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2017 MLB Draft Grades: Kansas City Royals

Best Pure Hitter: 1B Nick Pratto (1) was considered one of the most polished high school hitters in this draft class with a loose swing, excellent plate discipline and advanced timing and pitch recognition.

Best Power Hitter: C M.J. Melendez (2) and Pratto both have above-average power potential. Melendez uses a leg kick to get proper weight transfer to drive the ball and has shown above-average raw power.

Fastest Runner: The Royals love to draft at least one speedster a year. OF Tyler James (25) is a top of the scale runner who stole 31 bases in 32 tries in his debut. He stole 46 bases last spring for NAIA William Carey (Miss.).

Best Defensive Player: The son of a long-time coach, Melendez has the feel for the game and all the tools to be an above-average catcher defensively. He has to shorten his arm stroke but he has a 70 arm. OF Michael Gigliotti (4) is the kind of speedy, rangy plus center fielder that the Royals love to have in center field in spacious Kauffman Stadium. Pratto is a nimble defender at first base.

Best Fastball: LHP Daniel Tillo’s (3) fastball sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96 mph with sink and some run. OF Isaiah Henry (14) touched 94-95 mph this spring as a pitcher. He’s an outfielder, but pitching remains a long-term option if hitting doesn’t work out.

Best Secondary Pitch: RHP Charlie Neuwiler (5) throws a hard spike curveball with 12-to-6 shape and plenty of bite. It has plus potential but like many young pitchers who throw a spike curve, he has some trouble commanding it. LHP Evan Steele (2s) also throws an above-average true curve, it lacks Neuwiler’s power and bite but he lands it consistently.

Best Athlete: OF Brewer Hicklen (7) is a 70 runner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and has above-average raw power that gives him a chance to develop into a power-speed threat, although he’s less advanced than the average college hitter.

Best Pro Debut: Gigliotti hit .329/.442/.477 with 15 steals in 20 attempts for Rookie-level Burlington. Neuwiler went 3-3, 1.76 in 41 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League. OF Travis Jones (29) hit .335/.423/.537 for Rookie-level Idaho Falls and stole 20 bases in 23 attempts.

Best Late-Round Pick: Jones has some athleticism, strength and defensive versatility–he played left, right, first and third base in his debut.

Most Intriguing Background: Hicklen played wide receiver for Alabama-Birmingham’s football team until the team was disbanded after the 2014 season. If he hadn’t signed with the Royals, he would have played football for the now reinstated UAB football team this fall.

The One That Got Away: RHP Cason Sherrod (13) is a high-upside, still developing arm who emerged as a useful weapon out of the Texas A&M bullpen last year as a junior.

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