The first day of the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft has come and gone. Players from high schools and colleges across the country will have their dreams of becoming professional baseball players realized over the next few days. This is one of the most important times of the year for organizations to add talent to their farm systems and keep the talent running through the pipeline to maintain success.
One of the more successful teams to do this in the recent past is the Kansas City Royals. The defending American League Champions have utilized their farm system to bring a pennant back to Kansas City for the first time in 29 years in 2014. They drafted players such as Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, and Danny Duffy. They signed Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura and Kelvin Herrera as international free agents and also traded away some key draftees in Zack Greinke and Wil Myers to acquire Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis in trades.
The Royals focused on pitching on day one of the draft starting out with Indiana high school RHP Ashe Russell, who was one of four draftees who attended the draft in Secaucus, at number 21 overall. Arguably the top high school hurler in the draft class, the Cathedral High School product stands at 6’4”, 195 and features a plus fastball that touches the upper 90s. He also throws a slider that flashes plus at times. He needs to work on his changeup, which he did not need to throw much in high school. But he has as high of a ceiling as any pitcher in the draft. It may take four or five years, but the upside is there for the potential of a frontline pitcher.
The Royals received the 33rd overall pick as compensation for James Shields. They selected another RHP out of Indiana in Nolan Watson. Watson pitched for Lawrence North High School which ironically beat Russell’s Cathedral High School team in the state tournament. Watson has a four pitch mix, featuring a fastball which can reach the mid 90s as well as a slider, curveball and changeup. The 6’2”, 200 right hander is committed to a Vanderbilt program that had three first rounders in this draft class, and they are always one of the best baseball programs in the country. The Royals feel confident in their ability to get him signed though and add another high school arm with promising upside into their system.
In the second round, the Royals went the DII route and selected Azusa Pacific RHP Josh Staumont with the 64th selection. One of the hardest throwers in the draft, the 6’2”, 205 right hander’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and has touched triple digits on various occasions. He also throws a curveball and a changeup, but lacks command with his secondary offerings. This leads to some thinking that he could end up as a reliever, though the Royals will likely give him a chance to start.
They say you can never have enough pitching, and the Royals took that to heart on day one of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft. They took two upside right-handed pitchers out of rival Indiana high schools that could become quality starters down the line in round one. In round two, they added a power arm that, at the very least, could add yet another power arm to the best bullpen in baseball if they choose to fast-track him as a reliever.