Today ought to be a lot of fun. The Royals are probably going to get swept by Cleveland, putting them in a good position to continue solidifying their draft position in 2022. Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto are going to play in the All-Star Future’s Game in Denver, Colorado, one of the premier prospect events of the entire season. Then later tonight, the 2021 MLB Draft will begin with the Royals making the 7th overall pick, their third consecutive top-10 pick. This is going to be something of a lengthy article, but I’m going to break it down into sections as best I can so that you can find whatever it is you came here looking for, quickly. Just know that everything you could possibly hope to find about the 2021 MLB Draft (specifically as it pertains to the Royals) will be contained in this article somewhere. There will be embedded Tweets, articles, “What to Know” sections, videos, etc. This evening around 6:00 pm CT you will find Joel and I on Periscope, live on Twitter, breaking down the draft and answering any questions you guys still may have. For now, enjoy this article and enjoy today. Great day for fans of semi-professional and amateur baseball!
Draft Coverage From The Guys Here At RFR
- Marcus breaks down why the “Best Player Available” argument has some holes in it.
- Alex wrote up our final, official 2021 MLB Draft Rankings
- Here is the link to our podcast recording with Joe Doyle of Prospects Live and with Jeff Ellis, both of whom are experts on the MLB Draft and the prospects eligible to be selected in the draft.
- Here is the link to our podcast recording with Mason McRae, who is as connected as anyone as to the happenings of the MLB Draft.
- Prospects Live ran a huge, simulated mock draft that they were generous enough to include me in. I made picks #7, #43, and #66 for the Royals.
- Hayden wrote up his top 5 options for KC at #7.
- At Royals Review, Max had a group of us on to answer some questions about the draft in a roundtable format.
- At Royals Weekly, Marcus and Mike had me on to talk about the draft and Kumar Rocker.
How Can I Watch And Follow This Year’s Draft?
- When: Sunday, July 11th, at 6:07 PM (Round 1 and Comp Round A)
- Day 2 begins Monday at noon; Day 3 begins Tuesday at 11 am
- How to watch: MLB Network (ESPN for Day 1)
- Royals first three picks: 7, 43, and 66
- Link to the MLB Draft Tracker
Who Do The Pundits Think The Royals Will Take?
- ESPN: Kumar Rocker
- FanGraphs: Kumar Rocker
- Baseball America: Kumar Rocker
- CBS: Kumar Rocker
- MLB Pipeline: Kumar Rocker
- Mason McRae: Kumar Rocker
- Jeff Ellis: Kumar Rocker
- Prospects Live: Will Taylor
Who Have The Royals Drafted In Recent Years?
Here are the top 5 picks for KC from each of the past 5 drafts and the level they are currently playing at:
1) Asa Lacy, LHP – High-A
2) Nick Loftin, SS – High-A
3) Ben Hernandez, RHP – Low-A
4) Tyler Gentry, OF – High-A
5) Christian Chamberlain, LHP – High-A
1) Bobby Witt Jr., SS – AA
2) Brady McConnell, SS – Low-A
3) Alec Marsh, RHP – AA
4) Grant Gambrell, RHP – Traded to Boston
5) Michael Massey, 2B – High-A
1) Brady Singer, RHP – MLB
2) Jackson Kowar, RHP – AAA
3) Daniel Lynch, LHP – AAA
4) Kris Bubic, LHP – MLB
5) Jonathan Bowlan, RHP – AA
1) Nick Pratto, 1B – AA
2) MJ Melendez, C – AA
3) Evan Steele, LHP – INJ
4) Daniel Tillo, LHP – AAA
5) Michael Gigliotti, CF – Traded to Tampa Bay
1) AJ Puckett, RHP – Traded to Chicago (AL)
2) Khalil Lee, OF – Traded to Boston
3) Jace Vines, RHP – AAA
4) Nicky Lopez, MIF – MLB
5) Cal Jones, OF – Retired
Out of the 25 guys that KC has drafted with their first 5 picks from the past 5 drafts, 13 have been college pitchers and there are only 6 total high school players among the group, and only one of those 6 prep kids is a pitcher. So, if there’s one conclusion we can draw from that, it’s probably that the Royals are going to stay away from prep pitchers with their first few picks in the upcoming draft. As the current core of prospects begins to reach the upper levels of the minor leagues, I’d look for Kansas City to stay predominantly college heavy, but also for them to take at least one shot on a higher ceiling prep type with one of their first three picks, as they’ve done every year besides 2018.
If Someone Else Drafts Kumar Rocker, Who Are The Most Likely Options For Kansas City?
I know most Royals fans are honed in on Vanderbilt RHP Kumar Rocker, and I still think he’s the *most likely* player that Kansas City walks away with this evening, but I also think there is a chance that Boston, Arizona, and even Baltimore (to a lesser extent) could have some interest as well. Let’s say Arizona takes Rocker, which I actually think makes a ton of sense. Then who should Kansas City fans expect the Royals to take?
To me, it will most likely depend on which of the prep SS is still available. One of Kahlil Watson or Brady House seems to be the most likely scenario. I will say this, however, that if Louisville catcher Henry Davis somehow falls to KC, I would think that GMDM and company scratch their plans and just take him. Same applies to Dallas, TX, native Jordan Lawlar. Lawlar is the best prep SS in the draft in my opinion but I still think there is a chance he could be there for KC (albeit a very, VERY small chance). Lawlar and Davis falling would probably imply that Watson, House, and Rocker all went in the top 6, so I don’t *think* we’d have to worry about KC choosing between 3 or 4 of those guys for any reason.
The wildcard at play here in my mind is prep CF Will Taylor. I’ve heard whispers of his name being thrown around but I don’t really understand what scenario forces KC to take him? Maybe if the Royals have him like, 9th on their board, but no real gap between him and their 7th favorite player. So, for instance, their top 6 are all gone on a whim, and they can get their 9th favorite player for 65% the cost of their 7th favorite player, then MAYBE…still, I’d expect KC to go with whom the public sees as the best player available without playing too many slot games.
What Is A Slot Game…?
To make things as easy as possible, here’s a very quick breakdown of how “slot bonuses” work”
- Each draft slot (#1, #2, #3, etc.) inside of the first 10 rounds has a designated “slot value”
- Each player drafted in the first 10 rounds receives a signing bonus on their contract for joining the club that drafted them
- The “slot value” for the Royals first pick at #7 overall is worth $5,432,400
- If the Royals agree to a signing bonus with a player worth $5,000,000, then they can use the $432,400 of “slot value” they saved on that player and give it to another player down the road
- In total, the Royals can only spend $10,917,700 on their picks inside the first 10 rounds without being penalized
- Therefore, saving money on one player allows them to offer more money to another player later in the draft
- One reason a team may do this is to try to convince a player that is committed to go to college to enter professional baseball instead
When Can We Expect These Players To Be In The Big Leagues?
Looking back at the list of Royals previous draft picks should give you a pretty good clue here. It can often times take a player drafted out of high school 4-5 years to reach the big leagues. So if the Royals draft Brady House, a prep SS from Georgia, it may be 2025 until House is even close to be ready for the big leagues. You always have guys like Bobby Witt Jr. who look like they’re ready in ~3 years, but this is an outlier, not the norm.
For college kids, the “Road to the Show” can be much quicker, with many top drafted college kids reaching the big leagues in 2-3 years. This should be the expectation for someone like Kumar Rocker or Henry Davis especially, two of the best college players in this entire draft class. I think it’s reasonable to expect Rocker to be ready around the beginning of the 2024 season, if not towards the end of 2023. It’s a good reminder that this is not like the NFL Draft, where you can draft a player in the 5th round and start them on Opening Day.
Are There Any Local Kids I Should Be Watching For?
Yes! Here is a quick list of some kids that are local and semi-local that could be drafted fairly early this year:
- Jordan Wicks, LHP, K-State
- Carter Jensen, C, Park Hill High School (MO)
- Ben Kudrna, RHP, Blue Valley Southwest High School (KS)
- Dylan Dodd, LHP, Southeast Missouri State
- Hayden Juenger, RHP, Missouri State
- Seth Halvorsen, RHP, Mizzou
- Mason Green, LHP, University of Central Missouri
- Carson Seymour, RHP, K-State
- Alex Cook, RHP, Colby CC
- Spencer Schwellenbach, SS, Nebraska
- Cade Povich, LHP, Nebraska
- Christian Franklin, OF, Arkansas (Rockhurst HS grad)
- Kevin Kopps, RHP, Arkansas
- Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas
- Patrick Wicklander, LHP, Arkansas
- Jalen Battles, SS, Arkansas
How Do You Think The First 7 Picks Go Down?
I’m glad you asked. Here is the only sort of mock that we’ve released here at the site. For what it’s worth, I don’t think anyone knows what is going to happen tonight. I am so excited to watch this draft because I think it could be bonkers all night. With that said, here is what my gut is telling me and here is how I officially think the draft goes down tonight (for the first 7 picks anyway):
- Pittsburgh Pirates – Henry Davis, C, Louisville
- Texas Rangers – Jack Leiter, RHP, Vanderbilt
- Detroit Tigers – Marcelo Mayer, SS, Eastlake HS (CA)
- Boston Red Sox – Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt
- Baltimore Orioles – Colton Cowser, OF, Sam Houston State
- Arizona Diamondbacks – Kahlil Watson, SS, Wake Forest HS (NC)
- Kansas City Royals – Jordan Lawlar, SS, Jesuit Prep HS (TX)
Looking at what the Pittsburgh Pirates are building…this just makes too much sense. We know the Rangers love Leiter. Detroit will be drooling over themselves at the chance to sign Mayer. Boston wants to go college and the first two guys on their list are already gone. Baltimore under slots Cowser like they did a bit with Kjerstad last year. Arizona makes their choice between Watson and Lawlar and then the Royals take the best of the bunch leftover. The only way this gets difficult for KC, in my opinion, is if Baltimore goes Lawlar. Then, in this scenario, I wouldn’t be surprised if KC goes House over Watson, though that’s 50/50 in my book.
So there ya go. I said earlier this week that, if you made me bet $100 on who KC winds up with, I’d bet it on Brady House, the prep SS from Georgia. I just think KC lucks into my favorite player of the draft tonight. Call me crazy because you’ll probably be right.
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen I just think that no one else does either so I gave it my best shot for you too.
Oh, and don’t forget, just in case…….
Happy Draftmas, Royals fans. I hope the Royals draft whoever it is you want them to draft!
Photo Credits: George Walker IV, Tennessean.com