Royals fans don’t have a lot of faith in the front office to make bold, innovative, and ultimately effective decisions, especially when it comes to the draft. Sure, they won a World Series, but the Dayton Moore front office has spent more years below .500 than they have competing for rings. And the origin for most of that failure can be tracked back to poor drafting, with first-round picks like Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, Ashe Russell, Nolan Watson, and others falling well short of expectations.
So, fans are justified in their skepticism of any pick the team makes, and I’ve heard quite a bit of skepticism around their decision to take Brady McConnell with the 44th selection this year.
But I’m here to say that McConnell at 44 is a stone cold brilliant pick, a master stroke of evaluation, projection, and draft strategy.
Don’t get me wrong, like any prospect, he may flop hard and end up selling car insurance in Poughkeepsie in two years. But to even get him shows excellent vision and foresight on the part of the Moore front office, which usually isn’t their strong suit.
To understand this, consider another recent draftee from the University of Florida, Jonathan India. India was drafted fifth overall by the Reds in 2018. For a while, people wondered if he might go top-3 after a blazing hot start to his junior year. He ended up hitting .350/.497/.717 as a junior to secure his place in the top-5.
This was after two average seasons at Florida. India had some hype behind him going into college just like McConnell. He played at one of the most prestigious baseball factories in the country—American Heritage High School in Delray Beach, Florida. In his sophomore year, though, India disappointed, hitting just .274/.354/.429, not terrible, but certainly not good enough to get drafted in the top-5.
Like McConnell, India was a highly touted prep player who had one great season at Florida before getting drafted. India’s season was better than McConnell’s, but India also had more time to adjust to college ball. Give McConnell another season, and he may put up astronomical numbers in the SEC. Of course, by then, the Royals may need to use a top-5 pick to get him.
What the Royals front office did was get in on the ground floor of McConnell. They recognized that he has plus tools and has started to tap into them. Instead of waiting for him to get another season of performance under his belt, they got a second player with loud tools with the 44th pick in the draft after getting Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick.
It takes great scouting to recognize when a player is being undervalued because of timing. McConnell is a draft-eligible sophomore with the tools to be a top-10 draft pick. He isn’t one because he got hurt after nine games of his freshman season and hasn’t fully developed his approach. But his power-speed combination is rare. The Royals front office understood the opportunity when they saw it.
Kuddos to them.
Photo Credits: UF Baseball Website