MLB Draft preview: Royals look to stockpile talent with three early picks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Obviously, the Major League Baseball draft doesn’t produce dividends as quickly as the NFL draft.

But the Royals will have a somewhat rare opportunity to stockpile for the future, having three picks among the top 46 selections in Thursday’s amateur baseball draft.

The Royals have picks eight, 34 and 46. The draft begins at 6 p.m. Central time.
“We’re in the best position we’ve been in for several years,” Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “We’ve got a high pick at No. 8, a sandwich pick and a pretty high second-round pick.

“So we’re going into this with a lot of excitement and anxiousness. You always get excited at the type of players you’re going to get that high up.”

The Royals will have about $8.9 million to spend in the signing bonus pool, as determined by MLB.

“You can spend that money any way you want,” Picollo said. “You can spend $8.8 million on one guy and then give everyone else $100. But it gives you flexibility to sign guys you really want and not worry so much about signability, especially when you get to the sandwich pick or early second round.”

The Royals under general manager Dayton Moore have generally sided with the philosophy of taking high school hitters and college pitchers, and they may again be looking at a high school hitter Thursday.

“We like to get all the 18-year-olds we can – pitchers and hitters,” Picollo said. “We can get them at 18, mold them, get them in our program. We can get them on throwing programs for pitchers, the hitters can play every day.

“And we don’t have to inherit guys who have gone to programs that may be doing things a different way. But then again, if you get a college hitter who has been successful, there’s a reason for that. The kid has talent and maybe he’s been coached well, and all you have to do is make some tweaks here and there.

“But in the end, you have to look at the best player available, no matter the age.”

Here’s a look at some of the draft prospects the Royals could end up with:

Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X High School (Tex.): Great athletic skills and is a top-notch football player. Good size at 6-feet-3, 195, and has shown good velocity, hitting 93 mph consistently. Secondary pitches only adequate for now but viewed as a project with potentially a huge upside.

D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, University of New Mexico: Perhaps the best pure hitter in the draft, Peterson has a solid frame at 6-1, 205 pounds, with room to add a bit more. Not an overwhelming power hitter, but hits for average to all parts of the field. Average to above average defender with a good arm.

Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville High School (Ga.): Perhaps the best all-around prospect in the draft. Frazier is 6-1, 190 pounds, with elite bat speed and elite speed on the bases and in the field. Also has shown tremendous power. Truly a five-tool player.

Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson High School (Ga.): An elite left-handed hitter with good size – 6-3, 215 pounds – who may be getting too big to be a center fielder. But certainly, if his power evolves as he grows, he could be an impact corner outfielder. Scouts say the ball jumps off  his bat, and that is especially true to his pull side.

Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian High School (Calif.): Rising up the charts, Bickford is 6-4, 190, and already hits the radar gun at 97 mph. Not much for secondary pitches yet,  but hasn’t needed them.

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