Kansas City Royals

Royals continue to go college-heavy on second day of MLB Draft

For the first time in his 10 seasons as Royals manager, Ned Yost was able to be in the war room when the team made its first-round draft selection Monday.

Because the start of the MLB Draft lined up with an off day, Yost was able to join general manager Dayton Moore and his staff when the Royals selected high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. with the second overall pick.

“It was what I expected, to go up there. Everybody was excited,” Yost said. “We knew we were going to get a great player. We just didn’t know who we were going to get.”

After Baltimore selected catcher Adley Rutschman with the first pick, the Royals followed by taking Witt — a scenario Yost said “worked out perfectly.”

“He’s very athletic. He looks like he’s going to be a great player,” Yost said of Witt. “We’re excited that he’s part of this organization. By the time he’s ready, we should be competing for another world championship.”

Yost said he did not play an active role in Monday’s draft process; in fact, he didn’t even speak to Moore or scouting director Lonnie Goldberg about which player the team was going to take.

“I never ask them that, because I know that things develop fast and things develop differently,” Yost said. “So just sit back and watch it.”

As it turns out, Witt’s selection was a bit of an anomaly when compared to the rest of the team’s selections in the first 10 rounds.

The Royals — in the MLB Draft’s third through 10th rounds Tuesday — chose only college players, meaning Witt remains as the team’s only prep product out of its first 11 picks.

Oregon State right-handed pitcher Grant Gambrell was KC’s third-round selection (80th overall), as he posted a 2.83 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Beavers last season.

Illinois second baseman Michael Massey went to the Royals in the fourth round. He led the Illini in hits last season (69) while earning All-Big Ten first-team honors; Massey also was named the Big Ten’s “best pure hitter” by Baseball America.

John Rave, a center fielder from Illinois State, was the Royals’ fifth-round pick. He hit .297 with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases for the Redbirds last year as a junior.

The Royals’ other selections Tuesday were Penn State left-handed pitcher Dante Biasi (sixth round), Virginia right-hander Noah Murdock (seventh), Florida State left-hander Drew Parrish (eighth), Indiana State shortstop Clay Dungan (ninth) and Coastal Carolina lefty Anthony Veneziano (10th).

The college-heavy focus appears to be a trend. Of the Royals’ 24 picks in the top 10 rounds of the last two drafts, only Witt and 2018 ninth-rounder Kevon Jackson were taken out of high school.

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.