I normally save the Royals’ columns for our publisher Phil Cobb, but with the MLB Draft just a few days away, I couldn’t resist.
The Royals are in the midst of a major rebuild and that makes Monday possibly the most important day of the regular season despite not having a game that day. That is because the Royals hold the second overall pick in the first round — thanks to suffering through an absolutely terrible 2018 season.
The Royals have only held the No. 2 pick twice in club history and it just happened to produce two key position players in a core that eventually led to the 2015 World Series victory. In 2005, the Royals selected third baseman Alex Gordon out of the University of Nebraska and in 2007, they picked shortstop Mike Moustakas from Chatsworth (Calif.) High School.
And no, that is not a typo. ‘Moose’ was a shortstop in high school and ‘Gordo’ was a third baseman and was even a third baseman when he first came to the big leagues. That illustrates an important point with the baseball draft that differs from the NFL or NBA Drafts, these players will spend years developing in the minors — especially the high school products — and just because they have their positions listed as something on draft day, doesn’t mean that is where they remain.
In recent first-round pick history, Billy Butler was a third baseman, Mitch Maier was a catcher and Hunter Dozier was a shortstop.
The only Royals’ top pick (position player) who was a Major League regular at the position he was drafted was the No. 3 overall pick in 2008, first baseman Eric Hosmer.
That is all to prepare everyone for the consensus No. 2 pick in this season’s draft, Bobby Witt Jr. — the Orioles are likely to spend their No. 1 pick on Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman.
The high school shortstop from Colleyville, Texas, is regarded as a true five-tool prospect by nearly every scouting service out there. The ‘five-tool’ label comes from his abilities to hit for power, hit for average, field, throw and run.
The fielding and arm strength alone with a prototypical size (6-foot-1, 185) suggest that shortstop may be the eventual landing spot for Witt. However, with the most exciting player on the Kansas City roster currently being Adalberto Mondesi, I don’t think it is a requirement that Witt stick at shortstop which may be a blessing in that it opens up more options for the team and Witt as he develops.
While the combined ability of all his ‘tools’ are what makes Witt such an elite prospect, the tool he is most known for is his power, and while that develops, he will likely bulk up further and Mondesi’s presence allows him to shift from shortstop to either third base, second base or center field. And if shortstop is still an option for Witt by the time he reaches the majors, that is all the better. It never hurts having two players with shortstop-range deployed in different places in a defense.
Another similarity that Witt shares with Mondesi is a famous father. Like Adalberto, the son of 13-year Major League outfielder Raul Mondesi, Witt’s father Bobby Witt Sr., was a 16-year Major League pitcher — playing mostly with Texas and Oakland.
Monday’s first-round of the MLB Draft should be an exciting moment for Kansas City and if Witt is the selection, like most say he will be, it will add another name for Royals fans to keep an eye out for in the minors. Are last year’s trio of first-round pitchers Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch along with Witt, the next home-grown core to lead the Royals to the promised land like Hosmer, Moustakas and Salvador Perez did?
Time will tell on that one, but after the Royals mortgaged their farm system (rightfully so) to win a World Series. It is just nice to see talent being fed back into it. And with the third-worst record in baseball, next season’s draft will likely be interesting too, but why focus on the negative now, Bobby Witt Jr., is about to become a Royal and that is something to be excited about.