KANSAS CITY -- The 2022 MLB Draft is this week, beginning Sunday night ahead of All-Star week with the first two rounds. Monday will feature Rounds 3-10, and it wraps up next Tuesday with Rounds 11-20.
The Royals have the No. 9 pick in a Draft ripe with position player depth. It’s an intriguing spot to have, especially for first-year scouting director Danny Ontiveros -- and even more intriguing now that the Royals traded away their Competitive Balance Round A pick on Monday, sending the 35th overall pick to the Braves for three Minor League players: Center fielder Drew Waters, right-hander Andrew Hoffmann and infielder CJ Alexander.
Ontiveros was promoted to scouting director last September and will oversee the Royals’ Draft room after five years assisting Lonnie Goldberg, now serving as vice president of player personnel. Goldberg is still heavily involved in the Draft, but Ontiveros has been running point with the Royals’ amateur scouting department.
“The good thing is for the last five years, I’ve sat right next to Lonnie, so I’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like and kind of understand our process,” Ontiveros said. “The biggest difference is when you’re actually in charge. You get a lot more phone calls. You’re managing a lot more people. Paperwork. Dealing with the Commissioner’s Office. There’s just more to do and orchestrate."
ROYALS' DRAFT DETAILS
First pick and bonus slot: No. 9, $5,200,200
Additional first-day picks: Second Round (No. 49 overall)
Total bonus pool: $9,466,200
Last three first picks: LHP Frank Mozzicato (No. 7 overall in 2021), LHP Asa Lacy (No. 4 overall in 2020), SS Bobby Witt Jr. (No. 2 overall in 2019)
Best pick of the last 10 years, per MLB Pipeline: Witt Jr.
So how do the Royals view their ninth pick? Mock drafts have a few different players linked to the organization, and that’s mainly because there’s not a clear consensus of how the Draft will play out ahead of them, especially with the Orioles’ No. 1 pick.
MLB Pipeline guru Jim Callis sent Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High School outfielder Justin Crawford to the Royals in his latest mock Draft, while the Royals have been linked to IMG Academy (Fla.) outfielder Elijah Green, Louisiana State third baseman/outfielder Jacob Berry, Chipola (Fla.) JC third baseman Cam Collier and Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross. Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung has been the center of recent conversations in the Royals’ Draft room, too.
See what we mean when we say this Draft is ripe with hitters? There are toolsy prep players the Royals could target, or perhaps a high-floor college bat who has the potential to slide into the big league lineup quickly alongside Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and others in the years to come.
“I think some of the college hitting is better than it’s been the last couple of years, at least a little deeper,” Ontiveros said. “That’s a good thing. The college arms, some of them have had some injuries, so we’ve got to kind of look a little deeper in that regard. And then it’s a good crop of high school players, as usual. So just trying to figure out what the teams in front of you are going to do is what’s hard, the further you go back. You’ve got to be prepared. There are a few players we’re not anticipating getting to us, but we got to do our work on them because you never know what’s going to happen."
Ontiveros also mentioned having a track record with some of the college hitters from their prep days, which helps when narrowing down their top targets.
“When you look at those hitters, the one thing that stands out, for us at least, is a lot of things are lining up in terms of the true scouting, evaluation, and a lot of the analytics,” Ontiveros said. “That’s always good when you can go into the Draft knowing that and feeling good about it from all aspects. … Sometimes you’ll run into some situations where the analytics and scout evaluation doesn’t quite line up, and you got to make a decision one way or another.
“I think a lot of things are lining up a little bit more smoothly, at least up top, than maybe some other years. And that’s a really good feeling for me as I go into this.”
The other option for the Royals is what they did last year, selecting Mozzicato No. 7 overall and signing him under-slot, allowing them to sign their second-round pick, right-hander Ben Kudrna, away from LSU. This could be more viable now without the No. 35 pick, which was valued for $2.2 million.
“We’ll have to talk about strategy,” general manager J.J. Picollo said after the trade on Monday. “When you take [that money] out of our hands now, how can you use what you have a little differently? Do you play it straight up? But of course, so many other things are going to happen between now and Sunday and the first eight picks. That’s where Lonnie and Danny have to strategize what they think is best and how to use the money best.”