Top-10 Options for KC at #8 in the MLB Draft

I apologize for the lack of coverage this year. Been a wild time. I won’t have the normal coverage you’d expect from us as it relates to the draft, but once the calendar rolls over to June I should be able to get enough out to keep you covered for the draft. Be sure to follow on Twitter for more frequent updates and info as it relates to the Royals and the draft.

Really quick…I left off the top three or four draft prospects that I think have a 0% chance of falling to #8. So, if you’re wondering why Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes, Chase Dollander, Wyatt Langford, and Max Clark aren’t on the list, that’s why.

#1: Walker Jenkins, OF, South Brunswick HS (NC)

Jenkins is a 6′ 3″ left-handed hitter with perhaps the most upside of any player in this draft class. His prep outfield counterpart, Max Clark, has his name in that conversation as well, but the track record suggests that Clark will be gone by pick #5 at the very latest. Jenkins, on the other hand, has an outside chance of being available at #8 because the college pitching class is trending in the right direction as it relates to the Royals this summer. Prospects Live, Baseball America, and MLB Pipeline have Jenkins ranked 6th, 6th, and 7th, respectively, on their draft rankings, so if the board were to fall right, and KC could throw some extra money at Jenkins, there’s a non-zero chance they could get him to #8.

Defensively, Jenkins reminds me a bit of Kyle Isbel. He isn’t the fastest runner you’ve ever seen, and he’s no Enrique Bradfield Jr., but he has incredible instincts and gets fantastic jumps that could allow him to play centerfield long-term even if he isn’t a ++ runner. Jenkins, as a hitter, may remind some folks of Gavin Cross. Big dude, big swing, immense raw power, with a hit tool and swing that should allow him to hit for a high average as he moves through the minor leagues. Jenkins is truly one of the premiere prospects in this draft class and he’ll probably be in the top-four of my personal rankings.

#2: Jacob Gonzalez, SS, Ole Miss

Gonzalez, a 6′ 2″ shortstop prospect, is another one of my favorite players in this class that I think people might be overthinking a bit. Gonzalez is slashing .331/.458/.581/1.039 with 16 doubles, 7 home runs, a 16.5% BB%, and 13.2% K% this spring for the Rebels. Gonzalez has been one of the best players in the SEC all spring, the premiere conference in college baseball, and is a mortal lock to be a top-10 pick in the draft this summer.

The knocks I see on Gonzalez is whether or not he can hit for premium power in pro ball and whether or not he can stick at shortstop long-term. It reminds me a bit of Brooks Lee from last year, who went on to absolutely rake against High-A pitching in the same year he was drafted. Now Lee has a .175 ISO in his first bout in AA this spring. In my opinion, Gonzalez is a better power-hitting prosect than Lee and a better athlete overall. If Lee can stick at SS and show an ability to hit for power as a 22-year old in AA already, I see absolutely no reason that Gonzalez can’t be even better.

Every year we see collegiate hitters get overlooked for a myriad of reasons. Drew Gilbert fell to pick #28 last year and is currently destroying High-A. Zach Neto fell to pick #13 because of questions about his ultimate ceiling and he’s already in the big leagues. In 2021, Matt McLain, a very similar prospect to Gonzalez in my opinion, fell to pick #17 and he is currently one of the best hitters in AAA. He’ll be in the big leagues in a couple months.

Point is, I think folks are over analyzing Gonzalez quite a bit. He would be a slam dunk for KC at #8.

#3: Aidan Miller, 3B, Mitchell HS (FL)

It is hard for me to watch tape of Miller and not see a ton of Nolan Arenado. Not that that’s a great comparison, but my goodness the resemblances in their movements are uncanny. Miller is currently ranked 16th, 12th, and 15th by Prospects Live, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America, respectively, but I really think he’s more likely to be picked in the top-10 than outside the top-20 or anything crazy. He’s a great athlete, a lock to stay at third base, and hits for a TON of power for a prep hitter. Like Bobby Witt Jr., Miller won the All-American Home Run Derby title last summer and is second to none in this class in terms of offensive upside for a prep hitter. Jenkins and Clark will rate higher for their pure athleticism and defensive potential, but Miller is right there with them in terms of his overall offensive profile. If the Royals decide to snag him with their first pick, I will be absolutely ecstatic. He would instantly be the Royals top prospect in my opinion.

#4: Brock Wilken, 3B, Wake Forest

I love Brock Wilken. He’s currently ranked 23rd, 25th, and 14th on Prospects Live, MLB Pipeline, and Baseball America, respectively, but I really believe he’ll be the highest riser on public boards as we get closer to the draft in July. He’s not exactly known for his defense at third base, but he’s got phenomenal hands and a cannon attached to his right shoulder that should allow him to remain at the hot corner for the entirety of his professional career.

Offensively, Wilken is the rare college prospect that may have more upside than floor. There is perhaps not a better power hitting college prospect in the draft outside of Wyatt Langford. Wilken already has 18 home runs on the season and has 9 doubles to go with them. He’s slashing .322/.487/.762/1.249 with a 22% BB% and 19.9% K% on the season, anchoring what is a very good Demon Deacons lineup. Wilken is very likely to be available for KC at #8, and while he won’t be the best prospect available on most boards, there’s a decent chance he’s the best available on my board.

#5: Matt Shaw, INF, Maryland

Shaw isn’t receiving enough love in this draft class. It’s likely because the 5′ 11″ righty is more likely to play 2B than SS long-term, but I could not care less. Dude can hit. Full stop. In 2022, Shaw blasted 22 home runs for Maryland and then went on to the Cape Cod League and posted an OPS over 1.000 with a .214 ISO. Now a junior, Shaw has an OPS of 1.139 for the Terrapins with a 16.2% BB% and 14.2% K% to go with a .342 ISO. Shaw, a legitimate 60-grade runner, also has 14 stolen bases this spring after swiping 21 on the Cape last summer. He’s got great bat-to-ball skills, legitimate gap-to-gap power, the ability to hit plenty of pull-side home runs, and can easily steal 20+ bases every year. Yet, we’re dropping him down rankings because he might have to play second base? No thanks. Not me.

Flipping through ranking boards, Shaw is currently 29th at Prospects Live, 20th at MLB Pipeline, and 18th at Baseball America. Looking at my board right now, I don’t think there’s any chance I’d have him lower than 11th or 12th. This kid is going to wind up being the steal of the draft for someone in the late teens if folks aren’t careful.

#6: Chase Davis, OF, Arizona

One of my favorite under-the-radar guys coming into the season, Davis has taken off this spring for Arizona. He’s currently slashing .364/.489/.750/1.239 for the Wildcats with 25 XBH, a .386 ISO, 16.1% BB%, and 12.6% K%. He swings a little more than you’d like, but he makes a ton of contact, and a ton of hard contact at that, so it’s less of an issue than on some guys. I’m not entirely sure where his long-term defensive home is, but the bat is the only tool that matters for the Royals pick at #8.

By the way, anybody remember Carlos Gonzalez? Asking for a friend.

#7: Colton Ledbetter, OF, Mississippi State

Colton Ledbetter is the best kept secret in the draft right now. A Samford transfer, Ledbetter is absolutely crushing baseballs right now in his first year facing SEC pitching. For the spring, Ledbetter is slashing .326/.476/.597/1.093 with 20 XBH, 15 SB, a 21.7% BB%, and a 12.7% K%. The plate discipline is a welcoming improvement after he posted a BB/K barely greater than 1.00 at Samford last spring. He hits the ball very hard, he runs well, and now he’s cut down on his strikeouts immensely. If the Royals decide Ledbetter is the best player available at #8, it would be hard for me to disagree too strongly.

#8: Yohandy Morales, 3B, Miami

Morales is one of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the entire draft class. Not under-the-radar so much that he’s generally accepted as a top-20 prospect in the class, under-the-radar in the sense that he may be a top-10 prospect overall and no one knows it yet.

Morales is a former shortstop that outgrew the position and has thrived at third base. He’s a lock to stick at the position and could even be a Gold Glove-caliber defender at the position long-term. Offensively, Morales is slashing .359/.420/.595/1.025 with an 11.3% BB% and 20.3% K% with 20 XBH for the Hurricanes this spring. The BB/K will concern some, but Morales’ hit-tool and power combo are a mouth-watering combination for someone looking for a steal in this summer’s draft.

#9: Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida

Y’all know me…if there’s a bat to be had, draft it. If there’s not a bat you’re in love with, taking Hurston Waldrep. This is my favorite arm in the draft class that I expect to be available at #8. Paul Skenes and Chase Dollander both figure to be gone by the eighth pick, but Waldrep might actually be a better prospect than Dollander.

Waldrep is a 6′ 2″ RHP with a huge fastball that will frequently touch 99 mph and a split-change offering that is one of the best changeups I have ever seen on a right-handed pitcher. It’s a legitimate 70-grade offering and gives Waldrep a floor of big league reliever, assuming he stays healthy.

I know what a lot of you are thinking. “A big righty with a plus-changeup from Florida? No thanks.” Not drafting Waldrep because Kowar hasn’t panned out yet would be a silly mistake. I’m not saying he would definitely be my pick, and I’m not saying it’s definitely the guy I’d draft. But Waldrep is a supreme talent and if the Royals love him, I’m okay with it.

#10: Enrique Bradfield Jr., CF, Vanderbilt

Bradfield is going to wind up being a very popular name around Kansas City with the 8th overall pick. On most fronts, I get it. Bradfield is a big-league-ready defender in CF, a ++ runner, and has a big league approach at the plate. There is very little that Bradfield ISN’T very good at. The problem with Bradfield is that the one thing he isn’t very good at is also arguably the single most important thing to be good at for prospects: hitting the ball hard.

Exit velocities and hard-hit rates are some of the best predictors of future success that we have for offensive prospects. It’s the reason guys like Tucker Bradley have a hard time sticking on prospect lists. Everything else appears to be there except for the ability to impact the baseball in a way that will translate to the major leagues. Now, Bradfield is much better at pretty much everything else than Bradley is, which is why we’re having the conversation with him about the 8th overall pick, but he doesn’t hit the baseball quite hard enough to make you feel great about it.

On the other hand, we’ve seen guys like Bradfield have some legitimate success in the big leagues in recent years. Luis Arraez won a the AL batting title last year and looks like the favorite to win the NL batting title this year. It’s possible for lower EV guys to have success, you just have to bank on a lot of other things to go right. In Bradfield’s case, EVERYTHING else we know about him suggests that it’s possible. If nothing else, there’s no reason he can’t be Michael A. Taylor with 40+ stolen bases at the big league level.


3 thoughts on “Top-10 Options for KC at #8 in the MLB Draft

  1. Hi Alex,
    Great to hear from you on the draft. Bradfield is a guy that I keep looking at as KC Royals type of player – fast, athletic defender. Might be too high at 8 for a pick for a player of Bradfield’s caliber. College bat is my hope. I’m done with KC picking pitchers (HS or college) and then screwing them up.

    What do you think of Jake Gelof from VA at 3B? I’ve watched some of their games on Youtube highlights and he makes all the plays. Not as a first rounder but into second?


  2. The whole “fast, athletic defender” hasn’t worked out for the Royals and maybe shouldn’t be a point of emphasis with the new ballpark almost assured, and hopefully one with more HR friendly dimensions. At #8, they’d better draft someone who can hit the ball hard. Pitchers? Yeah, I’d rather go the route Texas did this past off-season.


  3. Pingback: Royals Rumblings โ€“ News for April 28, 2023 - Balance Sportscast

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