Kansas City Royals

Royals stocked up on pitching, left-handed hitters in college-heavy draft

The Royals made no secret of their charge going into this year’s draft. In fact, general manager Dayton Moore all but laid it out during the winter while talking about the state of the organization’s farm system.

They felt like they’d added talent in last year’s draft, but they needed to build a stockpile.

“We need to have three or four really good drafts in a row to put us in a position where the farm system is stacked and we’ve got a lot of options,” Moore said in January.

The past three days served as a means to that end as they drafted 41 players into their organization including the nation’s most highly touted high school player in shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. from Colleyville, Texas.

“Overall, we’re excited. It was a big jump for us to get kick-started with Bobby and then attack the players we did after that,” Royals assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting Lonnie Goldberg said. “I can’t say enough about the job that our scouts did with their families, with the players and getting to know the players.”

The Royals’ 41 picks included 35 college or junior college players, six high school players, 26 pitchers (13 left-handed, 13 right-handed), two catchers, nine infielders and four outfielders.

Baseball America ranked the Royals 27th of 30 MLB teams in organizational talent going into this season.

The farm system still remains in recovery mode after being largely drained of pitching prospects in order to facilitate moves made to bolster their major-league roster during the World Series runs of 2014 and 2015. Between the off-season leading into the 2014 season and end of 2015 the Royals traded 11 pitchers.

“I would say that it was probably pitching rich for us at the top part last year, but we had a lot of picks that were a lot earlier,” Goldberg said. “I think what we did this year as well as what we did last year was (build) depth throughout the top 10 rounds, especially. That’s where the bulk of your investment and time is spent.”

The Royals selected 11 players within the first 10 rounds (including one competitive balance round selection). Of that group, only Witt Jr. came from the high school ranks. Six of the picks were pitchers, three middle infielders and one outfielder.

The Royals targeted left-handed hitters such as fourth-round pick Michael Massey, a University of Illinois second baseman who the Royals were somewhat surprised and definitely glad to get with the 109th overall pick.

The 6-foot, 190-pound resident of Palos Park, Ill., Massey batted .317 with a team-high 69 hits as a junior along his way to having earned All-Big Ten first-team honor, an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award. Baseball America dubbed him the “best pure hitter” in the Big Ten. He became the highest-drafted infielder in the history of the Illinois program.

“His power numbers were down a little bit, but he hit for extra base hits,” assistant scouting director Dan Ontiveros said. “Maybe he was a round later than we thought we’d get him, but we were happy that he got there. Our scout did a lot of work with him, has known him throughout the three years at Illinois. So he knew the kid well. We just really like his swing and like the way he plays. He’s a really intense competitor, a leader, a winner.”

Along with a five-tool prospect with big-league bloodlines in Witt Jr., the son of former pitcher Bobby Witt Sr., the Royals were “elated” to select University of Florida shortstop Brady McConnell. They view McConnell as having a similar skill set to Witt Jr. but with a resume that included impressive offensive production as a college player in the SEC as well as Pac-12 pitcher Alec Marsh on the opening day.

They also really like the potential of left-handed pitchers like Dante Biasi out of Penn State and Drew Parrish out of Florida State. They each recorded more than 100 strikeouts this past season. The Royals selected Biasi’s brother, Sal, in the 11th round of the 2017 draft. They traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers last August.

The Royals selections also included right-handed pitcher Johan Dipoto, son of Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, as well as right-handed pitcher David Estevez, son of Royals Latin America Scouting Coordinator Orlando Estevez. Outfielder Andy Martin out of Florida is the brother of Cleveland Indians outfielder Leonys Martin.

Royals 2019 Draft Selections

No. 2 - Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage High school (Texas)

No. 44 - Brady McConnell, shortstop, University of Florida

No. 70 - Alec Marsh, RHP, Arizona State

No. 80 - Grant Gambrell, RHP, Oregon State

No. 109 - Michael Massey, 2B, University of Illinois

No. 139 - John Rave, OF, Illinois State

No. 169 - Dante Biasi, LHP, Penn State

No. 199 - Noah Murdock, RHP, University of Virginia

No. 229 - Drew Parrish, LHP, Florida State

No. 259 - Clay Dungan, SS, Indiana State

No. 289 - Anthony Veneziano, LHP, Coastal Carolina

No. 319 - Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Old Dominion

No. 349 - Adam Lukas, RHP, University of Evansville

No. 379 - Tyler Tolbert, SS, University of Alabama Birmingham

No. 409 - Justin Hooper, LHP, UCLA

No. 439 - Sean Bretz, RHP, University of Houston

No. 469 - Erick Figueroa, RHP, Juan Jose Maunez High School (Puerto Rico)

No. 499 - A.J. Franklin, LHP, Vanderbilt University

No. 529 - Burle Dixon, OF, Cosumnes River College

No. 559 - Austin Manning, LHP, USC

No. 589 - Cody Davenport, RHP, Central Arkansas

No. 619 - Matthew Stil, RHP, Rowan College at Gloucester

No. 649 - Jake Means, 3B, Indiana State

No. 679 - Elliott Anderson, LHP, Auburn University

No. 709 - Alex Smith, LHP, University of Memphis

No. 739 - Josh Broughton, RHP, Valdosta State

No. 769 - Jay Charleston, 2B, University of Tennessee

No. 799 - Zack Phillips, LHP, Ole Miss

No. 829 - Riley Boyd, RHP, Jefferson College (Missouri)

No. 859 - Jon Beymer, RHP, Wabash Valley College,

No. 889 - Jimmy Govern, 2B, Eastern Illinois University

No. 919 - Mike Filia, OF, UC Irvine

No. 949 - Saul Garza, C, LSU

No. 979 - Patrick Smith, LHP, Purdue University

No. 1009 - Justin Fall, LHP, Brookdale CC

No. 1039 - Jonah Dipoto, RHP, UC San Diego

No. 1069 - Andy Martin, OF, Hialeah Senior High School (Florida)

No. 1099 - Reggie Crawford, LHP, North Schuylkill High School (Pennsylvania)

No. 1129 - Augie Sylk, LHP, USC

No. 1159 - Jorge Corona, C, Miami Killian High School (Florida)

No. 1189 - David Estevez, RHP, Pembroke Pines Charter High School (Florida)

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.