Royals showing penchant for pitchers in Draft
Southpaw Finnegan was real find as Kansas City's No. 1 selection in 2014
KANSAS CITY -- The 2015 Draft will take place from Monday, June 8, through Wednesday, June 10, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
In about 50 words
The Royals hit the jackpot last year with their first pick of left-hander Brandon Finnegan, the only pitcher ever to play in the College World Series and the MLB World Series in the same year. Finnegan was an immediate asset in the bullpen in September and October, and they could go that route again by taking a college pitcher.
The Royals are well-stocked at shortstop with Alcides Escobar (club options through 2017) and amazing prospect Raul Mondesi, who is not far away, according to their scouts. But it is a shortstop-rich Draft, at least in the first round, where MLB.com experts have shortstops projected to go in three of the top seven picks. Those same Draft gurus have Kansas City taking Griffin (Ga.) High School shortstop Cornelius Randolph with the 21st overall pick. Randolph is said to have a short, quick swing with the ability to hit for power to all fields.
As the Royals' position in the standings elevates, naturally their Draft position drops. But they also have the No. 33 overall pick as compensation for losing James Shields. So the scouting staff -- 17 area scouts, six cross-checkers, front-office evaluators and numerous part-time scouts -- is combing the country for talent.
Two years ago, Kansas City was said to have been interested in right-handed pitcher Phil Bickford, now out of the College of Southern Nevada. If he's around at No. 33, don't be shocked if the Royals go that direction in hopes he could accelerate to the big leagues as quickly as Finnegan did.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
As mentioned, the Royals are well-stocked at shortstop behind Escobar with Mondesi and Orlando Calixte (Omaha) along with several other middle-infield prospects in the low Minors. They have a power-hitting third baseman progressing nicely in Hunter Dozier (2013 first round). And they have prospect depth at catcher (Cameron Gallagher).
Where they have needs is in the outfield, where once-rising prospect Jorge Bonifacio has somewhat stalled and former first-rounder Bubba Starling is hurt. Dayton Moore, like most general managers, loves to stockpile pitching. But the Royals have not had an outfield prospect become a starter since Alex Gordon, and he was drafted as an infielder. Kansas City has a specific profile in targeting outfielders -- they have to be athletic enough to cover the vast spaces at Kauffman Stadium. Don't be surprised if there is an emphasis on outfielders.
Last year was the first Draft under Moore when the Royals actually took more position players (23) than pitchers (19), which could be construed as a sign Kansas City is getting more confident with the pitching depth it has in the organization. But director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said, "I didn't even know that, so it wasn't by design. Pitching is such a commodity that it's always the first thing we talk about and look at. I do know that we took pitchers with four of the first five picks, so there was a commitment there."
The Royals also have shifted somewhat away from high school players -- in last year's Draft, they chose 30 college players and 12 high schoolers; the year before, it was 29 college players and 12 high schoolers. In 2008 and '09, Kansas City took a whopping 49 high school players.
"That's because of the new CBA and the money that is allotted," Goldberg said. "It's just harder to afford the high school player."
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
First baseman Ryan O'Hearn, an eighth-round pick last year, stormed through his first year of pro ball by hitting .361 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs for Idaho Falls. He was named MVP of the Pioneer League. And the 6-foot-3 first baseman already has 12 homers and 26 RBIs at Class A Lexington.
"He's just been really impressive," Goldberg said. "Good eye, too."
O'Hearn walked 39 times last year in 64 games and has walked 19 times already this year.
Everyone cheers when the local kid makes good, and that's the case with outfielder Logan Moon, a 2014 sixth-round pick, who is from Blue Springs, Mo. Moon won the Appalachian League batting title last season with a .332 average. Moon is going through the learning curve this year at Class A Advanced Wilmington, hitting .250.
In The Show
Original Draft selections by the Royals continue to have a strong presence on the Major League roster. They include first-rounders Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Christian Colon and Luke Hochevar. Other draftees include Jarrod Dyson, Greg Holland and Danny Duffy.
The Royals' recent top picks
2014: Finnegan, LHP, Triple-A Omaha
2013: Dozier, 3B, Double-A Northwest Arkansas
2012: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, extended spring
2011: Starling, OF, Double-A Northwest Arkansas (DL)
2010: Colon, 2B, Kansas City
2009: Aaron Crow, RHP, Marlins (DL)
2008: Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City