What. A. Day. The Royals, always the surprising tricksters, threw everyone a curveball by drafting exclusively college pitchers. Coming into the draft, many commentators expected the Royals to restock a farm system light on starting pitching prospects, but few predicted they’d focus so heavily on pitching.
Fewer still predicted they’d focus so heavily on college pitching. With a large crop of talented high school pitchers, many assumed the Royals would look to take a couple high-ceiling, prep arms and some bats.
But they didn’t.
So, here are some thoughts to sum up and assess a night of wild picks by the Royals, a night we may all look back on as a vital turning point of the next Royals championship … or the night that got Dayton Moore canned.
Overall Day One Grade: B-
1 (18) Brady Singer – RHP, University of Florida
My Grade: B
Grades from other RFR Writers: B+, A-, A+
This will be a divisive pick. Yes, Singer was highly regarded coming into this process. Some, like Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, thought he was a top-five player. Most mocked him inside the top five tonight. But he slid all the way to the Royals because scouts have concerns about his mechanics and ceiling. Some scouts think his mechanics may cause arm troubles, especially shoulder troubles, which really scares teams. Others feel that he doesn’t have a front end ceiling because his stuff isn’t electric.
I gave this pick a B because I think Singer probably won’t be a number one starter and may be hurt too frequently to make an impact at all as a starter. That said, I really like his plus command, and I think something has to be said for a pitcher who has dominated the SEC for years. The biomechanics of pitching aren’t an exact science. Some guys with odd mechanics who look like they should be injured every other pitch stay healthy for years (see Chris Sale). And sometimes pitchers are effective with just good stuff, excellent command, and pitchability, which Singer has.
Another point against this pick is that Nolan Gorman was available and they passed on him. He was then taken by the Cardinals with the next pick so those two are now linked forever.
1 (33) Jackson Kowar – RHP, University of Florida
My Grade: A-
As I see it, Kowar has more potential than Singer. At 6’5”, 180 pounds, Kowar has an electric fastball that sits in the mid-90s with an easy delivery. He could fill out that frame and take his stuff to the next level. Right now, his changeup is his best secondary pitch, which Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline both call a future 60 pitch.
This is probably the most “upside” pick of day one for the Royals, and like Singer, it might represent a steal. Kowar was mocked much higher than this in many earlier mocks.
1 (34) Daniel Lynch – LHP, University of Virginia
My Grade: C+
Lynch is kind of the left handed Kowar. He’s tall and skinny (6’6”, 195) with a fastball-slider combination. Lynch’s fastball has gained velocity this season, which shot him up draft boards as the season progressed. He’s been sitting in the 92-94 range, which is great for a lefty who, like Kowar, still has a little projection in him.
Lynch is probably the product of a bad pitching program at UVA. Many scouts feel they handle their pitchers poorly, and rumors circulated the Lynch took control of his own throwing program, which helped him gain velocity and status as a prospect. UVA does not have a great recent track record of successful pro pitchers.
If Lynch can develop his secondary stuff and add some bulk, he may end up a valuable starter in the big leagues. If not, he could always be a valuable reliever.
Lynch gets a C+ here not because of him but because of who was still on the board when they took him. Kumar Rocker, Ethan Hankins, and Owen White were all still on the board, as was Xavier Edwards. All of those players represent more upside than Lynch, and the Royals didn’t draft enough upside in this draft.
Competitive balance round – Kris Bubic – LHP, Stanford
My Grade: B+
I like Bubic a lot, mostly thanks to this excellent profile from Patrick Brennan here at RFR. Bubic has a funky delivery in the Clayton Kershaw mold. He doesn’t have Kershaw stuff, but he’s got a deceptive delivery from the left side.
Bubic was nails for Stanford this year. He posted a 2.62 ERA in 86 innings with 101 strikeouts and 31 walks. That’s too many walks, but maybe they can smooth that out.
He’s not a flame thrower, but he sits in the low 90s and can kick it up a notch to 94 when needed. He’s got a really good changeup (a theme with the pitchers the Royals took), and he throws an average curveball.
2 (58) – Jonathan Bowlan, RHP, Memphis
My Grade: D
This is the real head scratcher. You can criticize the Royals for not going for enough upside up to this point, but at least they went with well regarded players. Lynch was a helium guy. Singer and Kowar were both considered slides. But Bowlan?
Bowlan is Baseball America’s 230th ranked draft prospect (Fangraphs’ 116th). 230 and 116! And the Royals took him with the 58th pick. Trust me, they could have gotten him much later.
He represents very little upside. Unlike Kowar and Lynch, he’s already completely developed in terms of his body. He didn’t face top-notch competition like Singer and Kowar, and he doesn’t have electric stuff or command. He’s the type of guy you draft in the 5-10 rounds and hope on.
Overall, this isn’t a bad collection of pitchers. Singer and Kowar will certainly be the top two pitchers in the Royals system immediately, and we could look back on both as steals if they reach their ceilings.
But it seems like the Royals passed on a lot of high ceiling guys to take higher floor guys. And when a team has a lot of picks and pool money, it seems like a better strategy to identify some high ceiling guys and go get them. The issue with the Royals farm system is that it lacks marquee talent, especially starting pitching. They added talent for sure, but they didn’t go for the guys people think might be superstars. Instead, they went for guys who seem like safe choices … in a sport and position that really have no safe choices.
Photo Credit: Baseball America