Kansas City Royals 2014 MLB Draft Review

The Royals draft in my mind is a good one as they have landed four extremely high upside talents with a handful of pieces that could blossom later. The pick of Brandon Finnegan threw me off at first as I didn’t expect him to be there let alone the Royals actually taking him as I had my eyes on offense more with the first pick but Finnegan has as much skill in his three pitches as you will find after the Top 5 picks. Should inflammation caused him to be there but that was more precautionary than actual risk. The same is said for Blewett while Griffin adds as much polish and projection as I’ve seen from any pitcher since the beginning of the Dayton Moore era. While I wanted the Royals to add some big power to the system I didn’t see it coming from Vallot who has much upside power potential as there was in this draft at an extremely young age. While those four picks speak to big ceiling the additions of Skoglund and Ogando add some possible backend rotation arms at a slot level due to their advanced pitch ability. In the new MLB draft system teams have to pick and choose their times to strike and with this draft I like where the Royals did their choosing. Quick Analysis

Best Pick: Foster Griffin
Favorite Pick: Foster Griffin LHP
Most Physical Position Player: Chase Vallot
Biggest Upside: Scott Blewett RHP 2nd Rd Pick 56
Might Surprise Top 20 Rd: Emilio Ogando LHP 12th Rd
Might Surprise Rd 21-40 Rd: Tim Hill LHP 32nd Rd

FYI – The formatting got messed up in bringing this article over from PTP

Rd-Pick Name (Bold indicates signed)

1-17 Brandon Finnegan – 5’11 190 lbs – He’s on the short side for a starter but this lefty has a plus slider and fastball with the mentality you would expect from a Texan. He works that fastball as high as the 95-97 mph range but commands it better in the low 90’s. The offering isn’t your typical fastball from a short pitcher either with it’s life towards the bottom of the zone. Finnegan told me he can get the life at the end of the pitch by using his legs to drive. The lefty features two breaking pitches in a 82-84 mph slider which is easily his best offspeed offering while also throwing a curveball in the high 70’s. The slider is a good pitch that he can run away from lefties and in on righties but I expect him to shelve the curve in the pro ranks. Like other reports have said Brandon told me he altered his grip after speaking with NC State starter Carlos Rodon making the pitch harder and sharper making it his definite go to pitch when he needs a strikeout. The change up is still in development working in the low 80’s but the pitch has improved this season and will be needed for him to develop into a starter. While that pitch trails the slider in effectiveness during the college season he showed plenty of confidence last summer against Cuba and was actually the better pitch in that game. Versus that Cuba team full of pro aged players Finnegan dominated them with 7 innings of shutout ball allowing just 3 hits, a walk and striking out 8. The change up was a big key to those results and while Brandon calls it his 3rd pitch he told me he has plenty of confidence in it and considers it an out pitch. Resilient is the best word to describe Finnegan after the lefty bounced back from a tough Soph season, early doubts in the 2014 campaign and shoulder inflammation late this season. Brandon described the 2013 campaign as “tough and embarrassing” when he went 0-8 despite just over a 3 run ERA as his teammates gave him just 2.75 runs of support on average. Despite that rough 2013 Brandon built his stock up during the summer with dominant performances for Team USA and at the Cape. Not stopping there Finnegan pushed his stock to a Top 10 level before running into the inflammation. Via Brandon “It was more precautionary, nothing serious just some inflammation that I got rid of.” Used to disappointments all Brandon did was help pitch his squad to TCU’s first Big 12 championship, a national seed and a trip to the CWS. I would expect him to move quickly in the Royals system with his fastball-slider combination but it will be that change up that decides his ultimate fate in a rotation or bullpen. Out of the pen Finnegan could be a 7th/8th inning option, if he refines his mechanics and improves the change then his peak is probably of a #3 starter.

Pic via OrlandoSentinel.com
Pic via OrlandoSentinel.com

1-28 Foster Griffin – 6’4 210 lbs – Ideal projection from a left-handed starting pitcher with very good athleticism and comfortable feel for both his curve and change up. Background – Father was a professional golfer and serves as a golf pro with Foster also playing golf for his high school. That athleticism to play multiple sports is plus but the fact that he is good at a sport that is a touch and feel sport is even better. Can play golf from both the right and left side. The fastball works mainly in the 88-92 mph range now but has shown itself in the mid 90’s already and one would think that he has the body to fill out and pitch in that mid 90’s range regularly. The pitch features some arm side run that Griffin will need to learn to control and command better than he did during high school. The change up looks to be a plus future pitch showing fade while the big lefty does a good job of repeating his arm speed with it. Having this pitch flashing already in his younger years is big and a good sign it will develop as he moves up the chain. Griffin’s curve is ahead of his slider at this point and I expect the Royals ask him to continue to develop that pitch instead of the slider. The lefty shows good spin with the pitch allowing it to bite hard when he maintains the correct slot. According to Lonnie Goldberg Griffin loves to talk pitching and likes to study his craft which is extremely important to a players ability to fulfill his potential. Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 12.00.54 AM 1-40 Chase Vallot 6′ 205 lbs – The power and age are the things that standout for the Royals supplemental first round pick. Not yet 18 years old Vallot has shown major league power in exhibitions and in live competition hitting 13 home runs this season for his high school club after showing off big power in home run derby prior to the season. The age stands out as we have learned from Rany Jazyerli’s study, the younger the drafted prospect the better his chances at breaking through and eventually into the big leagues. The young catching prospect doesn’t turn 18 until August meaning his odds of breaking through are slightly better than most. Defensively Vallot has shown the throwing skills to stay behind the plate but needs to refine the catching skills while catching elite velocity. Whether his hitting ability will allow that to be done is another story, prospects that can hit at above position level will often find a new spot on the field and Vallot’s power could move him to a corner position in his future. For now the Royals will leave him in hopes of finding the rare stud power-hitting catcher.

2-56 Scott Blewett 6’6 230 lbs – If you like a projectable power arm then Blewett is your guy, standing 6’6 and 230 lbs at just 18 years of age the Royals 2nd round pick has the appearance of an innings eating ace already. On top of that he is armed with a couple big time pitches in his fastball that peaks to the mid 90’s and a 12-6 downer curve that he throws with some power as well. Projected to go in the first round by analyst earlier in the process Blewett’s stock fell due to weather preventing scouts from getting in to see him and a shoulder concern that shut him down for a short time during the season. The Royals scouted him heavily when he came back from the precautionary stoppage and believe they may have got a steal of a pick in the 2nd round. The thing that stood out for me after talking to Coach Penafeather is that Scott is as close to self made of a prospect that exist in today’s game where using regular pitching coaches and personal trainers is becoming common place, Blewitt didn’t work with anyone regularly and built his body and prospect stock on his own. A fan of Justin Verlander, Blewitt followed his regimen to put on 30 lbs of mass and improve on his draft stock from the time he was a sophomore until his senior year. Perhaps the work helped him get more in tune with his body this season so when he started to feel his upper back run into problems during his season he talked with his coach and came to the decision to shut things down for a bit. That didn’t deter him from helping his team as he put in time at DH and 1b while helping younger teammates improve their own craft and root them on. Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 12.02.08 AM

“He’s a great kid, a real good teammate and a better person.” Coach Penafeather

Blewitt will need to refine command and continue to work on his change up but from the sounds of things work isn’t something that scares this right-handed future starter. Eric Skoglund

3-92 Eric Skoglund – Skinny and tall at 6’7 and 190 lbs is the first thing you’ll see on the surface from the Royals 3rd round pick. What you won’t see however is what the coach of Central Florida Terry Rooney described.

“Eric is a great kid who is extremely passionate on the mound and a hard worker and leader off of it.” “He’s a leader period, vocally and by example.”

On the field Rooney said that Skoglund put on weight in the offseason while also getting physically stronger. In addition he said that his ability to slow the game down helped him become the AAC pitcher of the year. Tall and projectable Skoglund works his fastball mostly to the glove side in the 87-92 mph range with solid command. In addition he uses a slider that acts more like a slurve around 80-82 and a change up also in that range of speed. He can throw all three pitches with good location out of his high ¾ arm angle mixing in any pitch at any point in the count. The height, length and control make Eric a solid pick at slot money even if the pitches all profile around average.

4-123 DJ Burt – At 5’9 and around 170 lbs DJ doesn’t look physical but he has plenty of athleticism and what Todd Gold described as good quicks more than straightline speed. The high school shortstop will likely have to move to center or second base due to this average arm but he could have the quick reactions and bat speed to play well at those spots. A former South Carolina commit Burt was quickly signed instead of heading to Chipola Juco. There were mixed reviews whether the arm is strong enough to stick at SS but the Royals must be one of the teams in the he can stick camp considering the spot where he was drafted.

5-153 Corey Ray – Big Texan at 6’4 and 190 lbs on a body that looks like it could add weight. The arm is extreme over the top with some armside run on the fastball. Can drive the ball to the lower part of the zone with the fastball but appears to slow his arm down on the breaking ball. Had an extremely strong year for Texas A&M making 4 starts in his 17 appearances, dropping just one game on the year. Good body, good project with a stock that is rising.

6-183 Logan Moon – 6’2 195 lbs – Local product the Royals took and signed for $5,000 says plenty about he DII product who struggled at Central Arkansas as a Junior before transferring to Missouri Southern where he hit well. Had an above average walk to strikeout ratio this year but that is not typical of his stats at Central Arkansas and likely shows that he was playing above the level of competition he was facing.

7-213 Brandon Downes – 6’3 195 lbs –  Plenty of tools to work with. That’s all you really need to know when discussing a 7th round pick in the new draft system considering most picks after the 3rd round are college seniors and college juniors that are considered signable below slot. That’s not the whole story for Downes who has plenty of tools to work with. According to Perfect Games Cape Cod League report Downes had a 55 arm, 55 speed while possessing gap power and bat speed. The bat speed and power showed itself off early this season when he hit a pair of home runs off then Top 5 draft prospect Jeff Hoffman. From there things went south for Downes as he encountered a wrist injury that lead to season of struggles and a .220 average for Virginia. That’s down from his .321 and .316 averages as a freshman and sophomore season but he did crank out 7 home runs in one of the tougher college hitting parks. Definitely one of my favorite picks of the Royals draft since I highlighted him prior to the draft. Plenty to like from a scouting perspective with a shot to play center, right or be a 4th outfielder if he can straighten out the swing and just get his wrist healthy again. Doesn’t have the ideal power potential for a typical corner outfielder but as we know the K plays big and outfield defense can be as valuable as power in the corners and with his speed he could play a plus defensive outfield. Downes had six hits in Virginia’s three Super Regional games and looks to be completely healthy after an early season wrist injury. Check him out during the CWS this next week.

8-243 Ryan O’Hearn – 6’3 200 lbs – According to Assistant Coach Sean Allen the Royals 8th round pick should have the athleticism to play some outfield with his 6.8 second 60 run time. A run producer in college O’Hearn is a middle of the order type bat with doubles power. Currently he struggles a tad with lefthand breaking balls and the righthand change up while also getting into “swing mode” instead of learning to recognize pitches and lay off. An extremely hard worker Allen said that he has a high motor and continued to get better each year in their system. O’Hearn likely impressed Royals scouts with an impressive hitting display early in the season at the Houston baseball tourney at Minute Maid park.

9-273 Brandon Thomasson – 6’3 200 lbs – Thomasson was second only to Kentucky’s AJ Reed this season in home runs with 22 long balls while also finishing second in SLG Percentage to Reed. The big 6’4 218 lbs slugger mostly DH’d for his Tennessee Tech team this season but his coach Matt Bragga believes he has the athleticism to play outfield and that his plus arm would be an asset for him in the big leagues. At worst Bragga said that Brandon could play first base and has the power to carry the position.

“There is not a college hitter in the country with more power than Brandon.”

Brandon generates most of that power with strong hands, forearms and a knack for being able to stay through the ball with his swing while driving the ball out from pole to pole. What benefited Brandon the most this season according to Bragga was his ability to lay off bad pitches and use a more disciplined approach overall. While the numbers at Tennessee Tech speak to a friendly hitting environment for the Golden Eagles it should be noted that they outhomered their opponents by 54 roundtrippers this season. It could just be a case of the Golden Eagles hitters just being better than their opponents and no Eagle hitter served up more power than Brandon.

10-303 Nick Green – $5000 Senior sign was the first of a group of power throwing lefties with decent sliders to work from. He put in 44.1 inning for Utah, has a nice 6-3 200 lbs frame to build from.

11-333 Robert Pehl – The swing from Pehl looks solid but he just hasn’t put up the power many scouts expected many expected after an outstanding freshman Cape Cod season. That 2012 freshman campaign was his best overall playing 2b, hitting for a decent freshman average of .293 and then building on that campaign at the Cape putting up a slash .329/.414/.519 with 18 XBH in 44 games. That would be the last of the outstanding performances for Pehl who start to move down the positional ladder while not hitting with much authority, hitting just 7 HR over the next two seasons and another appearance at the Cape. The Royals listed him as a 1b but he’ll likely need to play LF where he can use his average at best arm and average speed.

12-363 Emilio Ogando 6’2 190 lbs – This pick has the makings of true sleeper considering how much Ogando has improved between his Sophmore and Junior years. Following a down Soph season for NAIA St. Thomas all Ogando did was dominate the Florida Summer League earning Most Outstanding Pitcher in a league that featured the Royals 3rd round pick Erik Skoglund. Ogando dominated that league going 9-1 in 55 IP while striking out 55 against just 25 hits and 11 walks. Emilio OgandoHe carried over that success to his NAIA season striking out 29.3% of the hitters he faced during the season against just 11 walks in 84.2 IP. He did all of that with a 87-90 mph fastball that can get up to 93 mph, a 12-6 curveball and a solid change up. His three pitch mix proved too much for that league and the command of the three pitches is what really earns interest. The breaking ball and command were both voted best in the Summer league. The frame doesn’t look like that of a workhorse starter but he’s proven to be up to the workload the past couple of seasons.

13-393 Eric Stout – Another lefty with a ¾ arm angle Stout started 13 games this season for Butler University earning 8.5 K/9 in that time despite having a propensity to give up the longball. The lefty has length at 6’3 and an ability to miss bats at times. While a starter in college he could probably peak up out of the bullpen where his 89-92 mph fastball can peak up into the mid 90’s. Team that with his slider and change combination and maybe the Royals could have an eventual bullpen arm.

14-423 Ian Tompkins – Tompkins shared the closing duties during 2013 before taking over the role fulltime this season. He succeeded extremely well in that role striking out 15.9 per 9 this season while limiting opponents to a .232 batting average against and earning 14 saves in 26 appearances.

“Organized chaos best describes Ian” – Coach Matt Myers

According to Myers, Ian has lots of moving parts with elbows flying, a slingy arm movement out of a ¾ arm slot with the moving parts limiting hitters ability to pick up his 87-92 mph two seam fastball that he can run, cut and add sink to. He also throws a good slider that works in the 79-82 mph range with plenty of movement as well as a change up that he threw when he started. All of his pitches feature plenty of movement and Tompkins with an extremely resilient arm. A drummer in his part time Ian fits the mold as a goofy lefty with an ability to channel his energy in the bullpen. Corey Toups 15-453 Corey Toups –  5’11 170 lbs with plenty of tools to like from Toups.

“The best athlete in our time at Sam Houston State while being the pound for pound strongest kid on this years team”. Coach Allen

While some in the scouting community believe Corey’s speed will force him to the right side of the diamond his coach believes that to be overstated as he’s seen his speed in the 6.38 range on turf and believes he can handle shortstop if he can learn to control his big arm (90-93 mph from mound) when moving to his right. With athleticism through the roof Toups’ fast twitch muscles, pull side power and plus range at short could lead him to a chance at becoming a utility player in the bigs. It’s a long trek between drafted player in the 15th round and the majors but from the sounds of it he has plenty of tools with a plus arm, ability to possibly play on the left side of the infield, athleticism and some pop at the plate. According to Allen the Sam Houston shortstop did a better job of handling failure this season.

16-483 Manny Olloque – Those in the Torrance area have followed Manny since an impressive sophomore year of high school. A dip during his junior year sent his stock back some but he bounced back this season helping his high school to its first CIF title on the same day he was drafted. A high school third baseman Olloque has the arm and the quickness for the position but lacks the muscle for the offensive part at this point. He’s lean at 6’2 and 170 lbs but will need to add mass to take advantage of his quick linedrive swing. I like the chances of the Royals signing Olloque after Finnegan, Downes and Blewett deals are done.

Pic via Omaha.com
Pic via Omaha.com

17-513 Brennan Henry – at 6’3 215 lbs tossing 91-93 mph with a power slider in the mid 80’s it’s easy to see why the Royals scouts were intrigued by Henry. A very high motor according to Coach Moniux Brennan throws from a high ¾ am slot and works extremely hard putting in extra side sessions in between his starts at Bellevue. With a fun energetic personality who his teammates liked he seemingly would be a good fit in the bullpen for this system. According to coach he struggled with his release point at times this last season until he exhibited better body control which helped him find his release point. He needs to control the running game better but his best days are ahead of him according to his coach.

  Brennan has the highest upside of any player we’ve had since I’ve been coaching here. Coach Moniux

18-543 Alberto Rodriguez – An interesting pick for the Royals as Rodriguez didn’t play baseball for three years after graduating high school. He landed at NW Florida State JUCO this year and used his thick 6’ 225 frame to generate a few strikeouts, 13 in 14.2 IP. The right-handed reliever hit 95 mph on the gun and looks to be a development project for Kansas City.

19-573 Scott Heineman – Heineman could have been a much higher drafted prospect had he not been hurt this season. Prior to that period Heineman showed plenty of speed in the Cape, stealing 24 bags in 30 chances while also showing a little pop with 13 extra base hits in those 38 games. His brother is a Astros farmhand and maybe a season on the bench watching will intrigue him to sign if the Royals can meet his price. If so the Royals could be getting an athletic outfielder with good bloodlines, athleticism and bat speed.

20-603 Kyle Pollock – Sometimes a player needs another players help to get drafted, that was certainly case for Pollock who benefited from scouts being in attendance on a regular basis to checkout Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland. Still Pollock had to take advantage of the eyes and he did just that putting together his best season at the plate. Behind the dish he has a solid arm and okay blocking skills but needs to continue to refine his movement behind the plate. Pollock also played in the Northwoods League with Royals 13th round pick Eric Stout.

21-633 Evan Beal 6’4 200 lbs– The South Carolina pitcher was the one that got away in 2011, turning down a package of more than $650k from the Royals as their 9th round selection. Following a strong freshman year he has encountered injuries and inconsistent performance. The Royals are likely hoping his 91-93 mph fastball and plus slider can develop under their tutelage. Not yet 21 years of age with a big body, could use that FB/Slider combo to work in a relief role or continue to try to develop the change up in a starting role. Lots of upside remains with Beal despite a disappointing college career and more than $650K reasons he should’ve signed with the Royals previously.

22-663 Mike Hill – A possible utility option in the long run Hill was having a good junior season before breaking his ankle. He’s played SS, 3b and all three outfield spots and is an average runner with a plus arm. Some mechanic changes in his swing and stance could be made to

23-693 Eric Sandness 6’6 210 lbs – Didn’t miss many bats in the college league the RHP performed in.

24-723 Brandon Thomas – Lefty pitched very sparingly for San Diego State with opponents hitting over .300 against him.

25-753 Rudy Martin – Extremely small at 5’7 150 lbs with plus speed he’ll likely end up at Texas Tech after they qualified for the CWS and their program appears on the rise.

26-783 Michael Arroyo – The Royals like stabbing a Puerto Rican catching prospect in the last couple of drafts and Arroyo looks like a nice project to build from. Standing at 6’2 185 lbs he shows above average speed for a catcher, a good arm and decent movement flashing sub 2 second pop times. At the plate Arroyo shows strength to all fields that continue to grow as he fills out his lean body. 27-813 Alex Close – Big bodied Catcher who played 1b primarily for Liberty that has power but needs more work behind the dish.

28-843 Josh Banuelos – “He’s one of the best hitters we’ve ever had,” said head coach Oscar Hirschkorn. “He’s the guy we wanted up in any situation. He could handle velocity, off-speed, it didn’t matter. He has an exceptional work ethic and is a dangerous hitter in any park. He really epitomized what our team was all about this year. He was so professional, regardless of any adversity he faced, and leadership like that allowed this team to end the season as national champions. Josh is certainly someone we’re going to miss but we’re so happy for him that he’s going to be able to live out every player’s dream and go to a first-class organization like the Royals.” Via FPUAtletics.com 6’2 215 lbs first baseman with less the plus power

29-873 Vance Vizcaino – The second time Vizcaino has been drafted after being drafted in the 31st round by the New York Mets in 2012.

30-903 Ryan Lillard 6’2 190 lbs – Iowa baseball players face an uphill battle to get themselves drafted due to the fact that their season is in the summer as opposed to the fall/spring like most other states. Add that to the fact that Lillard a speedy infielder had to undergo Tommy John surgery and you have a player that is highly unlikely to sign with the Royals after making a commitment to Kansas State. Prior to the injury Lillard threw 91 mph from shortstop while running a 6.7 60 yard dash. He has a strong body with the looks of potential pop later.

31-933 Rocky McCord – Didn’t pitch much for Auburn and will likely return for this senior season.

32-963 Tim Hill – Led his NAIA conference in ERA, wins and strikeouts. Also lead the Coastal Plains Summer league in strikeouts. Lanky at 6’2 200 lbs works from a slightly below ¾ arm angle.

33-993 DonAndre Clark – Plus defensive centerfielder with a good arm and solid speed. Switch hitter who had a solid second half but lacks pop in the bat.

34-1023 Todd Eaton – drafted out of Southern Illinois, Eaton split time between starting and closing there.

35-1053 Andrew Sykes – LHP likely to attend Heartland Community College

36-1083 Brandon Gonzalez – Great article about Brandon and the lady that introduced him into baseball Great article via OC Register

37-1113 David Noworyta – Will likely pass on signing with the Royals and take his skills to the University of Hawaii.

38-1143 Cole Way – Big time project at 6’8 205 lbs who hasn’t pitched since his senior year of high school. Has spent the past couple of years punting and kicking for the University of Tulsa football team.

39-1173 Jeff Hendrix – Lead Oregon State in hitting this season, highly unlikely he signs.

40-1203 Diego Francisco – Son of Rene Francisco the Royals head of international operations. Follow me @ClintScoles

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