“Reporter Jottings”: Preparing for What the Royals Will Do in the MLB Draft

The first round of the MLB Draft begins tomorrow at 7 p.m., with the Royals owning the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft. It will be the only pick for the Royals tomorrow evening, as they traded away their competitive balance round pick (35th overall) to the Atlanta Braves in a deal that netted them outfielder Drew Waters, pitcher Andrew Hoffman, and infielder CJ Alexander.

I am not going to pretend to be a draft expert by any means, and this year has been particularly tough in terms of keeping up with draft prospect talk. However, I have some thoughts about the draft, and I figured it would be best to do so through a short “Jottings” post rather than an in-depth full-fledged piece about the Draft (which other Royals blogs are doing much better, Royals Farm Report especially).

Here are a few things to check out to prepare for the first round tomorrow and for the remainder of the draft on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Royals Farm Report Draft Guide

If you want any idea or preparation for tomorrow’s first round, and the MLB Draft as a whole over the next few days, you need to pick up the Royals Farm Report Draft Guide. The guide, which includes 117 pages of scouting reports as well as current prospect analysis, is on sale for $3.49, which is insanely cheap considering the content available.

Alex Duvall and Joel Penfield have done a phenomenal job growing Royals Farm Report, which is honestly one of the top Royals-related blogs out there (along with Royals Review). What started out as an independent operation has grown to not just a full-fledged site, but also a podcast through the KC Sports Network (They host the “Royals Farm Report” podcast on there, and Joel and Josh Keiser also do a great job on the MLB-focused “One Royal Way” podcast).

What makes the guide such a great one is that it isn’t just a simple “mock draft” listing or a plain “top 100” prospect list with one-sentence explanations (which some guides do). Rather, there are groupings (i.e. college bats and pitchers, etc.), as well as an analysis of club draft strategy, especially pertaining to the Royals. The MLB Draft is a lot different from the NBA and NFL ones, so the work the RFR team did to help MLB Draft “novices” get a better idea of what the next three days will look like is pretty helpful.

It’s a digital document, so it can be bought in a matter of seconds, which would give you plenty of time to read and digest before the draft starts at 7 p.m. EST tomorrow.

Will Justin Crawford Be the Royals’ Pick at No. 9?

I have checked out two mock drafts from predominant MLB draft analysts (Keith Law of the Athletic; Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com). Here’s a link to Law’s final first-round (1-30) predictions:

And here’s a link to Mayo’s mock, though it sounds like he will release another one through MLB Pipeline sometime on Sunday.

Regardless, both Law and Mayo had the Royals picking Justin Crawford, a prep outfielder out of Las Vegas who is the son of former Tampa Bay and Boston outfielder Carl Crawford.

Crawford is certainly an exciting talent, and the Royals have fared well in terms of selecting sons of former Major League players in the first round of the draft recently (i.e. Bobby Witt, Jr.). Though more polished college bats like Jace Jung of Texas Tech and Gavin Cross of Virginia Tech could be available at the number nine spot, there is a “superstar” potential with Crawford, though he will certainly carry more risk and more need for development in the Minor League system.

One of the benefits of picking Crawford though is tied to the Royals’ hitting development. Led by Drew Saylor and Alec Zumwalt, the Royals have had a tremendously positive track record as of late with prep hitters, including not just Witt, but also Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez, who have made their debuts this year.

Below is a compilation of his highlights from the past year, as he went to Bishop Gorman High School, an athletic powerhouse in the Las Vegas area.

While Crawford’s name may be as big, if not bigger, than Witt’s going into this draft, I am not sure if Crawford is on the same trajectory as Witt.

Crawford certainly has the speed, defense, and contact tools down. On the other hand, his power is still under-developed, and that’s obvious when one checks out his highlights in the compilation above. I do think he can turn into an All-Star player with the right development, but he’s a lot rawer than Witt was when he entered the draft in 2019.

The Royals typically “zig” when others “zag” so it’s possible that the Royals could pick someone else not on that 8-12 radar, which wouldn’t be the first time. Frank Mozzicato wasn’t mocked anywhere close to the Royals’ slot last year, and Dayton Moore has mentioned that in 2020, he would have selected Nick Loftin at the No. 4 spot, had Asa Lacy not been available (Loftin was nowhere close to Top-10 caliber in that draft).

Still, it will be interesting to see if the Royals pull the trigger on Crawford and bring his supreme tools and talents to the Royals organization.

Down on the Farm MLB Draft Pick to WAR Rankings (2010-Present)

If you do not follow Down on the Farm (run by a former MLB club director of analytics) on Twitter or subscribe to his daily newsletter, you’re missing out, especially if you love prospect chatter. Down on the Farm does a phenomenal job breaking down daily leaders in the Minors, and presents analytical deep dives of certain players and organizations, which are further backed up by wonderfully done graphics that are easy to comprehend. It really is one of the best MiLB daily newsletters out there.

Lately, he’s been breaking down previous clubs’ draft history by division, and he has produced some really fascinating data on which organizations have been successful over the past decade and which ones…well…haven’t.

In his latest breakdown, Down on the Farm took a look at how teams have fared on an MLB Draft pick to expected WAR value since 2010 over the first 10 rounds in respective drafts. Basically, the higher the draft pick, the more expected value an organization should have, and when teams get more value out of their slot, they will rank higher. Those who get LESS value out of their slot will rank lower.

Let’s see where the Royals fall.

Yep, the Royals rank last in WAR-xWAR (expected WAR) with a nearly minus-40 mark. While it’s jarring to see the Royals rank at the bottom, it’s not totally surprising either, especially considering the Royals’ first-round history since 2010. Christian Colon, Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, Ashe Russell, and Brandon Finnegan, just to name a few, didn’t exactly set the Major League (and in some cases, Minor League) world on fire.

The saving grace for the Royals that should give Royals fans some room for optimism in this draft is that the player development, especially hitting development, has changed dramatically since 2020.

The Royals’ revamped hitting development team has already produced fruit with Witt, Melendez, Pratto, and even Nate Eaton and Michael Massey, who have had solid showings in Toronto after being called up due to the number of unvaccinated Royals on the restricted list. As long as the Royals are drafting the right players over the next few days (i.e. mostly hitters), then the Royals could start to see more draft picks not just live up to their draft value, but perhaps surpass it over time.

That being said, this is a critical draft for Moore, JJ Picollo, and Lonnie Goldberg, who oversees amateur scouting for the Royals. The trio will need to see some progress from this year’s core picks by at least 2024 at the latest.

If that doesn’t happen, well…that could spell the end for Moore and his front office team in Kansas City.

Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

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