2019 is going to be the most important year for the Kansas City Royals since the 2015 World Series championship season. That may not sound like much, but 2019 is also going to be the most important year for the Royals for the next decade as well. As Matt LaMar wrote over at Royals Review, 2019 could be the make-or-break year for the entire rebuild.
One thing that Matt didn’t mention in his article is the importance of the 2019 draft on the rebuild. He mentions multiple times however that the Royals system is thought of to be in the bottom third of baseball, somewhat due to the fact that it lacks a top-of-the-line prospect. This is where the 2019 draft reaches a conundrum, in my opinion.
Bobby Witt Jr. has widely been predicted to be selected in the top two picks of the 2019 MLB Draft. He’s a prep SS with massive power and crazy athleticism. He reminds me of Carlos Correa. He’s got that kind of star power and the potential to be a star in the big leagues very quickly.
But no prospect is perfect. There have been questions about Witt’s swing-and-miss issues (which may be a result of nitpicking) and his ability to stick at SS long-term. Is he better off at 3B? Could he be another potential Micky Moniak at the plate? Witt’s upside is tremendous, but prep prospects can be fickle at times.
Enter the Kansas City Royals. The Royals are more than likely going to have to make a decision at #2: Bobby Witt Jr. vs. the field. As I mentioned before, most people think the Royals will take Witt, but I wonder if the Royals may not take a different approach.
Let me explain that tweet.
- The Royals have shown us before that they’re willing to take a cheaper college option with their top 10 pick over a more talented prep player. In 2013 they drafted Hunter Dozier 8th overall, right in front of a guy in Austin Meadows that was seen as a more talented prep option. They used the money that they saved at #8 to sign Sean Manaea at #34. It’s totally possible that the Royals use this same draft strategy again in 2019.
- Then again, the 2013 draft didn’t exactly work out the way that Kansas City thought it would. Dozier destroyed the lower minors before sputtering a bit during his first couple of stints with AA. Once he got AA figured out, he looked like he was ready to assume an every day role in the big leagues until injuries put a halt to all of that.It’s sort of unfair to say the Dozier pick didn’t work out. Dozier hasn’t lived up to the pick, but a lot of that can be attributed to a slew of injuries. He’ll just be 27 for most of the season, and there’s still time for him to make himself a valuable big leaguer. Still, I wonder if the lack of success might steer the Royals away from deploying this draft strategy again in 2019.
It’s really hard to tell what the Royals will do at #2 this June. Bobby Witt Jr. is the potential super star. Adley Rutschman feels like a no-brainer if he somehow slips past Baltimore at #1. Andrew Vaughn is the best all-around hitter but he’s a 1B/DH. The pitching class is pretty weak. Bryson Stott and Kameron Misner are under-the-radar “helium” guys, and the good folks over at 247 Sports actually think it could be either Stott or Misner at #2 for KC.
Here’s one thing I know for sure: the Royals pick at #2 is the most important pick the Royals have made in 10 years and will make for the next 10 years.
The Royals are at the crux of their rebuild. They have a team in Wilmington that is coming off of a South Atlantic League Championship that will home most of the organization’s top prospects to begin 2019. If the Royals play their cards right in June, the player selected #2 overall shouldn’t be too far behind the core in Wilmington.
The player that the Royals select at #2 could very well make or break the rebuild. If the Royals hit at #2, they add a crucial piece to the puzzle and a potential top 50 prospect in baseball. If they miss, they could very easily set the rebuild back by a full season. The Royals MUST get a player that makes contributions at the major league level at #2. They HAVE to draft a guy that’s a sure-fire big leaguer.
But the Royals NEED Bobby Witt Jr. They NEED the highest ceiling in the draft and a guy that can be the corner stone of the rebuild. I love the group of prospects that the Royals have already begun to assemble, but the one thing that lacks from the group is a top 25 prospect with a perennial All-Star caliber projection. Bobby Witt Jr. provides that ceiling, but he’s also a riskier pick than someone like Andrew Vaughn or Bryson Stott.
So how will the Royals go about their #2 overall pick? Do they fork over the cash and take the gamble on the prep All-Star? Do they play it safe and go the college route? This will be the most interesting draft for KC in a while, perhaps even more so than the 5 college pitchers they took in the top 40 overall picks last year. What ever they choose, the Royals must get a major league contributor at #2 this June, and they desperately need a cornerstone piece to the puzzle as well. Hopefully they’ll be able to get both.
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