Just a couple of weeks ago Ben Goessling of the MASN Sports asked a simple question: What if the Nationals had signed Aaron Crow? of course since Goessling's target audience was the Washington Nationals fan base, he exclusively focused on what could have been from a Nationals perspective. You can view the article by clicking here.
So what would Aaron Crow's signing mean from a Royals' point of view, had the Nationals and Crow's agent the Hendricks Brothers not squabbled over the final points of the deal? (The two sides were said to be less than $1 million apart.)
Obviously if Crow would have signed with Washington in 2008, the Royals would not have been in a position to select him in 2009. Might the Royals have considered another advanced starter? North Carolina righty Alex White went just three selections later to the Cleveland Indians, maybe he would have been the pick.
Two seasons later White boasts a career minor league ERA of 2.31. He has amassed 155 strikeouts to 55 walks in 190.2 innings. This season he was traded along with Drew Pomeranz (more on him later) to Colorado for starter Ubaldo Jimenez. Obviously we don't know how White would have been affected by spending the last two seasons in a different organization (the same can be said for any player in this post), however if the Royals would have taken White he would have likely broken into the Big League rotation at some point in 2011, and would at least have a very strong shot to break in the rotation to begin 2012.
There is also, my personal preference for who the Royals should have selected and that would be the Texas teenage flamethrower Shelby Miller. Miller was selected seven picks after Crow, and while I have never read anything linking the Royals to Miller, he was another advanced righty (despite being drafted out of high school) selected in the middle of the first round, so the possibility exists that he was considered.
While Shelby Miller hasn't posted the ERA at the upper levels that White has he has dominated in his own right. He is now just twenty-one and has already pitched in 86.2 innings at the big league level. For his career he has an 11.4 K-Rate to a 3.2 BB-Rate and a 3.17 ERA. In my opinion this would've been the best case for the Royals, but not the most likely.
If the Royals wouldn't have selected Aaron Crow, most signs point to one other guy as being their selection: Athletics shortstop Grant Green. Green was selected immediately after Crow, after some predraft buzz predicting that the Royals would select him if he was available at pick 12.
Green was assigned to High-A in 2010 and burned the league for a .318/.363/.520 slash, while playing 114 games at short stop. Of course in 2010, the Royals had the 4th selection of the draft. For this pick they selected a player with a similar profile as Green in Cal State-Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon.
I'm not going to call this a need pick, because it was clear that after the top 3, there was no clear hierarchy. The Royals who felt several guys had similar value went with the position they felt was the weakest in their system: shortstop. Would they have selected Colon had they taken Green the year before? I seriously doubt it.
So who might they have taken instead? Well prior to the draft there was a distinct buzz around three other prospects. Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Yasmani Grandal.
Pomeranz was the advanced college lefty out of Ole Miss. He was selected fifth overall by the Cleveland Indians, and as I have previously stated he was flipped along with Alex White this past summer for Ubaldo Jiminez.
Had the Royals selected Pomeranz they would have yet another lefty knocking on the door of a big league rotation spot. I would guess he'd spend part of the season pitching in Omaha, eventually breaking in sometime midway through the year, unless he had a killer Spring Training. For his minor league career Pomeranz owns a 1.78 era with a 3.13 K:BB ratio.
Chris Sale was linked the Royals possibly more than any other prospect in the days leading up to the draft. Sale the tall lanky lefty taken out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Like Aaron Crow many projected him as a future reliever and for that reason he wasn't a personal favorite of mine.
Since being drafted 13th overall by the Chicago White Sox, Sale has spent most of his professional time at the Major League level. For his career in Chicago, Sale has came out of the pen for 94.1 innings, while posting a 2.58 era. He's been a force in the back end of Chicago's bullpen, but not necessarily what you want from a top draft pick.
Finally we get to Yasmani Grandal. Roughly twenty-four hours prior to the draft a rumor dropped that stated the Royals had reached a pre-draft agreement with Grandal to make him the fourth player selected in the 2010 Amatuer draft. You can read that report here.
Would the Royals be in a better position right now, had the Nationals signed Aaron Crow in 2008? We really can't be sure. We know that the Royals would have never been able to acquire the only player from the 2009 draft to already have an All Star appearance under his belt, but then again that same guy appears to be settling into a career as a reliever. (Yes, I know he will likely get a shot at the rotation this Spring. Yes, I'd also be surprised if he can thrive in a rotation.)
Had the Royals not been able to select Aaron Crow in 2009, and still went for the advanced righty, they would likely now have Alex White knocking on the door of the big league rotation with Christian Colon in Double-A.
If the Royals would have taken Grant Green like many believed they would they would probably have Grant Green coming off a monster year in Double-A, and either Yasmani Grandal pushing Salvador Perez for a roster spot or Chris Sale in the back end of the bullpen.
Things like this have a domino effect especially in professional sports, but it is no less fun to at least consider how it may have played out.