The 2018 draft season presents a crossroads for the Royals.
They will have four picks in the top 40 selections — the most they’ve had during general manager Dayton Moore’s tenure. The Royals received three top-40 picks in 2014.
The Royals have deployed all the resources at their disposal, with scouting director Lonnie Goldberg leading the charge and assistant general managers supporting, and they’re determined to take full advantage of the opportunity to replenish their farm system.
“I think everybody is embracing what we have to do,” Moore said.
As they cross the country seeking out talent that will play well in Kauffman Stadium — zone-attacking pitchers and athletic, defensively sound fielders — it’s worth looking back at the top picks of the Royals’ last seven drafts. Of the 11 players listed below, only two have made significant contributions at the major-league level in Kansas City (Christian Colon and Brandon Finnegan) and they are no longer with the franchise.
“When you look at our first-round picks, it’s still out on (Kyle) Zimmer and Bubba (Starling),” Moore said. “But there’s very few people in the game who wouldn’t have selected those guys where we did.”
Christian Colon, INF
Picked fourth overall, Colon batted .268 in 118 regular-season games from 2014-16 before he was designated for assignment in May 2017. He became a postseason hero upon his debut in 2014, scoring the winning run in the AL Wild Card Game against the Oakland A’s. A year later he drove in the go-ahead run in Game 5 of the World Series in New York.
Bubba Starling, OF
Picked fifth overall, the Gardner Edgerton graduate has struggled to stay healthy recently and has not broken into the major leagues. Starling’s best offensive campaign on a full-season team came in 2015, when he was promoted quickly to Class AA Northwest Arkansas and slashed .269/.337/.448 with 23 doubles, 12 home runs and 44 RBIs. After being chosen the Royals’ No. 3 prospect by Baseball America in the 2016 preseason, he hit .183 over 109 games. He only played 80 games in 2017 because of oblique injuries.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP
Picked fifth overall, Zimmer hasn’t played a single healthy season and has never pitched more than 108 1/3 innings in a campaign (2013). Ongoing shoulder troubles limited Zimmer to 36 2/3 innings over 21 games last year. He’s only logged 106 1/3 innings since his breakthrough in 2013.
Hunter Dozier, 1B/3B/OF
Picked eighth overall, Dozier appears to be on the cusp of joining the major-league roster in 2018. Since converting to third base upon his arrival in the organization, he’s increased his versatility and become an adequate fielder in the outfield corners and at first base, where he barely played until this spring. An oblique strain and a left hand injury slowed his steady ascent through the Royals farm system, where he’s batted .261 with 139 doubles and 54 homers through five seasons.
Sean Manaea, LHP
Picked 34th overall, Manaea wasn’t long for the Royals’ organization. He signed to a supplemental-round record $3.55 million despite a labrum tear in his hip that required surgery. He was their No. 2 prospect when they sent him to the Oakland Athletics along with Aaron Brooks in exchange for Ben Zobrist in 2015.
Brandon Finnegan, LHP
Picked 17th overall, Finnegan debuted in the major leagues within months of being drafted. He struck out three in 2 1/3 innings of work in the 2014 AL Wild Card Game and earned a win in the division series. He pitched in seven games that postseason, but was shuttled between the majors and minors the following year. He was the central piece of the Royals' package sent to the Cincinnati Reds for Johnny Cueto.
Foster Griffin, LHP
Picked 28th overall, Griffin is the ninth-best prospect in the Royals organization according to Baseball America’s preseason rankings. He struggled in his first two full seasons in the organization but last year played in the All-Star Futures Game and compiled a 3.35 ERA over 28 starts and 161 1/3 innings between Class A-Advanced Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas last season.
Chase Vallot, C
Picked 40th overall, Vallot is the Royals’ 27th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He is known for his raw power. Injuries have limited the 21-year-old. His season at Wilmington ended in late July after he was diagnosed with a low-back muscle strain.
Ashe Russell, RHP
Picked 21st overall, Russell stepped away from baseball last season.
Nolan Watson, RHP
Picked 33rd overall, Watson recorded a 7.57 ERA in his first full season as a starter Class A Lexington in 2016. Slowed by shoulder injury, he appeared in 22 games (18 starts) and posted a 7.87 ERA in the three lower levels of the organization.
No first-round selections.
Nick Pratto, 1B
Picked 14th overall, Pratto will likely be the heir apparent at first base when he reaches the major leagues and is already the top prospect in the organization. He slashed .247/.330/.414 with 15 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 34 RBIs at Rookie-level Surprise. He was also 10 of 14 on stolen bases.