I’ve been writing a few different editions of this same basic post for a while now. The problem I’m running into is that there are like 10 different directions I can see Kansas City going this summer and a few involve them taking a prep bat. It feels like there are certain players that have played their way out of consideration at #7 (Leiter is surely going 1 or 2 and others have fallen off) and others have played their way in. With that said, would it surprise anyone if the Royals took K-State LHP Jordan Wicks for $2.5M under slot value and saved the money for their next pick at #43 (think Dozier/Manaea). This is why it’s starting to become difficult to project who is worth following and who isn’t. In any case, I’m going to keep updating you on some college guys I like regardless if the talent is that of a normal #7 overall pick. Just keep in mind that there could be some draft day shenanigans that keep all of these guys in play at both #7 and #43.
SS Matt McLain, UCLA
The last time I wrote this update, on April 5th, McLain was slashing .284/.385/.471/.856 with 10 XBH. Over the last couple of weeks, McLain has raised his season average from .284 to .313 and is now slashing .313/.408/.580/.988. He doubled his HR total from 4 to 8 and his XBH total from 10 to 17. McLain’s K% is down to a respectable 14.8% and he’s still walking in 13.6% of his PA. This is the Matt McLain that I think most draft pundits thought we would see all along. If he keeps hitting like this, his defense will absolutely justify consideration for KC at #7 in July. I wasn’t the biggest fan of McLain’s coming into the spring, but if he keeps hitting like this, I’ll be completely on board.
RHP Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt
Much was made about Rocker’s velo dip a few weeks ago, dropping from 94-96 to 89-93 over several starts, but he was back to his normal self last weekend against Tennessee. If folks want to make a spectacle about a couple of weeks about Rocker, let ’em. Please let this kid fall to KC at #7. There should be zero hesitation on GMDM’s part about pulling the trigger if he falls. Rocker’s ERA still sits at 1.64 in 55 IP, to go with 81 K and just 15 BB. The kid is a unique talent unlike anyone I’ve seen pitch before and there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’ll be a fantastic professional.
C Adrian Del Castillo, Miami
Del Castillo still isn’t my favorite option for KC at #7, but there’s been whispers of the Royals being interested in the Hurricanes’ backstop so I’ll keep mentioning him. Del Castillo is currently slashing .303/.408/.462/.870 with just 3 HR and 12 total XBH in 32 games. He’s a fine backstop with a projectable bat, but I just think there’s plenty of better options unless you’re getting him under slot value or talking him down to #43. The best thing Castillo has going for him at the moment is the fact he’s walking more than he’s striking out (17 BB to 15 K) and it’s pretty wide open after the first three picks or so.
CF Jud Fabian, Florida
I believe there’s a legitimate chance that the Royals could save some money with their pick at #7 to swing Fabian down to #43. Fabian has become incredibly polarizing amongst draft folk because he has the tools of a top 5 pick and also struck out 51 times in 138 AB. He’s currently slashing .246/.348/.558/.906 with 12 HR and 19 total XBH. He’s a solid defender in CF and has tremendous upside, something KC could use in the system, but I legitimately have no idea what exactly to think about Fabian at the moment.
3B Alex Binelas, Louisville
Alex Binelas has continued to get better and better as this season has gone on. He broke his hamate bone early on in 2020 and just didn’t look right to begin 2021. He got off to a horrid start, and two weeks ago was slashing just .212/.317/.424/.741 with 4 HR, 11 XBH, 26 K, and 12 BB. He is now slashing .246/.333/.569/.902 with 10 HR, 20 total XBH, 32 K, and 14 BB. Much like McLain, if Binelas keeps hitting like this down the stretch, teams may be willing to look past his start and put him right back into conversations as a top 10-12 pick.
C Henry Davis, Louisville
Davis has become one of my two favorite options for KC at #7. Davis is a marvelous defender behind home plate, with a rocket for an arm, and has absolutely torched pitchers all spring. He’s currently slashing .403/.529/.664/1.193 with 8 HR and 15 total XBH in 33 games. He’s walked 28 times and struck out just 12 (!!!) and has hit some absolute lasers over the fence for the Cardinals. He’s also got 10 steals on the year, demonstrating some raw athleticism and baseball savvy for MLB teams. I have no idea if Davis is on the Royals’ radar or not, but he’s certainly in the middle of mine.
RHP Ty Madden, Texas
Considering the Royals had already drafted Madden once, he felt like a really good option for KC at #7 this summer. In 58.1 IP this spring, Madden has 65 K and just 21 BB to go with a 1.54 ERA for the Longhorns. His fastball has consistently run up to 98 mph and his slider is absolutely wicked. The concern is perhaps that Madden lacks any kind of a useful third pitch, but the Royals have had some recent success with guys that are predominantly fastball/slider.
LHP Jordan Wicks, K-State
The reason that teams are going to shy away from Wicks early in the draft is the same reason he’s currently got a 3.42 ERA in 55.1 IP despite having 73 K and just 16 BB: he’s given up 52 hits, mostly due to the lack of a dominant fastball. Wicks’ changeup might legitimately be a top 5 pitch in the entire draft class, but his fastball sits 89-91 and just doesn’t get the job done all the time. If Wicks can get ahead of hitters, his changeup is a legitimate out pitch. If he falls behind and has to rely on his fastball, it simply isn’t good enough for him to dominate in a way that you’d like from a top 15 pick. Could the Royals under slot him at #7, or give him a bit over slot at #43? Absolutely. At the moment, though, those might be his only two options if he’s going to wind up in KC.
OF Christian Franklin, Arkansas
Christian Franklin and Jud Fabian are sort of in the same draft basket at the moment. Great production, phenomenal athletes, lots of swing and miss issues. Franklin is currently slashing .292/.429/.585/1.014 with 9 HR and 19 total XBH on the year, to go with 8 SB and + defense in CF for the Razorbacks. He’s also struck out 42 times in 130 AB. There’s been whispers of the Royals sniffing around Franklin this spring, as the former Rockhurst HS star plays with GMDM’s son down in Fayetteville. Depending on how the first 6 picks unfold, I really think there’s a non-zero chance Franklin could be the pick at #7.
RHP Sam Bachman, Miami-Ohio
Bachman has only thrown 6 IP over the last couple of weeks, and injuries are now part of his profile. He may have the best raw stuff in the class, with a fastball that reaches 101 mph, but at what cost are you bringing him into the system? He’s got 43 K and just 8 BB in 26 IP this year, but will the medicals check out? As long as he’s throwing even a little bit he’ll continue to appear here.
OF Sal Frelick, Boston College
It wasn’t the best couple of weeks for Frelick, who will probably have to do everything right to be considered at #7 considering the competition he faces at Boston College. Frelick is currently slashing .358/.433/.562/.995 in 33 games for the Eagles. Frelick is a + athlete with a short, powerful stroke and a history of multi-sport success (was a highly thought of QB and hockey player in HS). Frelick would probably have to go under slot at least a little bit to go #7, but at this point, with this draft class, nothing would surprise me if Frelick can finish the year hot.