College prospects to watch for KC at #9

Welcome back. In December I released an article on some thoughts regarding the 2022 MLB Draft and some players to watch. You can read that here. The Royals will have the 9th overall pick in the draft this year, they’ll be looking to open their competitive window in 2023, and they have a strong farm system top to bottom that will be ready to supplement whatever needs the big league team has for the next three or four years…all except for a need in center field.

Luckily for the Royals there are a couple of really good college outfielders that might be able to hold it down in center field long-term. The college class in general is deep at the top, giving the Royals something of good fortune despite not having a top-5 pick heading into year five of their rebuild. No matter who gets drafted 1-8, there will be a talent available at #9 that could slot immediately into the Royals top-5 prospects or so (depending on who has graduated from the Royals preseason list by then). Whether the Royals choose to draft that talent or not will remain to be seen, but that person will almost certainly be available.

Let’s get into it. The college baseball season begins this weekend and to say that I am excited would be a wild understatement. We’ll have plenty of coverage on high school kids as the spring goes along, but college baseball has gotten a ton more run on ESPN lately and it’s far more reasonable that you could actually watch the college draft prospects than the high school kids. We’ll get into more detail later, but for now, here’s a list of guys I’ll have my eye on all spring among the college ranks for the Royals at #9 in this year’s draft.

Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt

  • + Defender
  • Good power traits
  • Good runner
  • Decent approach
  • Decent hit tool

Was injured for much of last spring and had a pretty substantial drop off after his injury. He’s being under rated right now because of that drop off, but he’s got a legitimate chance to go in the top 10 if he can prove he’s healthy and back to his old ways this spring.

Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly

  • ++ Hit tool
  • + Raw power
  • Switch hitter
  • Might have to move to 3B long-term

Lee is the son of Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee, so he’s got the bloodlines and upbringing you want in a top prospect. He’s not overly tall at just 6′ 1″, but he’s a big kid which has led some to believe he’s more likely to be a third baseman than short stop in the big leagues. He might be the best pure hitter in the draft class and if he hits 15+ HR this spring he’s probably going to be in the conversation at 1.1. That lack of elite raw power is the only thing keeping him in the conversation for MAYBE being there at #9 right now.

Jacob Berry, 3B, LSU

  • + Hit tool
  • ++ Raw power
  • Great approach
  • Not much of a defender

If Berry can prove he can play third base adequately, he too will be in the conversation to go in the top three overall picks. He’s a monster at the plate, might be the best college bat in the draft, but the defense is a bit suspect at the moment. Joel and I got to see him play Vanderbilt while he was with Arizona at the CWS last summer, and I can confidently say that Berry’s bat lives up to the hype. If Berry is the college bat that falls to #9 the Royals should count their lucky stars. The bat is so good. Kid could potentially help out the big league lineup as early as 2024.

Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech

  • + Hit tool
  • ++ Approach
  • ++ Raw Power
  • Not a great defender

Another candidate for best college bat in the class. Jung’s swing reminds me a little bit of Jason Kipnis the way he gets set up. From there, all he does is rake. Jung hit 21 home runs last spring with more walks than strikeouts. He’s not the defender or runner the Royals usually look for, but that should not matter. Jung, like Berry, should be an automatic pick at #9 if he’s there for whatever reason.

Brock Jones, OF, Stanford

  • + Runner
  • Chance to stick in CF
  • + Raw power
  • Slightly above average hit tool

There is more volatility with Jones than some of the other names on this list. He’s a tooled up outfielder that went to Stanford to play both baseball and safety on the football team. He struggled against LHP last year, and while he works a good count I’m still a little weary of the swing-and-miss. This spring will be the difference between Jones going in the top 10 or more like 20-30.

Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison

  • + Runner
  • ++ Arm
  • ++ Raw power
  • + Hit tool
  • Chance to stick in CF

A sneaky candidate to wind up going 1.1, DeLauter has more walks than strikeouts in his collegiate career and led the Cape Cod League in home runs last summer. This is the guy I’m praying falls to #9. Let literally anyone else go 1-8, this is my guy as we sit here on Valentine’s Day. Baseball America and MLB Pipeline have him going #8 to the Twins, which would just crush my soul after the Royals only finished one game above the Twins last year. Fingers crossed.

Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech

  • + Runner
  • Average hit tool
  • + Raw power
  • Chance to stick in CF

Cross was Baseball America’s pick for the Royals at #9 in their first mock that they released last week. Cross struck out 48 times and walked just 17 times last spring, but this speaks more to his approach than it does his hit tool. Cross actually makes a fair bit of contact, and he’s got some good raw power, he just swings more than you’d like an impact bat to swing. Anyway. He also hit 11 home runs and stole 9 bases last spring, and the tools are legit, so there’s some reason to think he could be an option at #9. There’s a few other guys I’d have ahead of him right now, but if the Royals think he can stick in CF long-term and be here by the end of 2024, I could see it.

Cam Collier, 3B, Chipola College

  • ++ Raw power
  • + Hit tool
  • ++ Athlete
  • Chance to be good at 3B

The only reason Collier is on this list is that he graduated from high school early to play at the Florida JUCO instead of his senior year of high school and he’s already going nuts. If you wanted to take the college hitter with the most upside remaining, Collier might be your guy. He’s still just 17 years old and has about as much ceiling left as any hitter in this draft not named Elijah Green. There are some four-year college standouts that provide a little bit of a safer pick, which would behoove the Royals in plenty of ways considering where they are in their rebuild, but Collier would be a ton of fun to add to the lower portion of a farm system that already contains the likes of Carter Jensen, Ben Kudrna, Darryl Collins, Frank Mozzicato, Erick Pena, etc.

Dylan Beavers, OF, California

  • + Runner
  • + Hit tool
  • + Raw power
  • + Defense in CF

A lot would have to go right for Beavers to be in play at #9, but I REALLY like the profile. Beavers hit 18 home runs and stole 12 bases for Cal last spring and while he did strike out a bit, the contact rates were in good shape and it’s probably more a result of being TOO patient at the plate. I think Beavers can stick in CF long-term and the bat profiles as one that will move quickly through a farm system. Beavers doesn’t exactly have a ton of ceiling, but he has one of the safer floors in the draft in my opinion and I really think he’s capable of playing his way into the conversation at 1.9.

Blade Tidwell, RHP, Tennessee

  • ++ Fastball
  • + Slider
  • Good curveball and changeup
  • Good control

After the injury to Arkansas RHP Peyton Pallette, Tidwell might be the best college arm in the draft class. The strength of this draft class is college bats and the Royals would be wise to narrow their focus on those bats, but Tidwell will be one of the first college arms off the board this summer.

Landon Sims, RHP, Mississippi State

  • ++ Fastball
  • ++ Slider
  • Been a reliever to this point

Maybe the biggest wildcard in the entire draft, Sims has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in this draft class. He was the Bulldogs relief ace on their way to a CWS title in 2021, and while he won’t be a top-10 pick if he relieves in 2021, he’s got a chance to pitch his way up draft boards if he starts this spring. If he can prove he can handle a starter’s workload and have some success doing it this spring, there’s a chance a team would take a chance on him early. I don’t think it’s likely he’s a fit with Kansas City, but his stuff is so good I can’t rule it out.

Carson Whisenhunt, LHP, East Carolina

  • Good fastball
  • + Curveball
  • ++ Changeup
  • + Control

Whisenhunt’s fastball is going to have to get better to be in consideration for KC at #9, but I wanted to have at least a few college arms on here just for reference. The college bats and prep talent still far outweigh the college arms in this draft class, but Whisenhunt has a chance to be in the big leagues by 2024 so you can’t necessarily rule a guy like that out this early. Best changeup in the draft class.

So there ya go. These are the only guys in college baseball that I’d have in consideration for KC at #9 for now. There is certainly plenty of time for that to change. There’s nine college hitters on this list and there are four prep kids (Druw Jones, Elijah Green, Termarr Johnson, and Dylan Lesko) that are going to push for the top 10 draft spots as well. Regardless of which of them fall and which of them rise, there should be a great bat for the Royals to snag at #9 to add to their farm system. Dylan Lesko is the only pitcher of the bunch that I’d consider right now. Another wildcard is Kumar Rocker, who might play some independent baseball leading up to the draft. His performance and medicals will dictate where he goes, but he’s not in college anymore so I didn’t bother listing him. So there ya go. It’s a hitter’s draft and there should be at least two good options for Kansas City with the 9th overall pick.


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8 thoughts on “College prospects to watch for KC at #9

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