The 2016 Draft Class – Pitchers

Out of 21 pitchers drafted, the Royals are down to 9.  Of course, the biggest success stories so far are Richard Lovelady, Grant Gavin, and Walker Sheller.  Those three are throwing in the Arizona Fall League right now.  Lovelady won the 2018 Omaha Pitcher of the Year award.  Vines, Gavin, and Sheller made it to NWA last year while Lovelady cemented himself in at Omaha.  Bender and Camp should make it to NWA this season in some capacity.  The only guy mentioned so far that consistently made starts is Vines and he may end up in the pen one day.  If the Royals get these six guys to the MLB bullpen, it will be an amazing draft.  All six have a legit shot to make it.

Pick Name P Notes
2.67 AJ Puckett RHP Puckett was traded with LHP Andre David to the White Sox for Melky Cabrera in the infamous 2017 playoff push. He missed all of 2018 with injury. It was still the right move to go for it in the first WC position with more than 2 months to go.
4.133 Jace Vines RHP Vines made it to NWA during last season making 7 starts and throwing 41.2 innings there. Over the course of the season between NWA and Wilmington, Vines threw 136.1 innings with a 5.48 ERA, 11.5 H/9, 2.84 BB/9, and 5.74 K/9. Vines did a really good job limiting the walks but he just couldn’t seem to get enough swings and misses. Vines had a 9% Swinging Strike percentage in 2017 and again in 2018. Vines highest game K total over the last two years is 7 which he has done 4 times, the latest at Springfield on July 26 in 7.1 innings. Vines is also giving up quite a few hits. He is going to have to develop a new pitch or tighten up some pitches in order to lower the H/9 rate. One of the knocks on him coming out of Texas A&M was he tends to get the ball up in the zone. Watching him make a start last year in Springdale I saw this tendancy rearing its ugly head. Vines could be a good piece in a Royals uniform but he will have to get those issues mentioned under control. He may end up in the bullpen where his stuff may play up a little.
7.223 Travis Eckert RHP Eckert was suspended by MiLB for 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse in November 2017. He has since retired.
9.283 Walker Sheller RHP Sheller is a guy the Royals like. He is currently in the Arizona Fall League working on his stuff. I’ve written before that Sheller needs to answer the question where have the strikeouts gone with his performance going forward. In 2018 he worked 57.1 innings, mostly at NWA, and put up a 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2.51 BB/9, and 5.18 K/9. Sheller’s FIP and xFIP don’t back up his results so far. There is concern that there will be negative regression for him because of this and the lack of his Ks. Sheller is up to 96 at times with a slider and change. If he can find a way to lower the hits and raise the Ks, he is a viable option in the Royals pen going forward.
10.313 Richard Lovelady LHP Lovelady is the best known pitching prospect from this draft class. He was the 2018 Omaha pitcher of the year. Lovelady is a career reliever for the Royals with a 2.02 career ERA with a 0.97 WHIP, 6.19 H/9, 2.57 BB/9, and 9.73 K/9 in three years. Lovelady gets ground balls at a high rate and gets a lot of swings and misses. His groundball rate was right at 50% in Omaha and his SwS % was right around 12% which was a touch below his career average. Lovelady is a legit prospect for the Royals and will get a long look in spring training this season. If he doesn’t make the team right away, expect him up at some point during the year.
12.373 Jeremy Gwinn RHP Gwinn was released after the 2017 season.
14.433 David McKay RHP McKay was released on Valentine’s Day this year before signing with the Seattle organization. He pitched most of the year at Double-A Arkansas and faced the Naturals multiple times throwing 11.2 innings and giving up 2 ERs. I saw him pitch a few times and he was 94.
15.463 Mike Messier LHP Messier was released in late June.
17.523 Dillon Drabble RHP Battled shoulder and elbow issues in 2018. He only threw in 2 games for Lexington this year.
18.553 Vance Tatum LHP Tatum was released in July after pitching 19 games with Wilmington.
19.583 Tyler Fallwell RHP The Royals released Fallwell after the 2017 season. He picked up with the Phillies organization in July of 2018.
20.613 Anthony Bender RHP Bender was a big arm the Royals drafted out of JuCo. He has pitched out of the pen with some spot starts so far in the minors. Bender gives up close to a hit per inning but limits runners because he keeps his walks down. His career WHIP is 1.28. Bender hasn’t gotten high strikeout numbers but throws 95 with a K/9 rate of 7.21. As he moves forward he will need to refine his slider. Bender will probably start in NWA next year.
22.673 Cody Nesbit RHP Nesbit was released by the Royals in March of 2018.
27.823 Rex Hill LHP PItched one year for the Royals before being released early in 2017.
29.883 Grant Gavin RHP Gavin is pitching in the Arizona Fall League for the Royals. He has had a great fall up to this point. He has been pitching out of the pen for the Royals since he was drafted out of Central Missouri. So far in his career, Gavin has a 2.26 ERA in 167.1 innings pitched with a 1.06 WHIP, 3.01 BB/9, and 9.84 K/9. His WHIP and BB/9 rate went up and his K/9 dropped last year in NWA. Before his promotion to AA, he was tearing up Wilmington to the rate of 12.31 K/9. He will need to adjust to the AA level and get his BB/9 rate back down but he has a chance to make it to the bigs as a reliever especially with how he is pitching in Arizona.
30.913 Geoffrey Bramblett RHP Bramblett was released after the 2017 season.
31.943 Malcolm Van Buren RHP Van Buren is in Arizona for instructs with the Royals. I saw him pitch in Burlington this summer. Van Buren is just 19 as he was a 17 year old draft pick out of high school. He threw 33.1 innnings at Burlington this year and struggled with base runners. His walk rate was sky high as he put up 8.37 BB/9. However, he also put up a 10.00 K/9 rate. He is a wild card who has to get his control ironed out to continue to move forward. He is young, he throws hard, and he probably has one more year to prove he can control his stuff.
34.1033 Nathan Webb RHP Webb was drafted out of Lee’s Summit HS. He has pitched at each of the rookie level affiliates and has a career 6.99 ERA. His career WHIP is 1.71, his BB/9 is 5.06, and his K/9 is 7.71. Webb pitched out of the rotation last season at Burlington but moved to the pen this year in Idaho Falls.
36.1093 Alex Massey RHP Massey pitched for the Burlinton Royals in 2016 and ended up on the voluntarily retired list in March of 2017.
37.1123 Justin Camp RHP Camp has been a career relieve for the Royals pitching in 77 games so far. He has a 2.78 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP, 7.79 H/9, 3.67 BB/9, and 7.71 K/9. Camp should move up to NWA this coming season as he has pitched well at Burlington, Lexington, and Wilmington. He has 79.1 career innings at Wilmington.
40.1213 Taylor Kaczmarek RHP Released after one season at Arizona.
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