Royals

As MLB Draft begins Monday, Royals set to make three selections

Hunter Dozier
Hunter Dozier jsleezer@kcstar.com

The Royals built a World Series champion on homegrown players, mining talent in the draft and the international market. On Monday night, general manager Dayton Moore and his lieutenants will seek to add to the next wave.

The Royals will pick 14th overall as the Major League Baseball draft begins at 6 p.m. (TV coverage starts at 5 p.m. on MLB Network). The club will make a total of three selections on Monday, including the 52nd overall pick in the second round and the 73rd pick as part of the Competitive Balance Round B.

One part preparation, one part projection, the draft remains baseball’s biggest wild card, an industry built on making bets and investments on high school and college kids who are years away from playing in the major leagues. Yet for a small-market team such as the Royals, the draft remains the surest way to acquire a difference-making talent.

In the days leading up to the draft, the Royals were thought to be interested in a group of high school arms, including Trevor Rogers, a left-handed pitcher from Carlsbad, N.M.; Shane Baz, a right-hander from Tomball, Texas; and D.L. Hall, a left-hander from Valdosta, Ga.

In their latest projected draft, Baseball America had the Royals selecting Hall, who possesses a fastball in the low to mid 90s, a promising curveball and a changeup.

The Royals have selected a pitcher with their first pick in four of their last five drafts, dating back to the selection of right-hander Kyle Zimmer out of the University of San Francisco in 2012. The club followed that by taking left-hander Brandon Finnegan out of TCU in 2014 and Indiana prep pitcher Ashe Russell in 2015. Last year, the Royals were without a first-round pick after signing free agent pitcher Ian Kennedy, who turned down a qualifying offer from the San Diego Padres. They opted for right-hander A.J. Puckett with the 67th overall pick in the second round.

The one outlier: Hunter Dozier, a third baseman drafted in the first round in 2013, the same year the club took college left-hander Sean Manaea in the compensation portion of the first round.

Before the run of pitchers, the Royals loaded up on position players while picking high in the draft from 2007 to 2011. The team took three high school position players in the top five (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Bubba Starling), one college position player (Christian Colon in 2010) and one college pitcher (Aaron Crow in 2009). Those drafts served as part of the foundation for the team that won consecutive American League pennants in 2014 and 2015.

The Royals’ recent first-round selections have garnered mixed results. Starling, a Gardner native, is at Class AAA Omaha, still searching for consistency at the plate. Zimmer has been oft-injured and is on the disabled list again. Dozier made tremendous strides in 2016 before suffering two injuries this season. Finnegan was part of a World Series run in 2014 before being sent to Cincinnati in 2015 in a deal for starting pitcher Johnny Cueto. And Manaea, meanwhile, was sent to Oakland for Ben Zobrist.

The 2015 and 2016 top picks — and the entire draft classes, for that matter — will require additional time before judgments can be made. But to this point, Russell has been plagued by command issues and has mostly remained in extended spring training in Surprise, Ariz. Puckett is a member of the starting rotation at Class A Wilmington after a promising first year in the organization.

In most ways, of course, the Royals’ selection will be dictated by what happens in front of them. The Minnesota Twins own the first overall pick and are thought to be deciding between a group of players, including Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright and high school pitcher Hunter Greene, who could become the first prep pitcher ever selected at No. 1 overall. Louisville’s Brendan McKay, a dynamic two-way talent who plays first base and pitches from the left side, could also be in the discussion for the top choice overall.

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