As the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft is looming on the  horizon, the time has come for my fifth annual mock draft.  I usually take this about eight rounds deep, trying to blend what I think the Royals might do against what I would like them to do versus who might be available.  

As you can imagine, actually getting the players right is pretty difficult.   In 2006,  I actually did peg Luke Hochevar and Harold Mozingo (yes, Harold Mozingo), but have not truly nailed a pick since.   Even giving myself partial credit for Aaron Crow and Tim Melville (they both fell under the ‘they’ll pick them if they are available, but they won’t be’ category), that is still not a very good percentage.   

Given that, let me put in my usual disclaimer here about how this is more an example of the types of players available at each slot and not so much a this-is-who-the-Royals-will-take sort of draft.   Anyway, let’s get to it.

ROUND ONE – 4TH OVERALL PICK

There is something of a consensus that Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jameson Taillon have separated themselves from the rest of this year’s draft crop, making the number four pick not all that alluring.    That said, the Royals will likely jump all over Manny Machado if he happens to slip to them.   The high school shortstop is just too much of a confluence of organizational need and best available talent to pass him up over having to pay over slot money to sign him.

I think the Pirates take Machado and the Orioles nab Taillon, leaving the Royals to choose from lefties Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale or catcher Yasmani Grandal.   There has also been some scuttlebutt of the club’s interest in Citadel righthander Asher Wojciechowski.  If Kansas City was looking to go the route of the 2009 Pirates and make a signability pick at number four and then use that money to pay over-slot money to later picks, then Wojciechowski is the route they will take.   While signability is a dirty word around Kansas City fans, this may not be a bad plan in this year’s draft.

That said, with Machado gone, I am going to go with the consensus here and say the Royals pick Chris Sale out of Florida Gulf Coast.   Throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot, Sale brings a lively fastball in the low 90′s with a plus changeup and a passable slider.   He has a funky delivery and certainly needs some clean-up on his mechanics, but then Tim Lincecum had funky mechanics, too.    While Sale’s upside is not Lincecum, he does have as much potential as any pitcher in the draft this side of Taillon.

My preference would be to pick Yasmani Grandal (bonus demands be damned) with the idea of moving Wil Myers to a corner outfield spot and have both of them reach the majors by 2013.  In the alternative, if the Royals were going to try to save some coin for later rounds, opt for outfielder Michael Choice.   All that said, the pick is….

Not so fast my friends!  I wrote the above on Friday night and as I approach publication this weekend, we were greated by the news that the Royals may have a pre-draft agreement in place with Yasmani Grandal.   A switch-hitting catcher with power and one that is among the national leaders in walks, he should be poised to hit the ground running and make quick work of the minors like former ACC products Matt Wieters and Buster Posey.   A good not great defender, Yasmani works hard and plays withenergy.  I like this pick, especially with the contract apparently already agreed upon, so instead of Chris Sale, the pick is….

Yasmani Grandal, C

ROUND TWO – 54TH OVERALL

It is a long wait, both in picks and time, for the Royals second round pick and most of the names that get all the hype will be gone by the time number 54 rolls around.

There is some thought that the Royals are eyeing Minnesota catcher Mike Kvasnicka, a switch-hitter who spent the bulk of his first two years with the Gophers as a right fielder.   He sports power, plate discipline and a good arm, but is inexperienced as a catcher.   The question here is, after drafting Wil Myers as a catcher without much catching experience last year, would the Royals draft another ‘catcher who hasn’t caught much’ again this year?   For that matter, at least one mock draft has Kvasnicka being gone by this pick, which might not be all that bad anyway.

Again, the above paragraph has become outdated with the news about Grandal.   I really did have the Royals taking Kvasnicka here, but am much happier with Grandal in Round One and someone else at this spot.

There is a chance, however small, that right handed slugging outfielder Bryce Brentz might slip this far based upon something of an injury plagued season.  Two years ago, he led Division I with 28 home runs and slugging in excess of .900.  This season, a supposed off year, Bryce still slugged over .700, so it would be quite a bonus if he fell to the Royals at number 54.  Again, I don’t think he will be there, but watch for this name around the mid-twenties to make sure.

Another potential ‘slipper’ would be another right-handed outfield bat in Clemson’s Kyle Parker.   The starting quarterback on the football team, there are both signability concerns and, somewhat surprisingly, athleticism concerns around Parker.   Again, it would be an upset for Parker to fall this far, but he would be worth of consideration should he do so.

The drafting of Grandal in round one, however, makes me think the Royals will go pitching at this slot.   At one point earlier this spring, I thought James Paxton might be intriguing here.   He pitched for Kentucky two years ago, was drafted by Toronto and then did not sign.   The NCAA got involved and Paxton and Kentucky parted ways, leaving James to pitch in Indy Ball this season.   That right there, is why I don’t think this is an option any longer, given the struggles of Aaron Crow after a similar career path (and Luke Hochevar for that matter).  

I wonder about two talented high school pitchers with signability issues:  Zach Lee, who is a quarterback recruit to LSU (where he will also be allowed to play baseball) and Tyrell Jenkins, who is a quarterback recruit to Baylor.   Jenkins is an athletic 6’4″ 180 pound righthander who can toss his fastball well into the mid-90s and couples that with a curve, slider and change.   He’s raw, but big on potential.    

Also a right-hander, Lee may not drop this far even given his signabilityissues, but he brings more polish than Jenkins witha low-90s fastball, slider and change.   His delivery is clean and he has already filled out a touch more than Jenkins with an extra 15 pounds on his 6’4″ frame. 

All things being equal, I would love the Royals to go get one of the college power hitters mentioned above, but I believe they will go for one of the pitchers.   I will even offer up draft eligible Ball State product Perci Gardner as a possibility, but I think the pick is…….

Tyrell Jenkins, RHP

ROUND THREE – 86TH OVERALL

The Royals have offered up that pitching, catching, shortstop and right handed power, mostly at the college level, are their focus for this year’s draft.   That seperates them from two, maybe three, teams in baseball, but having picked a pitcher and a catcher it at least helps this writer focus on certain players for the club’s third round pick.

Shortstops who are likely to be available in the third round AND likely to stick at shortstop as pros are probably not worth a pick this high, unless Western Oklahoma State JC product Andrelton Simmons is still around.   A native of Curacao, Simmons is rated by Baseball America as the best defensive shortstop in the draft.   He sports a great arm that has some teams looking at him as a pitcher.

If not Simmons, the Royals might look to outfielder Gauntlett Eldemire out of the University of Ohio.   Very athletic, Eldemire put up good numbers this season (.391, 15 HR), but is still considered raw for a college player.  Your classic, toolsy outfielder here, folks.

Also in consideration at this spot would have to be switch-hitting outfielder Todd Cunnigham, the Cape Cod League batting champ.   The good thing here is that he kind of strikes you as a David DeJesus type:  capable of playing centerfield, hitting for average and 10-15 home runs.   The bad thing is that he strikes you as a David DeJesus type:  maybe not enough range for center and not enough pop for a corner spot.

My pick in the third round….

Andrelton Simmons, SS

ROUND FOUR – 119TH OVERALL

It is not out of the realm of possibilites that Eldemire and or Cunningham will still be available at this point and I would firmly advocate taking either one.

That said, the Royals might well go pitching here if none of the right-handed power hitters slips this far and that guy might well by Wichita State pitcher Jordan Cooper.    A right-handed strike-thrower with a repeatable delivery, Cooper is no thrower – he can really pitch.   His stuff will not blow you away, but throws a sinking fastball backed by a good slider and good changeup.  

There are a lot of college arms right in this area that bring a bushel of potential, but Cooper’s polish may be too tough for the Royals to ignore.  The pick is….

Jordan Cooper, RHP

 

ROUND FIVE – 149TH OVERALL

 A name that might be worth monitoring here is high-school outfielder Brian Ragira who is, you guessed, a powerful right-handed bat.   Ragira is raw, advised by Boras and committed to Stanford.    Translation:  bring the checkbook if you are calling this name.   My guess is that the Royals might have used their ‘over-slot’ money already by now and move on to someone else.

That someone might be Mark Canha, who played first base for California this season.   He brings power to all fields, hits for average and is an athletic 6’2″ 205 pounds.   Canha has a good arm and better than average speed and most expect he can handle either corner outfield spot.    Baseball America calls Canha one of the safest picks in the draft.   That’s good enough for me….

Mark Canha, 1b/OF

ROUND SIX – 179TH OVERALL

If we were not guessing before, we sure as heck are now.   Some players likely to be around and of about this value at this point might be Daniel Burawa, who works out of the St.John’s pen as a draft eligible sophmore.   With less than 30 innings of Division I work to eyeball, scouts like what they see but are hesitant to truly believe.   Burawabrings the heat routinely at 95 mph with a high 70′s breaking pitch for a change of pace.

Boston College’s Pat Dean has dealt with elbow inflammation this spring, but has still shown excellent command and good effectiveness.   Dean does not have ‘blow you away’ stuff, nor does he offer the classic ‘projectable frame’, but he is another polished pitcher that might fit in as a nice complement with the ‘high upside’ arms in the system already.

The pick is….

Daniel Burawa, RHP

 ROUND SEVEN – 209TH OVERALL

 Florida centerfielder Matt den Dekker might be a fit here.  A very good defender who did not sign last year after going in the 16th round, Dekker showed decent power and average this season as a senior.   If he’s available here, Dekker would make sense as a nice combination of talent and signability:  freeing up some money to go after a player who might have dropped due to signability issues later.

Pacific outfielder Nick Longmire has the tools packed into his 6’2″ 210 pound frame that you would like to see.   An up and down career at Pacific might make him available here as another power bat to put into the system.

Jimmy Reyes is a left-hander out of Elon witha 187 to 37 strikeout to walk ratio the last two years.   He pretty much is what he is, a low 90′s thrower with a good slider and not much more projection left in his frame.   Still, Reyes is a strike throwerwith polish.  I’m assuming the Royals like those qualities, I know I do.   The pick is….

Jimmy Reyes, LHP

ROUND EIGHT – 239TH OVERALL

 I am going to take a stab out of nowhere here and look at Mike Giovenco, a Division III right-hander who stands 6’6″ and goes 235 pounds.   Giovencohas touched 95 mph withhis fastball, but needs work on refining and concealing his curve.   However, if you are drafting a pitcher who needs some refinement, the big guy with the big fastball is a good place to start.   The pick….

Mike Giovenco, RHP

Alright, let the fun begin!