2018 MLB Draft Grades: Kansas City Royals
BEST PURE HITTER: The Royals didn't take a hitter until their sixth selection, but given the amount of picks they had in the 2018 draft, that was still in the third round, where Kansas City selected Nevada-Las Vegas 2B Kyle Isbel (3), who hit .322/.390/.504 across his college career before getting off to a hot start in his pro debut, with a .326/.389/.504 line in Rookie ball and low Class-A. Isbel is at least an above-average hitter.
BEST POWER: OF Eric Cole (4) increased his power output during his junior season at Arkansas and that uptick seemed to translate to wood bats against pro hitters as well, with seven home runs total and a .229 isolated slugging in the Pioneer League. OF Jackson Lueck (8) is similar to Cole in that he started finding his power stroke as a junior at Florida State. He has a frame that could allow him to keep adding to his strength and above-average raw power. Lueck wasn't quite as successful as Cole this summer. He hit .250/.336/.420 with three teams. He did make it to the high Class-A Carolina League.
FASTEST RUNNER: OF Kevon Jackson (8) was a track star at his Queen Creek High School in Arizona, and his speed is his best tool. He's at least a 70-grade runner and some scouts have gone as far as putting an 80 on his wheels. Jackson stole seven bases in 10 attempts (70 percent) in the Arizona League this summer.
BEST FASTBALL: Here's where it gets trickier for the Royals, who have plenty of arms to pick between for all of the pitching categories. RHP Zach Haake (6) might have the hardest fastball. He's gotten into the upper-90s and had a 70-grade heater according to scouts. Both RHP Jonathan Bowlan (2) and RHP Jackson Kowar (1) have fastballs that get into the mid-90s regularly and hold that velocity well throughout outings. However, LHP Daniel Lynch (1) began seeing increased velocity late in the college season and was up to 97 mph in low Class-A Lexington.
BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Kowar gets a nod here for an clearly plus changeup, while Kansas City's first overall selection, RHP Brady Singer (1) has a devastating slider that's also a plus offering. LHP Kris Bubic (1s) has a plus changeup from the left side while LHP Austin Cox (5) has an above-average slider and curveball that helped him rack up 124 strikeouts at Mercer during his junior season. Take your pick of any of these pitches.
BEST PRO DEBUT: It's hard to not go with Lynch here, as his increased stuff raised his future ceiling significantly, with the results to back it up. He threw 51.1 innings combined between the Appalachian and South Atlantic Leagues, with a combined 1.58 ERA, 10.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9.
BEST ATHLETE: C Nathan Eaton (21) moves surprisingly well for a catcher and has used his legs to great effect on the bases, both in college and his pro debut. Eaton swiped 46 bags during his two seasons with Virginia Military Institute at an 85 percent success rate, and went 19-for-24 (79.2 percent) in the Pioneer League with impressive hitting numbers as well.
Six Pitching Prospects Whose Stuff Ticked Up In 2018
Identifying young pitching prospects whose projections have changed after their stuff improved last season.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Cox was something of an under-the-radar product out of a small college in Georgia, but he ranked near the top of the country in strikeouts (124) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.73). RHP Christian Cosby (14) didn't move to the mound until last season. He has a huge, 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame and some scouts who think he'll be in the triple digits at some point with his fastball.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Singer, Kowar and Lynch could all move quickly through the minor league system as polished collegiate arms from big conferences with impressive track records and repertoires.
BEST LATE PICK: LHP Rylan Kaufman (12) signed for the highest day three bonus of any player in the 2018 draft, getting $722,500 in the 12th after posting a 2.18 ERA in 53.2 innings with San Jacinto (Texas) JC. Kaufman rewarded the Royals confidence by posting a 3.86 ERA in the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues this summer with a 10.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9—as if the Royals needed more arms in this class.
THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY: C Adam Hackenberg (39) has big tools with plus raw power and 70-grade arm strength, but will head to Clemson after falling so far in the draft.