MLB Draft: KC Royals pick a surprise if not a shock

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

Their pick came about 40 minutes into the first round of the 2021 Major League Draft Sunday evening, and the choice for the KC Royals boiled down to what early selections always do—draft for need, or take the best player available?

Picking seventh, the Royals obviously opted for need. And shook up everyone by selecting pitcher Frank Mozzicato.

It was, to say the very least, a surprise, and perhaps a shock, considering few people likely saw it coming. Almost every mock draft had Kansas City taking Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker, MLB Pipeline’s sixth-ranked draft prospect, but the KC draft team opted to dip all the way down to Pipeline’s No. 39.

The Royals passed on what many might contend was a slew of better pitchers and better athletes; still on the board when the club picked Mozzicato, for example, were Rocker and two highly-touted shortstops, Kahlil Watson and Brady House.

Which begs the question: Why Frank Mozzicato?

Who is Frank Mozzicato, and what might have attracted the KC Royals to him?

Mozzicato, 18, is a 6-feet-3, 175-pound lefthander who last pitched for East Catholic High in Connecticut. That the Royals used their top pick on a high school pitcher is itself surprising considering their not-so-stellar recent track record picking prep hurlers in the first round.

And on the surface, Mozzicato isn’t a breath-taking choice. Pipeline’s scout suggests Mozzicato’s curve is the best pitch in his arsenal, and points out he improved his fastball velocity this season, but the pitch tops out only in the low 90s. He also has a change.

What also makes this pick surprising is that Jordan Wicks, Kansas State’s heralded southpaw generally considered the best lefty in this year’s draft, was still available when the Royals went on the clock. Picking Wicks would have been more consistent with Kansas City’s trend of selecting college pitchers.

The Royals, though, clearly see something stellar in Mozzicato, something that made them defy all the prognostications and projections, and something that made them comfortable with spending their first round pick on a prep pitcher. It will be interesting to hear their take.

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The draft continues Monday at 1 p.m. ET with Rounds 2-10; the Royals have the seventh pick in each round and also a Competitive Balance B pick between the second and third rounds. The draft winds up with Rounds 11-20 Tuesday beginning at Noon ET. Both days’ rounds will be streamed by