With the 44th pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Royals selected Brady McConnell, a shortstop from the University of Florida.
McConnell is a very Royals pick, an athletic up-the-middle defender who, despite being a college player, has plenty of upside. As a draft eligible sophomore who missed most of his freshman season, McConnell doesn’t have much of a track record, but this season, he’s showed scouts enough to put him in the Baseball America’s top-60 and MLB Pipeline’s top-40. For the Gators in 2019, he’s slashed .332/.385/.576 with 15 homeruns, 11 doubles, and six stolen bases.
His plus athleticism gives him plus running ability and potentially plus raw power. He’s got a quick right handed swing with plenty of leverage from his tall 6’3”, 195-pound frame. He starts from an open stance with low hands before moving into a short load. He takes a quick step in rather than an exaggerated kick with his front foot. He doesn’t fully engage his backside, choosing instead to lean forward as part of his transfer. This causes some balance issues and will hurt him against professional offspeed pitches (it hurt him against SEC offspeed pitches, as well).
His swing path is designed to hit the ball in the air with plenty of tilt. The swing will help him access his raw power, but his approach will need to improve to get the most out of his raw strength. He’s fooled by breaking pitches outside the zone too often and led the Gators in strikeouts with 57. So, he’s clearly got some swing and miss in his game.
In the field, McConnell has smooth hands and quick feet for a player with his height. He’s not a plodder at all. His strong arm allows him to make all the throws from short and could facilitate a move to third, as well.
This is such an interesting pick for the Royals because McConnell is still such an unknown. With so little information on him, he may blossom into a middle-of-the-order hitter. Or, he may never make it past advanced A-ball. He’s a little like Hunter Dozier when the Royals drafted him out of Stephen F. Austin. Dozier was seen as an athletic guy but ultimately a question mark because he didn’t play against elite competition. McConnell’s a question mark because he just hasn’t played very much.
Despite the fact that he has plenty of athleticism to stick at short, I think he will ultimately play more third base for the Royals. His power profiles there, and his size is more indicative of a third baseman. Not to mention, the Royals have Adalberto Mondesi and just drafted Bobby Witt Jr.
McConnell will be an interesting player to keep an eye on right away to see if his production this year and his raw tools can translate into success in pro ball.
Photo Credit: Dennis Adair