Day three of the MLB draft is where teams make serious money plucking gems from obscurity. Nolan Ryan, Albert Pujols, Kenny Loften, Brett Saberhagen, Ryne Sandberg, and so many more (including the fabled Jarrod Dyson) were taken after the 10th round. For teams like the Royals, small-market teams that need to excel at drafting to manage costs, day three is crucial.
The Royals chose a few interesting prospects on day three, focusing heavily on small school and junior college players. In fact, they drafted only five high school players in the last 30 rounds.
Here’s a look at five day-three picks to keep an eye on as they get their pro careers started. They may not all sign (choosing instead to stay in school), and of course, there are others with potential. But these are a few guys I find particularly interesting.
Justin Hooper – LHP, UCLA, 14th round
Hooper is the type of player teams should take fliers on in the 14th round. A highly touted prospect before Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2018 and virtually all of 2019, Hooper possesses a rare and highly coveted profile: a big lefty who can throw hard. Or, at least, he used to throw hard, mid-90s in fact. It remains to be seen if he will regain the velocity he showed before his surgery; it also remains to be seen if he can find a way to control it, which was an issue for him. Baseball America’s report indicates that a dip in velocity during his Cape Cod stint in 2017 led to greater command. Of course, his diminished velocity could have been the result of a messed-up UCL rather than a conscious choice to dial it back to gain command.
Either way, getting a 6’8” lefty who may be able to throw 95 in the 14th round is always a good idea.
Adam Lukas – RHP, University of Evansville, 12th round
Lukas is another fireballer who can run it up to 95, and if he ever learns to control it, he may have something. A small-school pitcher, Lukas hurt himself during his junior year at the University of Evansville, walking 40 in 68 innings. But he also struck out 75. So, there’s stuff to work with including a spotty slider that may develop into his out pitch.
Lukas is a project reliever, but he’s got velocity, which is as good a place to start as any for a relief prospect.
Tyler Tolbert – SS, University of Alabama-Birmingham, 13th round
In case you didn’t know, the Royals like speed, and players who play up the middle. Tolbert has speed and plays shortstop. As a Blazer—the mascot of UAB where he played—he “blazed” (see what I did there?) the base paths with 41 stolen bases in 2019 against just nine times being caught. He has virtually no power to speak of, but he has shown the ability to take a walk and put the ball in play. His .283/.392/.383 slash line included 30 walks and just 34 strikeouts.
As a small-school guy, the step up in competition may be jarring for Tolbert, but he’s got at least one tool to work with, speed.
Burle Dixon – OF, Cosumnes River College, 18th round
Dixon may be one of the better known day-three picks for the Royals. He was actually a Baseball America top-200 player. At 6’5”, 185 pounds, Dixon is a big, athletic prospect who smashed the ball at Cosumnes River College (a junior college) this spring (.335/.474/.553), and if the Royals are able to sign him, they’ll have themselves a projectable outfielder with some raw tools. “Raw” is a key word there. Dixon needs to gain some strength and continue to refine his skills against better competition. He’s a test for the Royals’ ability to develop raw players with tools, but if they can harness his talent, the Royals may have something special.
Jimmy Govern – 2nd base, Eastern Illinois University, 30th round
— David Seifert (@DSeifertD1PBR) September 19, 2018
Just a moment to reflect on the interesting names of guys the Royals drafted this year (Jimmy Govern, Burle Dixon, John Rave … I love players with interesting names). Govern is an interesting guy because he has a track record of excellent performance at a small school. He’s a second baseman from Eastern Illinois University, and D1baseball ranked him number 86 on their list of the top-100 Analytical Hitters. Govern put up big numbers playing for the Fighting Romos, hitting around .330 in 2017, 2018, and 2019. His slash for this year was an impressive .326/.404/.609/1.013. Two big questions for Govern: 1) Can he play anything other than second base? 2) Can he handle the bump in competition?
Photo Credit: D1baseball