Last week we checked in on the opening round of the Major League Baseball draft, where the Royals selected a major pitching prospect in Asa Lacy and a contact hitter valued for his versatility in Loftin, who they considered taking with the fourth overall pick but fell to them in the mid-30 competitive balance picks. Both selections could have major upside in the organization, but the Royals really flexed their muscles over the final four rounds of the draft and in the days following, signing up a group of the best of the rest that were not selected in the truncated draft.
The Royals led off day two of the draft with their only high school selection, picking Ben Hernandez, a right handed pitcher that goes 6’2” and 205 pounds. Hernandez already tosses a 95 mile per hour fastball and is described as polished for a high school arm, and having an “upside frame.”
In the third round, Kansas City continued one trend and started another that would continue through the signing period after the draft. The Royals grabbed Alabama outfield Tyler Gentry with their third pick, solidifying the team’s tendency to select players out of the SEC, but also began a string of signing batting leaders from college programs on a sudden rise. Unlike many of the later pickups, Gentry’s uptick starting in 2019, as he exploded to lead the Crimson Tide in batting average, hits , runs, homeruns and RBIs.
Gentry was followed by Oregon State’s Christian Chamberlain in round four. Chamberlain is a smaller lefty, but was selected as an All American for the shortened 2020 season after struggling last season, and could project as a solid reliever in the not-too-distant future. The team’s 5th round selection was Will Klein of Eastern Illinois. Klein racked up 34 strikeouts in 22 innings in the shortened season and with his 96 MPH fastball, cut his walk rate in half in the 2020 season.
The Kansas City front office truly set themselves apart in the signing period following the draft, knocking down what many considered to be four of the top five undrafted players. The team started with highly-rated catcher Kale Emshoff out of Arkansas-Little Rock. Emshoff led his team in hitting and home runs in 2020 and finished as a finalist for the Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award. The team then signed a player that they drafted just a year ago, in LSU catcher/designated hitter Saul Garza. Garza led LSU in homeruns and RBIs this season and made a slew of All-Tournament teams in 2019 thanks to a strong finish to the season.
Like Gentry, John McMillon of Texas Tech, projects to fill a bullpen spot for KC down the line. McMillon rings up his fastball at 100 MPH and has a solid track record in the bullpen, falling just one save short of Tech’s record. The triple digit heat has a lot of fans and folks in the Royals organization excited about his late inning prospects if he can nail down his command. A.J. Block was another late bloomer, leading the PAC 12 with 27.2 innings in 2020 out of Washington State and striking out 10 batters in three of four starts.
Tucker Bradley is yet another SEC prospect and a quick riser in 2020 after missing all of 2019 due to injury. The hard working Bulldog set himself apart at a rapid pace in 2020, leading the team in RBIs and homeruns in the short season. The final signing was Chase Wallace, a right-handed pitcher out of Tennessee. Wallace is not as highly regarded as some of the other pickups, but the junior pitcher looks to be a more long-term project and pitching depth for the minor league organizations.