KC's courting of prospects paying off in signings

June 23rd, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- There has been talk around baseball for weeks now that the Royals were in great position to sign the top talent that went non-drafted in last week’s MLB Draft.

The Royals’ position on not cutting salaries or releasing Minor Leaguers bolstered their reputation for undrafted players looking for a baseball home. And that, combined with their old-school philosophy of having their scouts work tirelessly to form solid relationships with prospects -- a process that sometimes involves years -- has led industry observers to believe Kansas City would perform well in signing non-drafted free agents this year.

Well, so far, those theories have been proven correct.

The Royals have announced the signings of seven NDFAs, and according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, they have landed the most talented of the available NDFAs so far.

“I’m not even sure who the No. 2 team is," Callis said. "Of the 15 best players anyone [has] signed, they have five of them.”

MLB Pipeline is expected to rank in the next week the top 15-20 NDFAs that have reached agreements, pending physicals.

Here’s a list of the club's NDFAs, who can be signed for a maximum of $20,000 each:

Matt Schmidt, outfielder/infielder, 23, Michigan

Schmidt, the son of Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt, has had an interesting journey. He was drafted in 2015 in the 37th round by the Yankees but was committed to Texas. He then transferred to a JUCO in California before landing at Michigan.

MLB Pipeline: “They’re banking on potential here. He obviously knows the pro game through his father. He has the size and has some tools. High-character guy.”

Chase Wallace, Tennessee, RHP

Wallace, 21, missed most of his sophomore season because of a nagging hamstring injury. He had a 1-1 mark through four starts this season with a 3.50 ERA and 18 strikeouts in four starts before COVID-19 shut the season down.

Wallace, who is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, had a career-high 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Tennessee’s win over Western Illinois earlier this season.

MLB Pipeline: “He went up on our radar last fall. He was hitting 94 then. Low three-quarter slot guy with heavy sink on his fastball. Sweeping slider. Low-angle guy with movement on his pitches. Projected somewhere from six-to-10th round.”

Tucker Bradley, Georgia, OF
Bradley, a 6-foot, 206-pound left-handed hitter, appeared in 119 games with 115 starts in the outfield at Georgia. Bradley was hitting .397 with six home runs, 23 RBIs and eight stolen bases through the first 18 games this season. Bradley, 22, graduated last month with a degree in sports management.

MLB Pipeline: “Had a labrum injury last year. Raw power. Dead pull. Solid speed. He’s got some real tools. He probably would have gotten drafted in rounds 6-15.”

A.J. Block, Washington State, LHP
Block, who is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, had a 3.25 ERA in four starts this season. He had a 6.06 ERA as a junior, but he was drafted in the 17th round by the Tigers in 2019. Block, 22, chose to return to Washington State for his senior season.

MLB Pipeline: “He is a pure senior. I don’t know if he had gone in rounds 6-15. Maybe something there. Pitchability guy.”

John McMillon, Texas Tech, RHP
McMillon, who is 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, can bring the heat out of the bullpen, regularly topping 100 mph on the radar gun. He is the third Texas Tech player to likely join an MLB team this year; Clayton Beeter was drafted by the Dodgers, and Bryce Bonnin was drafted by the Reds.

In 2019, McMillon pitched 47 2/3 innings over 24 appearances, striking out 67 batters. In 9 1/3 innings this season, he walked eight batters, gave up four runs and struck out 20. McMillon, 22, was drafted in the 11th round by the Tigers in '19.

MLB Pipeline: “He definitely would have been a 6-10-round guy. Really interesting guy. Big power as a hitter who they converted to pitching full time. He actually caught a little. He’s a guy who could win a Home Run Derby. But he’s got the big fastball. A lot to work with here. He has been on scouts radars for a long time.”

Kale Emshoff, Arkansas Little-Rock, C
Emshoff, a 22-year-old right-handed hitter, was the No. 146-ranked prospect in the Draft per MLB Pipeline, which wrote of him: “Emshoff hit .253 with four homers in his first two seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock before blowing out his elbow during the Trojans' scout day in the fall of 2018. After missing all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery, he returned to bat .417 and homer seven times in 17 games this spring, going deep in five of his last seven contests before the season ended.

MLB Pipeline: “Never thought he would last through Thursday. Thought he would go in top 5 rounds. You’re getting solid power, arm strength is coming. This is a guy who had a built-in discount because he was 22.”

Saul Garza, LSU, C
Garza, who is 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, played in 50 games in 2019, batting .303 with 10 doubles, five homers and 27 RBIs. Garza, 22, was drafted by the Royals in the 32nd round in '19.

MLB Pipeline: “Kind of similar to Emschoff. Offensive-minded catcher. He would have been drafted 10-20. Legit guy with legit skills.”