This is the eighth article we’ve written about the upcoming 2022 MLB Draft. The goal is to give you an idea of some guys who could be available for Kansas City with the 9th overall pick in the draft. Here are the links to the first seven that I wrote:
This time around, we won’t be looking at the BEST prospects that could be available at #9 per se, but instead we’ll be looking at some guys who could potentially be the most cost-effective options at #9. The Royals sort of famously (or infamously depending on how you look at it) took Frank Mozzicato with the 7th overall pick in last year’s draft and saved roughly $2M by signing him. That money was eventually used to sign Ben Kudrna, Carter Jensen, and Luca Tresh. I know fans were frustrated with the move at the time, but Kudrna, Jensen, and Tresh are most certainly not in the system today if the Royals had taken Brady House or someone else more expensive at #7.
Quick editor’s note: the new “Kumar Rocker Rule” guarantees the top 300 prospects at least 75% of a lot value if they submit to a pre-draft medical evaluation. I am not 100% sure of the specifics of this rule just yet, but in theory, this would mean the lowest offer the Royals could make to a player at #9 ~$3.9M. I will update this ASAP once I better understand how that works exactly.
So, without further ado, here are five prospects that I think the Royals could target with the 9th overall pick this summer that could save them some money for later in the draft.
Jud Fabian, CF, Florida
If you read the article with my top-10 draft prospects for this year, you may be wondering how I could have Jud Fabian in the top 10 AND think the Royals could under slot him at #9. This is mostly due to the fact that Fabian has lost most of his leverage in terms of going back to school and that the industry probably isn’t as high on him as I am.
To be completely transparent, I’m really conflicted when it comes to Fabian. On the one hand, I think the Royals could be looking at a steal here if you can get him for ~$2.5-3M. On the other hand, I don’t think the Royals are in a position to be gambling with this pick. I really like what the Twins have done lately. Draft high-floor college kids, bank on a bunch of them filling in the back half of your big league roster, and then hand some money to a couple super stars to carry the top half of your big league lineup.
Fabian would be more of a “buy-low potential super star” type of pick. The kid is a phenomenal defender in CF and has a ton of juice in his bat. A profile the Royals could desperately use in their system at the moment as it would hopefully allow them to put guys like Nick Loftin back in their more natural positions. Fabian struck out a ton at Florida in 2021, but he’s made massive strides in 2022, lowering his overall K% to 21% with an even 1.00 BB/K and OPS over 1.000. He’s also got 19 HR and 8 SB for the Gators along with a pretty impressive highlight reel defensively.
The Royals will have $11,668,300 to spend in the first 10 rounds of the draft this summer and the 9th overall pick is currently valued at $5,200,200. The Royals second pick at #35 is valued at $2,202,100 and their third pick at #49 is valued at $1,584,100. The average value of those three picks is $2,995,467. If Fabian wants to sign for ~3M, I’m all in on him with the 9th overall pick. That’s about the same value as the 23rd pick in the draft and I admittedly am unsure of what his chances are of going that early in the first place. You can’t take a guy #9 with the intentions of under slotting them without a deal in place beforehand, so the Royals would have to be certain he’d take the deal, but he’d offer you a TON of upside at a position you are not very deep at if you could swing a deal.
Noah Schultz, LHP, Oswego HS (IL)
I should stop here and make it abundantly clear that I have no idea which prospects would be open to signing for $3M(ish) and who wouldn’t be.
With that being said, if Noah Schultz is willing to guarantee himself $3-3.5M, he should absolutely be at the top of the Royals “cost-efficient” board for the #9 pick. This kid is a certified freak. The kid stands 6′ 9″ 210 lbs. and his delivery will remind some of Randy Johnson. I’ve heard several people even offer up that his command is actually better now than Johnson in high school. He runs his fastball into the lower-90’s with regularity and should be able to touch 97-98 as he adds weight to his frame. His slider has registered RPMs in the 3000’s, something that you can’t teach, and there is certainly no other pitching prospect quite like him in MiLB.
I get it, there will be folks who grow weary of the Royals investing more capital into a prep pitcher, but this kid is incredible. I know he won’t be in the top 10 of many boards, but he’s really close for me. If the Royals feel similarly as me and believe the rest of the industry is sleeping on this giant, he could be an absolute steal for the right price.
Andrew Dutkanych IV, RHP, Brebeuf Jesuit (IN)
Yes, another prep pitcher. I don’t make the rules. Dutkanych legitimately has some of the best raw stuff in this draft class and I think he’d be talked about more in the top-20 if he wasn’t a prep RHP from Indiana. His fastball has approached 96/97 at times this spring and he has two distinct breaking balls (a slider and curveball) that offer two distinct looks to the hitter and should both stay in his repertoire long-term. He’s a phenomenal athlete with a great feel for his body and shouldn’t have major control issues as he gets into pro ball. He doesn’t quite have the same sex appeal as Schultz or Fabian, but he’s got a good combination of floor and ceiling (as much as any prep RHP can have, anyway) and for $2.5M would be good value at #9.
Cooper Hjerpe, LHP, Oregon State
How about a college pitcher? Herpe won’t blow anyone away with high-octane velocity, but he can run his fastball up to 95 mph and he has so much deception in his delivery (may remind some of Josh Hader) that the velo plays up. In 84 IP for the Beavers this spring, Hjerpe has 135 K to just 17 BB with an ERA of 2.36. He’s a dominant force on the mound that’s nearly impossible to take deep and his K/BB ratio is almost completely ridiculous. I’m a little concerned with the overall ceiling Hjerpe may have long-term, but if you’re looking for a guy that you could slot into High-A immediately and probably bank on having in the big leagues by 2024, at a discount no less, this might be your guy.
Jackson Ferris, LHP, IMG Academy (FL)
Ferris was one of my favorite prep arms entering the draft cycle last offseason, and he seems to be slipping down big boards this spring. His fastball will work 92-94 and pop the occasional 97, but he’s certainly go the frame to carry 95-97 on a regular basis long-term. He’s 6′ 5″ and the fastball absolutely blows the doors off of opposing hitters. I don’t know how any left-handed hitter would expect to get a solid look at the ball coming out of his hand. His curveball is his best secondary offering, an absolute hammer that he unloads with all 6′ 5″ of his frame, and he’s got a nice little changeup he can mix in when he needs it, though that’s admittedly still a work in progress. We know the Royals like prep lefties with good curveballs, and Ferris certainly fits the bill, but this might be the best left-handed fastball in the draft class. Period. If the Royals can get this kid to sign for ~$3M, he’d be a wonderful addition to their system.
- Like I mentioned on Twitter, I have no idea which if any of these players would be willing to sign under slot deals with the Royals. I am gauging most of this analysis based on where players rank on my board and other big boards and the slot values assigned with the picks that fall near those rankings. Essentially, which of these players would stand to gain by signing an under-slot deal at #9 instead of waiting for their more natural draft selection, similarly to Frank Mozzicato in 2021.
- I am a firm believer that there will be at least one big bat that makes it to Kansas City at #9 and that there are very few likely scenarios that could play out where taking someone under slot would be a better play than just taking the best available hitter. We’ll see…crazier things have happened…but I really like the hitters at the top of this draft and I’d be pretty disappointed if they chose not to take one.
- There are plenty of other good options to under slot at #9. Blade Tidwell, Kumar Rocker, Dylan Beavers, Brock Porter, maybe even Dylan Lesko still. These certainly are not the only five options on the board, they are simply my favorite at the moment.