RHP Rhett Lowder
Just like Teel is a fairly consensus welcome pick, there may not be a more polarizing prospective pick than pitcher Rhett Lowder. Don't get it twisted though, he has the college resume that any MLB team would love. In 19 starts, Lowder went 15-0 with a 1.87 ERA, .947 WHIP and 10.7 K/9. He was the Wake Forest Demon Deacons' ace in 2023, leading the team to its first College World Series since 1955. Lowder caught the eye of even casual baseball fans at the stage, going against fellow first-round prospect Paul Skenes in a win-or-go-home game on June 22.
Skenes' Tigers advance on to the championship series, but Lowder did everything he could to keep Wake Forest in it. He pitched seven shutout innings, fanning six while walking two. The bullpen could not keep the sutout going though, marking the first time in 2023 that Wake Foret lost when Lowder started. He is one of two players to repeat as ACC Pitcher of the Year, a testament to his track record since 2022.
MLB.com says "Lowder owns one of the best changeups in college baseball", making Royals fans shudder at other draft picks who had that similar trait. his fastball sits at a respectable range, focusing more on movement than blistering speed. His fastball plays well because he knows how to locate the pitch well, only improving his changeup's effectiveness. Both are clearly plus-pitches, with little qualms about either.
So, why aren't people sold on drafting Lowder at eighth overall? There are two reasons I see. First of all, there are crucial components to Lowder's game that put a lot of stress on his body, making me question if he can keep pitching for 10+ years. His slider, the pitch that really completes his arsenal, puts a lot of stress on his middle two fingers. Look at him show his grips this season, and even he recognizes the issue with it. Also, Lowder's lower half of his body isn't optimal and requires him to use his arm more than a pitcher should. It is fixable, but that is more time coaching away a bad habit that could be used on other things.
Second, it is hard to deny the volatility of first-round pitchers in the Kansas City system. The Royals are trying to update an outdated training process in the minors, but the recent track record with high-draft pitchers is not great. Asa Lacy is nowhere near the ace fans hoped for, the 2018 class has not yielded a consistent or healthy starter that the team wants long-term, and four first-round picks on pitchers in 2014 and 2015 went nowhere. If hte Royals are confident in developing pitching, they could invest in a high-floor talent like Lowder. But, they better be sure if they want to take this unpopular route.