There isn’t much to get excited about with the big league club these days. Alcides Escobar still has a job … somehow. Hunter Dozier isn’t hitting. Even Salvy looks like he spent the offseason at the Escobar Camp for Kids Who Can’t Hit Good (and want to learn to do other things good too).
But the Royals’ most recent draftees offer a few glimmers of hope in the dreary world that is Royals fandom. Here is a far too early look at some of the 2018 Royals draftees having success so far.
Isbel is one of my favorite Royals draft picks from 2018 for two reasons. 1) He has a similar last name to Jason Isbell, the best song writer in the world (don’t @ me, bro). 2) He has a strong, all-around game with a hardscrabble makeup. Coming out of UNLV, Isbel struck me as a player with Jorge Bonifacio potential as a hitter and the ability to be above average in left and right field, average in center, and maybe average at second base. Plus, he has 60 to 65-grade speed on the bases and the instincts for swiping bags.
So far, Isbel has played exactly as expected. As an advanced hitter, he’s tearing up the Pioneer League to the tune of .329/.398/.519/917 with two home runs, nine walks, and 13 strikeouts. As an added bonus, he’s stolen eight bases, and he’s only been caught once.
Isbel’s played every outfield position, spending most of his time in center field. In 140 innings he has two errors and three assists.
It’s way too early to make any proclamations about Isbel, especially since he’s playing against less advanced prospects. But so far, he’s doing exactly what he should be.
Eaton is a lot like Isbel, though he’s more of a surprise for me. I expected Isbel, the Royals third round pick, to destroy rookie league pitching. I didn’t even know who Eaton was until very recently, but he’s forcing everyone in the Royals pundit community to take notice with his lava-hot start.
In 17 games and 74 plate appearances, Eaton is slashing a ridiculous .390/.514/.661/1.175 with 11 extra base hits, eight stolen bases, and 15 walks against just 12 strikeouts. The 21st round pick has no home runs so far, but his six doubles and five triples speak to the ability to put a change into the ball. And his 20 percent walk rate shows his advanced approach.
Clearly, Eaton is too advanced for the Pioneer League and needs to moved up. One thing holding him back is that he’s currently trying to find his position. He was a catcher at Virginia Military Institute, but he’s played a very poor third base and DH so far as a professional. He’s got five errors in 122 innings at third base for a .891 fielding percentage. Learning a new position is tough, but Eaton won’t be crying himself to sleep at night if he keeps hitting like this.
It’s early, and Lynch has only had three starts and 11.1 innings pitched, but he’s been everything the Royals hoped he’d be so far. In his 11.1 innings, Lynch has struck out 14 and walked only 2 while giving up 3 runs, 2 earned. That’s good for a 1.59 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.
After a shaky first outing, Lynch pitched well in his last two starts. In his most recent start, he threw five shutout innings, struck out six, walked none, and gave up only three hits.
I’m sure the Royals are watching Lynch’s innings and pitch counts very closely since he already pitched during the college season, but the Royals have to be happy with what they’ve seen so far.
It’s way, way too early to talk about Cox, but the writers at RFR love this guy (especially Drew), and in his very limited action he’s been lights out. The fifth round pick has made two starts, throwing a total of 6.2 innings. In those innings, he struck out 14 and walked three with a 0.90 WHIP. Opponents are hitting .125 against him.
Cox hasn’t given up an earned run yet, and has only allowed three hits in his six innings and change.
The sample size is almost non-existent, but what you want to see from college arms like Cox is someone coming in and striking out all these less advanced hitters, and that’s what Cox is doing. From the looks of things, his stuff is too good for his competition.
Jackson’s another player it’s way, way too early to talk about … but, hey, it’s my thing; I’ll talk about who I want. And I like Jackson a lot so it’s good to see he’s off to a good start in his limited playing time. In 11 games, Jackson has 42 plate appearances and has put up a very respectable .242/.405/.394/.799 as an 18-year-old in the Arizona League. He’s a year and half younger than league average, but he’s holding his own.
You may remember from our sparse profile on Jackson during the draft that I compared him to Rudy Martin, a Royals prospect with speed to burn an excellent on-base ability. So far, Jackson’s slash line is looking a lot like a Martin slash line with a high walk rate, some pop, and some swing-and-miss to his game. Jackson is 0-2 in stolen base attempts this season, but that’s almost certainly a function of the increased difficulty of stealing bases on professional pitchers and catchers. Jackson is probably learning that stealing bases is about more than being fast in the pros.
Still, his high walk rate so far is encouraging, as is his .163 ISO. It will be fun to see if Jackson can turn his superior athleticism into something special as a ball player in the next few years.
Photo credit: D1baseball.com