Kumar Rocker? No. Kahlil Watson? No. Sal Frelick? Nope.
Three names Royals fans talked themselves into the team taking prior to the MLB First-Year Player Draft this week — despite never seeing any of them play — were all on the board and ready to be announced by time the No. 7 selection rolled around. The Royals took none of them.
Such is life as the sports fan who scouts mock drafts and watches Power 5 games that appear on ESPN for three weeks a year. Just like the NFL Draft where the abundance of industry “experts” who aren’t employed by any team in the industry give you rankings of hundreds of athletes from all over the country they couldn’t have possibly seen in person themselves and fuel pre-draft jitters. Your favorite writer who is snarky on Twitter and happens to work for a four-letter network may be good at what he does, but mock drafts are based on personal biases, no different than a player preference from an organization is based on organizational biases.
So when Frank Mozzicato was drafted No. 7 overall, it certainly was a surprise because all Royals fans had seen mocked for that selection were the three names mentioned above. But just because the scouting industry consensus was Mozzicato was a fringe first-rounder at best, doesn’t mean it’s a terrible selection.
A month ago, I was scrolling Instagram enjoying my normal past time of watching baseball training videos and letting the IG female fitness model algo take me wherever I needed to go, when I was served up this gem of a video:
It was love at first sight (not all that different than what I get on the fitness model algo).
Not even knowing the name of the kid in the video I immediately sent this to a former player of mine who now scouts for a Major League Baseball organization. Mozzicato hits a natural scap load, goes uphill out of hand break, and has a short, quick arm swing. There are issues with his mechanics like a weak front leg and too much of a teeter-totter follow-through with his back side, but a 17-year-old with this arm action already hitting low-90s is prime cut USDA Pitching Beef in my opinion.
This kid, with the proper training program and throwing coach, is a mid-to-upper 90s arm, easily.
The scout agreed. “I loved him,” he said. “He was on our board in the 30-40 range and would have looked at taken him with our first pick if we could cut a deal to save on slot money. Easy thrower, very projectable.”
I’m in. I’m all in. I’ve long held the opinion that the draft isn’t the crapshoot many are led to believe it is. The problem with judging players solely on where they were drafted, or if they were drafted or not, is the circumstance and environment they were drafted into. Are Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman busts because they got drafted by the Orioles? How many prospects, especially pitching prospects, do the Orioles have to screw up before people realize it’s not all the player, but the organization, too.
Is the draft a crapshoot for the Royals because they’ve drafted so poorly since 2008, or do they not share the blame in how poorly those players have developed? Honestly, to me, it’s more about the organization’s inability to develop.
So what has me worried about Mozzicato drafted No. 7? It’s not the player, No. 7 overall isn’t all that different than No. 40 overall; it’s up to the franchise to develop the player because they’re all talented.
The worry is because of this:
One, a Rapsodo system would be considered a gift. And when you’re gifted a Rapsodo system you can then train, measure, perfect and teach someone how to spin a curveball. The same way you can train, measure and teach velocity. These things are all possible; they’ve been happening for close to two decades in the private instruction industry, and some franchises have embraced these truths so much so that “Establishment Baseball” has been forced to hire these individuals to keep up.
The Royals, apparently, still believe you are either born with it or you are not, which is just simply not true.
The Royals are all good lenses, bad frames when it comes to this stuff. They may have made the correct selection, but the lens they’re looking through that leads to the player is foggy as hell.
I really like the pick of Mozzicato. I don’t think there’s any such thing as “value” in a draft. You take the guy you want to take. There’s certainly no “value” when it’s judged solely against someone else’s opinion and player rankings–someone that doesn’t work for an organization and isn’t held accountable for what he gets wrong.
If this is their guy, I’m in because based on 3-minutes worth of video he’s a “My Guy.” It’s the reasoning for the pick that’s just, goodness, what the heck?
And there are two local selections I’m over the moon about: Blue Valley Southwest’s Ben Kudrna and Park Hill’s Carter Jensen.
Kudrna is a 6-foot-3 righty from the wrong side of Stateline with a fastball up to 97, 2,022 RPMs and 17 inches of vertical break. In other words, he got the Fastball Spin Gift.
I reject the notion that either Kudrna or Jensen are courtesy picks, selected simply to justify the Royals Academy or to force a local kid into the organization. It just doesn’t work like that.
It’s also infuriating hearing sports radio callers and hosts talk about Midwest players as if they could not possibly be as good as anyone from California, or Texas, or a big time college program. Science-based, sport-specific training has come a long way since the year 2000, perhaps those that think local-area athletes aren’t that talented should do a little more research into what’s going on in the industry.
Each of these selections have tools to love and our scout friend agrees:
“I had him in second round,” he said of Kudrna. “Super protectable. Clean arm action delivery. 90-97 (with his fastball), pitches 92-93. (His slider is) anywhere from a 30-60 (in the 20-80 scouting scale). Chance for 60 change up. Throws strikes. He’s natural. Never really had pitching coach.”
In regards to Jensen, he had this to say:
“Love him. My gut feel guy. My favorite player in the draft. He’s Kyle Schwarber Jr. We would have taken him in the 3rd. He can really hit.”
If before the draft I would have presented you with these writeups from another team’s scout and said these are three of the top four picks for the Royals, would you really have been all the disappointed? Wouldn’t your reaction have been “these sound like good players; it all comes down to development anyway.”?
The negative reaction to these picks isn’t based on the talent of the players; it’s based on internet content fans have read leading up to the draft clouding their judgement. That and the Royals’ history of poor development.
And that is the biggest concern here. Will the Royals get all they can out of an athletic high school lefty with huge upside? Will they get all they can out of the local kid that can hit? They haven’t at any point in a long time, so there’s not reason to be convinced they will. The benefit of the doubt has been used up by this franchise.
BUT … if the overhauling of the hitting philosophy is real, if the embracing of spin rates and velocity training is real, then I’m in because I trust Dayton Moore’s ability to develop people. More than most in the industry, he speaks about mental, emotional, and character development. Creating an environment that allows athletes to be mentally and emotionally free of roadblocks is what I think he does best.
It’s the physical development that’s been lacking during “The Process.” If that part of the organization has changed, if that part is primed for better roads ahead, then this draft should be a good one.