Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft is Monday, and The Star asked a few questions of the MLB network’s Harold Reynolds of the Mariners, ex-Indians and Rangers GM John Hart and MLB.com draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo.
Who do you think the Royals will take with their first pick?
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John Hart: I think in Kansas City’s perfect war room, the Royals will nab the best available pitcher on the board. That could be Appel, Gausman or Zimmer, but Kansas City is stocked with hitters so I think they’re looking at pitching. Dayton Moore and his group are going to focus on college pitchers who will be able to make more of an immediate impact. Some high school pitchers might have more upside, but they could take longer to develop. Stephen Strasburg is not on the board, but Kansas City should be able to add a quality arm.
Harold Reynolds: I think Marcus Stroman is the best pitcher in the draft and Kansas City needs pitching. I don’t think Mark Appel is durable enough and Gausman’s velocity hasn’t been there. Marcus throws like Tom Gordon and he can ascend to the Major Leagues quickly. The Royals drafted position players in Colon and Starling the last two seasons. It’s time for them to add another quality arm and I think Stroman is the answer.
Jonathan Mayo: I think they’d really like for a college arm to be there for them. If Mark Appel or Kevin Gausman got there, I think they’d go that route. They’re still looking at Kyle Zimmer, but there have been a few question marks about him lately. I still think that’s where they go, but they could look at high school lefty Max Fried, college lefty Andrew Heaney or high school shortstop Carlos Correa.
Who would you take with the first pick and why?
Harold Reynolds: Byron Buxton is one of those unique athletes that you rarely come across. He has the chance to be a once-in-a-generation player. The Astros need to be thinking long term and not worry about drafting a player who is going to make an immediate impact. Buxton has the chance to be a star when he reaches the majors and he’ll be another nice piece in Houston’s youth movement.
John Hart: It’s a good question because there is no consensus on who should be the number one overall pick. Say what you want about the draft, but in our game, there are very few players that come up and make an immediate impact at the Major League level. This is a sport where players go through learning stages and develop in the Minor Leagues. With that said, if you’re looking for that player who has the chance to make the biggest impact, I’d take Byron Buxton number one. He’s a middle-of-the-diamond player with a big-time arm and speed. I think his offense has to catch up to his defense, but he has high upside.
Jonathan Mayo: If you’re basing the pick solely on who has the highest ceiling, I think you’d probably have to go with Byron Buxton. But while everyone thinks that’s the obvious choice if you’re truly taking the top talent in the draft class, Mark Appel is nothing to sneeze at. He’s big, projectable and has three outstanding Major League pitches. He may not seem like the sexy pick to most, but he’s pretty darn good.
How does this draft compare with others in years past?
John Hart: I think there is talent spread throughout this first round because there are better high school players than in years past. You can start with Byron Buxton at the top, but there are some high school pitchers that have good bodies with plus fastballs. We don’t see that often, but pitchers like Max Fried and Lucas Sims have a chance to develop into quality Major League arms.
Harold Reynolds: Players continue to come out of high school and this year it will be no different so I think the talent level is strong. I actually think some of the college players aren’t as skilled as we’ve seen in years past. Eric Hosmer was drafted out of high school by the Royals. Mike Trout was drafted out of high school by the Angels. You’re seeing more and more of these high school kids come out so I think the talent level will continue to run deep.
Jonathan Mayo: Last year’s class was one of the best and deepest we’ve seen in a while, so it’s almost not fair to compare. Most scouts seem to agree that the players being discussed at the top of the Draft this year wouldn’t come close to sniffing that high if it were 2011. But as scouts tell me every year, every draft produces big leaguers.
The MLB network’s coverage of the draft is Monday at 5 p.m. with a draft preview show, followed by the first round and compensation round at 6 p.m. MLB network’s Peter Gammons, Brian Kenny, Sam Ryan, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Yallof, and Jim Callis of Baseball America, also will be on air.
| Pete Grathoff, email@example.com