It was July 2011, Greg Schaum and I drove to Oklahoma City in hopes of being one of the few if not only Royals website and Kansas City media outlet to be there for what we were hoping would be the day the Royals landed their newest pitching phenom. Â At the time we thought that Dylan Bundy had a chance to get to them and even if he was gone there was a small chance his buddy and training partner Archie Bradley may land in Kansas City to be apart of the greatest farm system in the history of whatever. Â Of course the Mariners and Orioles would toss a wrench into our plans and instead of getting drunk and celebrating at the hotel bar with Bobby Knight, who was there for a sports conference, we left with our tails between our legs wondering. Â What now? Â What if Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, Aaron Crow and others didn’t develop into the starters Kansas City needs? Â Who would they take in 2012 to help things out? Â Is there a glimmer of pitching hope down the line in the 2012 draft?
Now we’ve arrived much closer to that day and Kansas City remains with the same question but with larger holes Â than even we could have imagined at the time. Â We thought at the time Danny Duffy would take a step forward, Montgomery would correct his 2011 ways, the team could trade for an arm and Jake Odorizzi could continue to get better. Â Little did we know that the trade wouldn’t happen, Duffy would encounter arm problems, Montgomery would remain stagnant at AAA with only Odorizzi looking like a bright spot at the upper levels of the organization.
So the Royals are back at square one pitching wise with their backs against the wall, the process in flux with nothing but a weak draft, a capped rookie pool and little am talent outside Odorizzi the cusp of making an impact in Kansas City soon. Â They need arms and not the 2011 long developing arms that take time, they need a talented fast mover. Â Lucky for Kansas City if there is a minor strength in this weaker draft it is college arms. Â Now these aren’t Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer arms but they are arms none the less. Â Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman and Kyle Zimmer all are solid arms that could challenge if not overtake Odorizzi as the #1 pitching prospect in the system. Â Again Kansas City sits there at 5 due to some poor late season wins, behind the Mariners and Orioles, behind the Twins who are devoid of pitching and way behind an Astros team that is said to be coveting a fast moving player themselves. Â What if Kansas City misses out again for the top college arms? Â What arm can they turn to instead of Zimmer, Gausman and Appel?
BA #9 Overall Prospect Lucas Giolito – Rewind the clock, the Royals were in Bundy’s kitchen, they were seemingly convinced to what has become the #1 prospect in all of baseball according to Keith Law. Â Would they take what some thought was the best pitching prospect in February? Â Giolito at 6’5 230 and with a 100 mph fastball that generally sits in the 92-95 range, great curveball, solid command, possible future plus change up and still only 17 years old would have been a dream for the Royals in February. Â Now it seems like it could be reality. Â Why not? Â The elbow problem means it could be likely to he’ll have to go through Tommy John sooner rather than later. Â Final Analysis – The UCLA commitment, wealthy family, lower pool amount for teams in the Top 5 picks and other risk factors probably means the Royals will pass on the talented right-hander.
From Schaum: Similar situation to Bauer…family has dictated where he goes.. This is the best prospect in the draft….No doubt about it. But, he won’t throw off a mound for 4-6 weeks and while he is long tossing (not at his usual length) the mound is where some teams need to see him. That being said, medical reports have been rumored to be positive and someone will be getting a great kid and a great pitcher.
BA #8 Overall Prospect – Michael Wacha – Someone in my mind who is not getting the pub for the Royals at 5 is Wacha. Â At 6-6 200 lbs Wacha has the body of a innings eating starter as well as two pitches that profile him to do that job in his low to mid 90s fastball and a change up that is plus now and could become a 70 in the future. Â Wacha’s major weakness currently is that his breaking balls (slider and curve) profile as average in the future at best. Â On top of his pitches Wacha also delivers the ball from a different arm angle which allows his fastball to play up as well as owning solid command, walking just 16 in 99 innings on the hill this season. Â The change up is the reason I wanted Chris Sale in 2010 and it is a great reason to go with Kevin Gausman or Wacha in 2012 if the others are spoken for. Â Righthanders have to have a plus pitch to get out lefties and Wacha has that already with the possibility of it becoming even more in the future. Â The change up is one of those pitches that many (Aaron Crow) never find, if you have to settle in a draft like this you could Â do a lot worse than taking the guy who owns that pitch already. Â There haven’t been many rumors of Wacha to Kansas City so this one is pretty doubtful.
From Schaum: I have watched Wacha pitch a half dozen times…quality pick 10-15 but not at #5 with so many questions about that 3rd pitch. An AL West scout agreed with me after reading my mock draft (report on him)
BA #10 Marcus Stroman – If there is one pitcher who would give a million dollars for an extra three inches it is probably Stroman. Â Scouts love the mid 90s fastball, tight slider that may be the best pitch in the draft as well as the athleticism and his change and cutter but the 5’9 height offers tons of concern. Â There is nothing Stroman can really do about it but it makes for a less than ideal plane as well as concerns about the toll that his body could take with 200 innings. Â For those reason Stroman is looked at primarily as a reliever and probably makes it highly unlikely that Kansas City would consider him with the fifth pick.
From Schaum: Arguably the best overall athlete in the first draft. He was Duke’s 2B as well his first 2 seasons. He comes from an area that is not considered a baseball hot bed (New York City) he is also a very fast runner. I really like this kid and for pure stuff he might be the best but his size hinders him so much as far as scouts are concerned.
BA #11 Max Fried – Its not often that a high schools #2 starter is still a top 15 draft prospect but that is the case with Fried and Harvard Westlake in California. Â Fried earlier in the year would have been a a solid choice for Kansas City at #5 when he was flashing mid 90s velocity Â along with what scouts perceive as solid pitchability and two possible future plus offspeed pitches in his curve and change up. Â That has since changed due to a drop in velocity later in the year which probably makes Fried a bit too much of a reach at this point especially at the size of his likely large asking price. Â Fried like Giolito is a UCLA commit and that school has proven difficult to wrangle prospects away from and can you really blame those kids after Cole and Bauer went 1-3 in a loaded 2011 draft. Â My guess is Fried lands with a team with a bit larger pool to play with.
From Schaum – Mr. Scoles (ha ha ) in Fried’s last start (the first of regionals) he was getting that velocity again. Solid LH prospect but maybe the furthest away of any of the top 12 pitchers.
BA #13 Lance McCullers Jr. - Every year following the NFL draft there is that one prospect whoÂ seems to beÂ the consensus #1Â prospectÂ inÂ the draft the next year and over the course of the year that playerÂ gets picked apart. Â He ends up dropping in part because he didn’t dominate like expected but just matched his performance from the previous year and he drops in the draft. Â Sometimes it isn’t for what that player did on the field but because the teams have got to watch him and over examine him for two years as opposed to the one the new kid on the block got. Â He’s the shiny new toy where the other prospect is dealing with prospect fatigue. Â That scenario kind of describes Lance McCullers draft statusÂ in 2012. Â McCullers was the #1 prospect in his class when he was 15 showing a low 90s fastball and solid athleticism at shortstop, #1 in January according to Perfect Game when they released their first rankings butÂ since then his stock has been onÂ steady declineÂ to the #7 spot among high schoolers in that publication and #15 overall. Â All of the leaping over Lance has come despite the fact that he’s dominated Florida competition, shown a mid 90’s fastball, devastating curveball that continues to show as the best pitch in his arsenal, flashed a possible future plus change up, grown an inch and put on solid weightÂ and exhibited an ability to keep his stuff longer in outings.Â Â There were questionsÂ going into the year that he may not be a starter in the pros, he seems to have answered those and proven he isÂ a starter longterm.Â So what is the problem?Â He’s one of the few guys in this draft that flashes two 70 future pitches as well as a possible above average pitch down the line.Â He has good bloodlines with his father being a former pro and he’s grown into a suitable starter body putting on an inch to 6’2 and a solid 200 lbs as well as being very signable in a draft in which that matters.Â I just don’t get the drop in stock, it really does seem like teams have seen so much of McCullers that they are overlooking him. Â Is he just dealing with prospect fatigue? Â It wouldn’t be a popular pick by most but if the three college arms are gone or the Royals dislike the one that isÂ available to them then going with McCullers would be a solid idea in my mind. Â If its about ceiling McCullers has it. Â It has to be about sign ability due to the fact that the Royals have the 5th pick and just the 15th pool of money to deal with. Â McCullers just makes a lot of sense and I’d be very pleased if the Royals made that move.
Per David Rawnsley at Perfect Game – Iâ€™ve seen McCullers play perhaps a dozen times over the past three years but the most impressed Iâ€™ve ever been with him was when he wasnâ€™t even wearing a baseball uniform. He received the 2011 Jackie Robinson Award on August 13 in San Diego, the night before the Perfect Game All-American Classic. After the award was presented by all-time pitching greats Trevor Hoffman and Tommy John, and speaking in front of about 250 people, including his All-American peers, McCullers spoke extremely eloquently and emotionally, with no notes, about how important Robinson was not only to baseball but to society as a whole and how honored and humbled he was to receive the award. It was a â€œWowâ€ moment for everyone in attendance, and we received some insight into what the young man was made of off the baseball field.
From Schaum: Pre draft deals are not uncommon…the Royals have done this in the past with players (had one with Bundy last year0 and it is not uncommon for that player to not be drafted by the team who has the deal. It is done as a way to budget out for future picks. But, I know JJ Piccolo preferes HS arms and since he has taken over the draft he has not gotten this wish. Lance’ dad pitched in the big leagues and has done an excellent job taking care of his kid…From being overworked, from saying the righ tthings and on and on….
I will say if you are going to Vegas and have to place money on the Royals pick there is too much smoke to not lay it on McCullers…
My concerns about McCullers are no different than others and that is he is a future closer. I have 3 scouts who brought this up as we went through my list. But, the arm is electric and one AL east scout said “one of our guys says he has the best arsenal I have seen this year fromÂ his area…but IMO he is a bullpen arm …could he start? Yes, but he could follow the Tommy Hanson plan too. I do think he is a sure fire bet to be a big leaguer if that makes your fans happier-but I think Stroman will to and will be better….If you take Giolito out of the equation, McCullers does have the best PURE arm in the draft.”