With the 2020 MLB Draft fast approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to sit down and take a look back at the Royals’ five most recent drafts. Recently, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, announced a reduction of the draft from the usual 40 rounds to 5 rounds. Compensation Pick rounds and Competitive Balance Pick rounds were spared from the chopping block.
As part of this exercise, we will only be looking at the first 5 rounds, compensation picks and competitive balance picks from the drafts of 2015-2019. Let’s dive in.
Round/Overall Selection #
1.21: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (Indianapolis)
1.33: Nolan Watson, RHP, Lawrence North HS (Indianapolis)
2.64: Josh Staumont, RHP, Azusa Pacific
3.98: Anderson Miller, CF, Western Kentucky
4.129: Garrett Davila, LHP, South Point HS (Belmont, NC)
5.159: Roman Collins, CF, Florida Atlantic
Analysis: Of the group, only Staumont has contributed for the Royals at the big league level. His contribution left a lost to be desired, accumulating negative WAR, with a K:BB ratio of 15:10 over 19.1 IP. A WHIP of 1.603 isn’t exactly a cause for rave reviews. Recently, the Royals have been trying him out of the bullpen, and his 2020 Spring Training numbers were impressive, so maybe Staumont has found a new role. 1st Round selection Russell can be labeled as a bust, as he only lasted 2 seasons with the Royals and is out of baseball.
1. No Selection. The Royals gave up this pick by signing Ian Kennedy.
2.67 A.J. Puckett, RHP, Pepperdine
3.103 Khalil Lee, CF, Flint HS (Oakton, VA)
I love how much run Khalil Lee has been getting with the big league club this spring. He’s certainly made the most of it so far. 👀 pic.twitter.com/tN62Xro0hi
— Alex Duvall (@duvy_013) February 29, 2020
4.133 Jace Vines, RHP, Texas A&M
5.163 Nicky Lopez, SS, Creighton
Analysis: While Lopez has established a backup/utility role with the parent club, the undoubted hit of a selection in this draft has to be Khalil Lee. Lee has ascended to AA as a 21-year-old and is showcasing the toolset that prompted the Royals to select him in the 3rd round out of high school. Last year, playing the entire season at Northwest Arkansas, he racked up 53 stolen bases, while posting an impressive .363 OBP. That’s pretty impressive, given that he is nearly 3 years younger than the league average. Vines has also ascended to AA, however he hasn’t done much to cause excitement, with both a high walk rate and low strikeout totals.
1.14 Nick Pratto, 1B, Huntington Beach HS (Huntington Beach, CA)
2.52 MJ Melendez, C, Westminster Christian HS (Miami, FL)
2.73 Evan Steele, LHP, Chipola College
3.90 Daniel Tillo, LHP, Iowa Western CC
4.120 Michael Gigliotti, CF, Lipscomb University
5.150 Charlie Neuweiler, RHP, McClancy Memorial HS (East Elmhurst, NY)
If you were excited at the beginning of 2019 to watch the 1st two draft picks of the Royals from the 2017 Draft, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment. Both Pratto and Melendez failed to live up to lofty expectations, with both hitting below the Mendoza line. The power for the pair also failed to show, with both failing to reach double digit home runs. Now, with another year of lost development in 2020, the next minor league season will be crucial for these two. Gigliotti has showcased his speed on the basepaths at High A, racking up 36 stolen bases. Power is not his calling card, however, as he had a meager .368 slugging percentage. A bright spot for the Royals is lefty Steele, although injuries have been hard to overcome for the hard-throwing southpaw. His 2018 was wiped out completely, and he was limited to only 11 starts in 2019. A future in the bullpen seems likely for Steele, as his swing and miss arsenal (56K in 49 IP) is well-suited for that role.
1.18 Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
1.33 Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
1.34 Daniel Lynch, LHP, Virginia
1.40 Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford
Complete game from Kris Bubic. His final line:
9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K.
His final pitch of the night: pic.twitter.com/aWruXnuqun
— Royals Farm Report (@RoyalsFarm) August 9, 2019
2.58 Jonathan Bowlan, RHP, Memphis
3.94 Kyle Isbel, CF, UNLV
4.122 Eric Cole, CF, Arkansas
5.152 Austin Cox, LHP, Mercer University
Whoa, it’s not often that you see one team making 4 selections in the 1st round of the draft, let alone that team loading up on arms and more arms. The Royals selected 4 college starting pitchers to kick off their 2018 Draft. Armed with a fastball that operates near triple digits and an impressive 70-grade changeup, Kowar is the standout of the group and is the Royals #2 Prospect here at P1500. Don’t sleep on Lynch or Bubic though, as both advanced to High-A affiliate Wilmington, putting up impressive strikeout totals. On the hitting side, Isbel showed off both power and speed tools producing a slash line of .326/.389/.504 over 2 levels of minor league ball in 2018. He picked up where he left off by dominating Arizona League rookie ball over a small sample size of 7 games, but then hit his first development road block at High-A.
The Royals went with an all-college approach in the first 5 rounds of this draft, and so far it’s paying off as each of their 8 selections are still in their system, talent on display.
1.2 Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage HS (Colleyville, TX)
— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) July 21, 2018
2.44 Brady McConnell, SS, Florida
2.70 Alec Marsh, P, Arizona State
3.80 Grant Gambrell, P, Oregon State
4.109 Michael Massey, 2B, Illinois
5.139 John Rave, CF, Illinois State
If you’re a Royals fan or a follower of prospects, you should already know Bobby Witt. A two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, Witt’s well-rounded skillset is one that GM’s across the league will covet. While Witt didnt have a great debut, I would not sleep on him as an elite prospect. Unlike many other shortstop prospects (Wander Franco, as an example), Witt’s an elite defender at shortstop and is expected to stay there and I firmly believe Adalberto Mondesi will move over to 2B when Witt arrives to the Show. With Witt blocking his path, it’s almost a certainty that Brady McConnell will need to switch positions to see playing time at the highest level. He’ll also need to improve his pitch recognition and plate discipline, as a 40% strikeout rate generally does not translate into success.
The Royals have seemingly changed their draft strategy to selecting college players in the 1st 5 rounds. 13 of the 14 selections taken in the 2018 and 2019 drafts were from college. The exception was understandably, Bobby Witt. What does the 2020 Draft have in store for the Royals. Do they continue to focus on college pitching early and often (Emerson Hancock, Asa Lacy), do they find a double play partner in New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales, or go in an unknown direction? Tune in to the MLB Draft on June 10th to find out. As always, circle back to Prospects1500 for analysis of the Royals’ selections!