Wondering who the Royals will select with their first pick in the annual Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday? You’re going to have to wait a while.
The Royals will not make a pick until the second round after forfeiting their first-round selection by signing free-agent pitcher Ian Kennedy last offseason. They own the 67th overall pick, which will likely come late on Thursday night as the draft begins at MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J.
The Royals’ next pick will come in the third round — the 103rd overall pick. They will make 39 total picks over the next three days.
For years, the Royals were a mainstay in the draft’s top 10, building part of the nucleus for a World Series champion with four consecutive top-five draft picks from 2005 to 2008 (the picks netted Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer). On Thursday, they will be without a first-round pick for the first time since 1990.
In the offseason, the Royals signed Kennedy, a free-agent right-hander, to a five-year, $70 million deal. The move was designed to bolster a rotation that was last in the American League in innings pitched in 2015 and coincided with the club’s window for more championships. The move also came with a price.
Kennedy had rejected a one-year qualifying offer from the San Diego Padres last offseason, meaning that any team that signed him would forfeit its first-round pick. By landing Kennedy, the Royals said goodbye to the No. 24 selection in the draft. They will make just one choice Thursday before the third round begins Friday.
“These decisions are never easy,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “You certainly weigh them very carefully; we just thought Ian Kennedy would be an important piece to help us win another world championship.”
If recent trends hold, the Royals could look for a pitcher with their first pick on Thursday. They have selected a pitcher with their first-round pick in the last three drafts and in four of the last five.
A year ago, they took Ashe Russell, a high school right-hander from Indianapolis, with the 21st overall pick in the first round. The position could also constitute an area of need.
Last season, the organization thinned its ranks of pitching prospects while making two significant trades before the deadline in late July. The Royals dealt left-hander Sean Manaea to the Oakland A’s for Ben Zobrist and sent three left-handers — Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb — to the Cincinnati Reds for right-hander Johnny Cueto.
On Thursday, the Royals will begin the annual task of re-stocking their farm system. The process will begin a little later than usual.