So the draft is right around the corner and I don't think I am alone in the feeling that this has become one of the best days of the year for Royals fans. This is probably because the Royals have really done well under the current administration which is evidence in their top ranking farm system. Also, even though it is loads of fun picking high in the draft the Royals have also made habit of selecting top talents later in the draft and signing them for big time deals.
I am hoping for more of the same this year and here is how I feel about the players that should be available. I will begin by stating that the Royals have finally gotten a break in their draft position. There is a clear top 6 available so the Royals should have an option when they select at number 5. If the Royals select any of the top six players I will be thrilled and extremely happy with the pick. However, if the Royals decide to reach beyond the consensus at the spot I can't help but be skeptical.
This is not to say that I feel like I know more about these prospects than the organization does, but when people agree so strongly on six players going in the top six it makes me feel as though the Royals could really botch an opportunity should they make a reach pick. So without further ado... (I am going to place the players in my personal preference order, again this is splitting hairs among these prospects.)
1. Gerrit Cole RHP- For a guy to be considered a top pick contender after his freshman year and than become the favorite to be selected first for most of the time in the months leading up to the draft he would be an awesome steal for the Royals at 5. Reports are that his stuff is incredible and I remember him saying last year while at a Royals game that he would love to be a part of this organization. If a rough season allows him to slide to 5, then from a Royals perspective we may have just gotten a steal. I believe the rumors to be true that Gerrit Cole will be selected by Pittsburgh tomorrow night.
2. Dylan Bundy RHP- I love the upside, I love his proximity to the Majors. He could rise as fast as a college pitcher and probably has the highest ceiling of any of the pitchers in the draft. His numbers were absolutely dominate in his senior season at Owasso High School in Oklahoma. He had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks in 71 innings with a 0.20 era. I think Bundy will probably join his brother in Baltimore's organization.
3. Anythony Rendon 3B- I don't think there is much of a chance he falls to number 5, but if he did it would be an extremely interesting situation for the Royals. A year ago he was a clear cut number 1 choice. He has dealt with some injuries, but none of them are expected to hurt him moving forward. He is the best combination of high ceiling and high floor in this draft. If the is there at 5 and the other two guys aren't the Royals should draft him and figure where everyone plays later. I expect him to be draft at 2 by Seattle.
4. Danny Hultzen LHP- I know the Royals have a stable of lefties but right now Lamb is out for the year and Monty and Dwyer are struggling. By drafting Hultzen you could add a pitcher as close to Major League ready as you are going to find in a draft and he could really help to push contention forward to 2012. His ceiling isn't as high as the other players on this list, but his floor might be. If he is available at 5 he would be really hard to pass up. Most say that Hultzen to Arizona is the surest pick in the whole draft.
5. Bubba Starling CF- This is where it gets difficult. The Royals could continue to build that second wave, which is already starting to look impressive or they could add the sixth guy on my list who seems to fit what they want. My thoughts on Bubba are basically summed up here: How often does a team get the opportunity to draft the player with the highest upside and most hype at number 5 overall. This is a truly special draft.
6. Trevor Bauer- Bauer is a long toss guy and an innings eating machine even though he is only 20 years old. He could be ready for the majors as fast as Hultzen and he could be an ace in the Lincecum type mold when he gets there. If the Royals are scared about is arm and aren't comfortable with his training methods then Starling should be the choice. But if they are confident that Bauer is just a unique kid and can handle the work and will be able to going forward then Bauer seems like the most logical choice in the 5 spot.
Tomorrow night there will be several things at play when the Royals select. Obviously how will the first 4 picks have gone? Will they be able to nab one of the guys most predict as going in that first 4 range? But if it comes down to Starling vs Bauer? Will they go with the local kid? Will they take a step back from their stance on long tossing? Will they add to the first wave? Will they work on the second? Or will they draft for need and comfort and make a reach pick? Either way this is a truly special draft and I can't wait to watch it unfold.