Royals draft choices confusing but not too disappointing

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times
Kansas City Royals prospect Bobby Witt Jr. rounds the bases on an error to score a run in a spring training game against Cincinnati. Witt, the Royals' top-ranked prospect, was reassigned to minor league camp Monday along with three other prospects, including pitcher Jackson Kowar.

Every year I am reminded why Major League Baseball is kind of strange when the first-year player draft occurs during the regular season instead of the offseason like nearly every other professional sports league. 

This year was even more strange as the draft began Sunday, the last day before the All-Star break, and the day of the Futures Game. 

Jason Brown

The Kansas City Royals came into Sunday with the seventh overall pick, a game against the Cleveland Indians that they probably would have lost and a chance to see the club’s most exciting prospect perform at the Futures Game. Thankfully, the weather ensured the Royals wouldn’t lose their 54th game of the season and Bobby Witt Jr. may have gone 0-2 at the Futures Game, but he hit those balls pretty hard. The real calamity of the day was how the Royals addressed the opportunity to select another piece for their – eventual – championship run.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t do a lot of studying on the Royals’ options at the seventh pick but all I needed to do was hop on Twitter and let the experts inform me that selecting high school pitcher Frank Mozzicato was not the best choice. I had heard days prior that if Kumar Rocker or Brady House were available when the Royals came up, then it was a win-win. 

So what happened?

I don’t usually think mock drafts are a good way to judge a team’s draft picks but it’s hard to ignore that The Athletic’s latest mock had Mozzicato going in the late second round. 

The pitchforks were out in full force Sunday as a growing number of fans are ready to look past General Manager Dayton Moore’s brief success and face a reality where maybe he isn't the best option to lead this organization back to the playoffs. 

Mozzicato has been committed to play baseball at the University of Connecticut for some time but he garnered increased attention from the majors when he threw four-straight no-hitters during his senior season of high school. 

While that is incredibly impressive, I really hope that wasn’t the selling point over selecting Rocker, who threw the first-ever no-hitter in a Super Regional game while he was at Vanderbilt. 

Since the pick was made, there have been reports that Mozzicato's curveball is impressive and that he may be the best left-handed thrower in the draft. Apparently, Moore likes his personality as well so that could explain a lot. 

The most difficult part about evaluating many of these picks is that we don’t really know what will happen. An overwhelming majority of baseball players never make it to the AA level and of those that make it there, an incredibly small number ever see the majors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes three to five years for Mozzicato to appear at the AAA level because that’s just how it is sometimes. There’s a lot more to develop outside of just the game of baseball when it’s a high schooler coming into your organization. 

It’s frustrating for Royals fans who want a high-impact player immediately and maybe Moore should be taking some heat given how the season has gone to this point. 

Thankfully, Moore was doing everything he could on the second day of the draft to get back in the fan’s good graces by selecting a few local prospects. With their 43rd pick they took pitcher Ben Kurdna out of Blue Valley Southwest High School in Overland Park. He held down a sub-1.00 earned run average and threw a three-hit shutout to secure the Class 5A state championship in May. In the third round, they selected catcher Carter Jensen, who attended Park Hill High School and is committed to attend Louisiana State University. 

Having a couple of local kids to root for is exciting and it would be special to see one of them eventually play in Kauffman Stadium. 

This draft definitely didn’t have the same feeling as the past few seasons and wasn’t nearly as satisfying as it should have been for a team this deep in their rebuild. Maybe Mozzicato will develop into a major leaguer but it’s currently difficult to see his trajectory going similarly to that of Brady Singer or Kris Bubic who were first-round choices in 2018. 

Jason Brown is the sports editor of the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at jbrown@leavenworthtimes.com