I know EVERY team in baseball needs to avoid prior draft mistakes. But, if the Royals manage to pull off the feat in Thursday’s amateur draft, it would be significant progress for the Dayton Moore regime.
Kansas City holds 3 high picks in the draft, with selections at #17, #28 and #40. They should be able to land a good haul of talent with plenty of slot money to sign prospects. And, yet, all I can think about is the errors of past drafts.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Dayton Moore came to Kansas City determined to turn around the team’s fortunes by focusing on building up the team’s player development system. By 2010, many baseball pundits recognized the Royals as not only having the strongest farm system in baseball, they considered the Royals system the best the had seen since analysts started evaluating minor-league systems.
Something funny happened along the way to building a power-house. Now, four years later, the team is scuffling along with a mediocre 28-30 record that has put the Dayton Moore regime in jeopardy.
Thursday’s amateur draft is unlikely to have any effect on Moore’s eventual survival. If Moore and Co. expect to be in charge in Kansas City next season, they had better hope the major-league team rebounds to earn a playoff berth. Even so, it would be painful to see the Royals make the same mistakes that have, so far, derailed their ability to turn prospects into productive major leaguers.
I think the poster child for Royals drafting mistakes is Bubba Starling. Former Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski writes in NBC Sports Hardball Talk about how Starling was a “trap” the Moneyball A’s would never have considered. Basically, Starling was a “local legend” with prodigious athletic gifts but a flawed approach at the plate: specifically, he struck out 3 times more than he walked.
The Royals gambled he could learn enough plate discipline to become an effective hitter. So far, the result has been Starling’s .188/.289/.292 line at High-A Wilmington.
Other Royals errors include 1st round draft picks on pitchers Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow. Both have matured into useful, even dominant, relievers. But you want future starters with high, 1st round picks.
This season’s draft shapes up to be something of a test. A local KC high-school legend is likely to be available at Kansas City’s #17 pick in OF Monte Harrison. He’s a toolsy young prospect from Lee’s Summit, MO with speed, power, and athleticism who has even committed to play football at Nebraska just like Starling. He’s also seen as “raw” and a player who needs work on his “hit tool”.
Meanwhile, down at the #40 pick, the Royals are likely to have a chance to take Lawrence High’s Bryce Montes De Oca—a huge 6’8″ 265 lbs. right-handed pitcher with a fastball that touches 96 mph. But, De Oca is coming back from Tommy John surgery and has a high-stress arm action that will likely limit him to a relief role in MLB.
Harrison and Montes De Oca are exactly the type of prospects the Royals have drafted in the past. They are the kind of guys the Royals will need to avoid in the future.
If the Royals avoid these two names, and instead tap someone like A.J. Reed (an un-athletic college 1st baseman with power, plate discipline and a strong hit tool) we might begin to believe that Dayton Moore can learn from his mistakes.