The 2018 MLB Draft means more for the Royals than most clubs. It’s one of those pivotal drafts that will either launch the club into a rapid rebuild or prolong “the process” of getting the Royals back to respectability. Most commentators agree that the Royals have a few promising position player prospects already, especially in the low minors (Khalil Lee, Nick Pratto, M.J. Melendez, Seuly Matias, Gabriel Cancel, Rudy Martin). According to MLB Pipeline, all of their top-five, and eight of their top-10, prospects are position players. What they lack is pitching.
While I don’t think the Royals need to focus only on pitching with the four picks they have in the top 40, it’s a safe bet that they’ll spend at least a couple high picks to restock their barren pitching cupboard.
With that in mind, I’m looking at some of the pitchers who may be available when the Royals pick at 18, 31, 33, and 40 (to get caught up, read part one and part two of this series). Because there are roughly 20 pitchers who look like mid-to-late first round pitchers (depending on who you ask), I’m breaking it up into chunks of four. Here are four pitchers the Royals might take with their first four picks in June in no particular order.
Mike Vasil – RHP – Boston College High School
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A tall, strong right hander from the Northeast with a solid fastball and simple mechanics is rising up draft boards. If that sounds familiar to the Royals faithful, it’s because the Royals drafted that guy back in 2014. Back then his name was Scott Blewett, and since then he’s been less than stellar (but what do you expect, his last name is Blewett, worst possible name for a pitcher). I’m sure Vasil hopes to have more success than Blewett has so far.
Vasil’s simple mechanics make evaluators think he’ll stay healthy and be able to command his 92-95 mph fastball. He throws from nearly over the top with a curveball that flashes but lacks consistency. Like many young pitchers, he struggles to consistently stay on top of it and looks like he’s trying to guide it at times. Scouts are hoping it will shape into his put away pitch.
Because Vasil plays in the Northeast, scouts have seen less of him, which helps facilitate his rise. There are questions about his level of competition and health (he left a start earlier this spring with an elbow issue that he claims isn’t serious), but some team will love his fastball, simple mechanics, and stature enough to take him in or just after the first round.
JT Ginn – RHP – Brandon High School
Ginn is all about upside. He’s got a fastball that sits mid-90s and a solid slider that scouts think will be a plus pitch. After watching video of him, it seems like that slider needs just a touch more late bite. It seems a touch loopy and might be easier for professional hitters to pick up. Ginn’s changeup is an average pitch and may get better the more he uses it.
Though he throws it hard, Ginn’s fastball doesn’t have much movement or a downhill plane, which makes it more hittable than mid-90s heat usually is. He’s not super tall (6’2”) so he’ll probably never change the height it’s thrown from. He’ll need to either develop movement in some way (add a two-seamer maybe) or improve his fastball command to ensure he doesn’t get hit hard moving forward.
If he can find a way to make sure his fastball doesn’t get eaten alive in the pros, the sky’s the limit for Ginn. With his raw talent, he could have three plus pitches and be sitting at the top of a rotation in a few years.
Ryan Rolison – LHP – Ole Miss
It seems like Rolison is talked about less than other first-round pitching prospects. He certainly hasn’t had the rollercoaster draft process that Brady Singer or Ethan Hankins have. Despite a mediocre season at Ole Miss (3.87 ERA, 104 K, 41 BB, 88.1 IP), Rolison’s stuff still makes scouts believe he can be a solid starter in the majors.
Rolison works 91-93 with his fastball from a three-quarter arm slot, touching 95 at times, but the real prize is his low-80s curveball. It’s a monster, and he trusts himself to throw it for strikes early in the count and as an out pitch. His slider and changeup are average pitches, which he’ll need, especially the changeup because professional clubs are going to fill their lineups with righties against him.
Rolison’s athleticism and stuff make him seem like a safe pick. If nothing else, he’ll be a backend starter or a good lefty bullpen piece. The one thing I worry about is his control. He walked 41 hitters in 88.1 innings. That’s way too many. He’ll have to get that under control if he hopes to be a major league starter.
Grayson Rodriguez – RHP – Central Heights High School
Another big right hander from Texas who throws pretty hard, Rodriguez will probably go somewhere at the back of the first round or just after it. Unlike most prep pitchers, Rodriguez has already filled out his 6’5” frame so he probably won’t gain much strength going forward.
Not that he needs to. Rodriguez already sits 92-94 with his fastball, which has downward plane from his nearly over the top arm slot. He uses a curveball, slider, changeup mix with differing opinions on which might develop into his out pitch. All the secondary pitches could use more consistency, but I like his curveball which at its best, has tight break, plenty of depth, and sits in the high 70s. Others like his slider more, a low 80s offering. To each their own.
Rodriguez needs to refine those secondary pitches, and if he can turn one into a true out pitch and refine his command, he’ll have the potential to make it to the front end of a rotation. If not, back end innings eater seems like a probable future.