The Kansas City Royals were able to sign all of their 21 picks from the 2021 MLB Draft. As the instructional league and the Arizona Fall League have kicked off, I thought it would be great to dive into some updates on the Royals’ picks, focusing specifically on the first three rounds of the draft. In the first three rounds, the Royals had four picks and selected three high school players (2 pitchers and a catcher) and one college second baseman.
Rounds 1 – 3
Frank Mozzicato, LHP (1st Round, 7th Overall)
The Royals took the high school lefty out of the state of Connecticut with their 7th overall pick. They signed him for nearly $1.9 million under the slot estimate. Chris Clegg from Fantrax posted a recent video of Mozzicato out of the instructional league. He was sitting around 90 to 91 mph with his fastball. His curveball is by far his best-offspeed pitch, and it has made a strong showing in the instructs. The pitch has a very high spin rate as well as some great life to it. There is a ton of room for Mozzicato to grow into his 6’3 and 175lbs frame. From the small video sample size I have seen, he seems to have a good repeatable delivery and the ability to pound the strike zone. A significant step in his development will be avoiding mistakes in the zone that he could get away with in high school and fine-tuning his command at the pro level. He could see some increased velocity as he grows and makes his way through professional baseball. The ability to sign Mozzicato under slot money was part of why the Royals took him 7th overall, but they also feel like there is a ton to like with his projections.
Ben Kudrna, RHP (2nd Round, 43rd Overall)
Ben Kudrna was by far my favorite pick the Royals took in the 2021 MLB Draft. The Royals were able to sign up for about $1.3 million above the allotted slot amount and kept him from attending Louisiana State. Chris Clegg was again on the case with some great recent footage of Kudrna in instructional league. He sat 95-97 mph and topped out at 98 mph with his fastball and has above-average offspeed pitches with his changeup and slider. Just like Mozzicato, he has a chance to build on his frame given his young age. He had about average command going into the draft, and there is still plenty of time for Kudrna to build on that. His stuff altogether is better than Mozzicato, and I believe that Kudrna might have a higher ceiling.
Peyton Wilson, 2B (2nd Round Comp Pick, 66th Overall)
The Royals diverted away from high school arms by taking second baseman Peyton Wilson out of the University of Alabama with their 2nd Round Comp Pick. He started the year by playing 23 games in the Arizona Complex League and the Columbia Fireflies in Low A. In a small sample size of 74 at-bats, Wilson slashed .216/.341/.392 with a .733 OPS, ten walks, and seven stolen bases. Along with that, he maintained a decent walk rate and strikeout rate in his first taste of pro ball. Wilson has plus-plus speed as well as an above-average defender who has a plus arm. In some of the footage I watched, he showed a bit of aggressiveness at the plate, so he may need to work on his ability not to chase pitches. I like the tools Wilson carries. He can be a productive big leaguer, and an ETA for him is probably around 2024.
Carter Jensen, C (3rd Round, 78th Overall)
I wrote a lot about Jensen already in my coverage of five ACL/DSL players to watch. Carter Jensen was one of my favorite players to watch in the Arizona Complex League. He is considered one of the best hitting high school catchers in the draft, even though there are some questions on whether he sticks at catcher or not. Jensen took the ACL by storm out of the gate by slashing an incredible .455/.571/.682 in his first ten games in August. He showed good patience at the plate, walking ten times in 19 games. Even if he doesn’t make it as a catcher, Jensen might be the biggest steal for the Royals in the entire draft. The hit tool seems to be a lot better than advertised so far. There is still plenty of time to improve his defense behind the plate, specifically with his ability to receive the ball and solid arm.
Others to Watch
Shane Panzini, RHP (4th Round, 108th Overall)
Shane Panzini had committed to playing baseball at the University of Virginia, but the Royals paid him WELL ABOVE slot value to get him to Kansas City. On draft day, reports stated that his fastball was consistently in the 95 mph range. His slider and changeup have looked to be his best-offspeed pitches, even though he also has a curveball in his arsenal. Based on what I have seen so far, his main goal in development will be to tighten up his offspeed pitches and his command. There is some reliever risk if he doesn’t shore up those issues, but he could stick as a starter if he develops in those two areas.
Eric Cerantola, RHP (5th Round, 139th Overall)
From Montreal, Canada, Cerantola was taken in the 5th Round out of Mississippi State. He is a very intriguing prospect as he can push his fastball up to 100 mph. He pairs that fastball with an elite curveball and average changeup. He has a lot of the tools you want to see in a potential starting pitcher, and it will be interesting to see if he hone in some of those areas that need improvement during his development.
Brennon McNair, SS (11th Round, 319th Overall)
The Royals also signed McNair above slot value. He got off to a blazing hot start in the ACL. He slashed .323/.432/.548 with a .981 OPS, two home runs, eight RBI, and four stolen bases in 10 games. He has immense upside, and I am excited to see what he has to offer as he develops over the next few years.
Tyson Guerrero, LHP (12th Round, 349th Overall)
The Royals selected Guerrero in the 12th Round out of the University of Washington, and he made his professional debut in 2021. Between the Arizona Complex League and Low A, he struck out 20 batters in 17 innings pitched. Guerrero is an exciting left-handed arm with a mid 90’s fastball, and his curveball is above-average. He needs to improve his command and projects to be a power arm out of the bullpen.
Luca Tresh, C (17th Round, 499th Overall)
It is not often you see a player get drafted and sent to the Arizona Fall League in the same year. Tresh’s playing time has been somewhat limited in the AFL, but the Royals see something special in him if they are willing to have him get his feet wet against some of the best prospects in baseball. During the regular season, he was far from overmatched in his debut in the Arizona Complex League, leading to a promotion to Low A. He struggled to adjust, and his strikeout rate was a bit higher than you would want to see, but it was still a small sample size. The raw power is his for sure his calling card, but he will need to refine his approach at the plate to take off to that next level.