERA) when COVID-19 put an early end to NCAA play. But he capitalized on two opportunities to play summer ball.

The Perfect Timing College League in his home state of Arkansas was Wicks’ first stop, where he was 1-0 with an 0.61 ERA for the Perfect Timing Red.

Wicks then moved on to the talent-rich Northwoods League. He won two of his four starts for Rockford and surrendered just one earned run, fanned 29, and walked only five in 29 innings.

His summer success carried over to this spring at Kansas State, where he finished his third season with a 6-3, 3.70 record, and 118 strikeouts in 92.1 innings.

Could Jordan Wicks be a good draft selection for the KC Royals this year?

Wicks will be a junior if he returns to school in the fall. That he’s a probable first-round pick in next month’s draft renders the prospect of another collegiate season unlikely at best.

Should Kansas City draft Wicks? Plenty of talent will still be on the board when their turn comes at No. 7, so chances are good they’ll pass on Wicks and pick someone else. (Kings of Kauffman will have more draft coverage and predictions as the draft draws closer). But if Kansas City needs or wants a good southpaw with an eclectic repertoire highlighting a superb changeup complemented by a four-seam fastball, slider, cutter, and curve, Wicks will probably be available.

Next. How to make the most of KC's 2021. dark

The major league draft is less than three weeks away. If the KC Royals are looking for a lefthanded starter, Kansas State’s Jordan Wicks fits the bill.