Going into this draft I’ve asked a lot of questions on what the Royals draft strategy should be. Should they take all position players? Should they mix it up? What about high school vs. college guys? I never suggested five pitchers. Dayton Moore did say that the Royals were going to target starting pitching but with five picks you knew that would happen. You just didn’t think that was all they would target.
To some extent, we’ve seen the Royals do this before. The Royals have drafted hitters and signed international free agent position players in the past and gathered them together creating a group of solid players close to each other in the minor league system. Remember they promoted those guys together in order to keep the wave of talent intact. Then the Royals used picks in the next few drafts to add quick moving college arms that moved faster than the group ahead of them. By doing this, the Royals created a secondary wave of talent that seemed to meet the other group about the time they were all becoming big league ready. By delaying some promotions and fast forwarding others, the rebuild was done perfectly. This strategy got the Royals to the 2014 World Series and then won the 2015 World Series. This was all accomplished through trades and roster supplementing to the guys we drafted, signed, and developed.
As the first round continued to go on last night, we started to get excited over here at Royals Farm that Matthew Liberatore or Brady Singer could be available when we picked. We had heard rumors that the Royals and Rays had offered several arms a lot of money to try to float them down the draft. Then the Rays took Liberatore at 16. When the Angels took Jordyn Adams at 17 removing that temptation from the Royals, it was finally our turn. Singer was our man.
It was a big surprise that Brady Singer was available. Singer was projected by some as number one overall before the 2018 season started. Florida pitchers have seemed to drop over the last few years and that was no different this year. AJ Puk dropped. Alex Faedo dropped. Now Brady Singer had dropped. And Jackson Kowar did as well. The Royals went all in on Singer, Kowar, and three more college arms on Day One. Daniel Lynch is a big LHP who struck out 13 against Georgia Tech this year. Kris Bubic was a pre-season All-American who matched that honor with his season and won Cape Cod Pitcher of the Year in 2017. Jonathan Bowlan struck out 18 batters in a game this year. There is some legit talent here.
As I was listening to Dayton Moore talk about the draft on the Royals broadcast, he basically said the Royals decided to do this exact thing again. Their goal was to supplement the talented position players they have in Wilmington and Lexington with a fresh influx of talented pitchers. Some of those position players included in Wilmington are Khalil Lee, Emmanuel Rivera, Xavier Fernandez, Meibrys Viloria, Gabriel Cancel, Chase Vallot, DJ Burt, Kort Peterson, and Chris DeVito. Some of those players at Lexington are Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, Michael Gigliotti, Seuly Matias, Dennicher Carrasco, Brewer Hicklen, and Sebastian Rivero.
Look at those position guys mentioned above and the pitchers that are already with them. The starters at Wilmington are Gerson Garabito, Jace Vines, Arnaldo Hernandez, Ofreidy Gomez, and a struggling Cristian Castillo. The rotation in Lexington is Nolan Watson, Garrett Davila, Janser Lara, Daniel Tillo, and Andres Sotillet. Carlos Hernandez is also in that group at Lexington. Evan Steele, Yefri del Rosario, and Charlie Neuweiler haven’t gotten out of extended spring yet and they will replace some of these guys.
Now add a rotation of Singer, Kowar, Lynch, Bubic, and Bowlan to that group. Were are you going to put them? Suddenly there should be enough pitching talent infused to the group to get them to the next level. And by the way, we haven’t even started the 3rd Round yet.
Dayton Moore also threw out a number that we need to keep in our memory. He believes that a team needs at least 20 average or better starting pitching prospects in order to produce two or three big league starters. This is due to injury, loss of stuff, under performance, and guys being moved to help supplement the roster. The Royals have acknowledged and admitted they have not developed pitchers and now they are working to change that. They have identified a weakness in their organization and are now taking drastic measures to fix it. Whether you agree with their draft strategy or not, you have to give them props for acknowledging and attempting to fix the problem.
We’ve heard it before and the Royals believe it and are really betting on it with this draft so far. “Pitching is the currency of baseball.”