The Final Countdown...Draft just hours away!
Well, we had planned something of a last hurrah Draft Prospect Update, but it's become increasingly clear that the Royals have narrowed their choices down to two college pitchers -- North Carolina's Andrew Miller and Houston's Brad Lincoln. Both are outstanding young pitchers with Major League stuff, and any team in baseball would be lucky to have either.
While Miller certainly wasn't very impressive when we saw him on Sunday, it really isn't fair to judge him on the basis of one mediocre outing in an important game. He had some very good starts this season against some quality offenses like Georgia Tech and NC State (although he also got roughed up by NC State in the ACC Tournament), and he certainly has some tools and some size at his disposal. His slider in particular would be an excellent addition to any organization. However, RC still has trouble finding anything -- beyond his height and left-handedness -- that distinguishes him as a clear #1 pick. North Carolina didn't have a terribly difficult schedule, and Miller threw poorly and/or lost against many of the best teams he faced this season. Despite his gaudy numbers, Miller has actually been quite inconsistent with his stuff against quality ballclubs.
We certainly regret not seeing Brad Lincoln pitch this season. Actually, he snuck up on us, as he didn't even make it into our top 10 until several weeks into the season. Playing his games in the weaker Conference USA, it's tough to put his numbers into context without actually getting a look at him, but all reports we've seen indicate that he holds mid-90s fastball velocity throughout games, and he shows excellent command of a plus curveball. Unlike Miller, he also possesses a third pitch -- a change-up that is reportedly already close to Major League average. Lincoln's most impressive performance this season was a complete game shutout over #1-ranked Rice, an outing that certainly went a long way in quieting our concerns about Houston's weaker schedule.
Since we must produce a final opinion in the pre-draft hours, RC is backing Brad Lincoln for the first overall selection in tomorrow's draft, but it's certainly not by an overwhelming margin. We'd actually be very happy with either pitcher, and if the rumors are true that the Royals might instead select Luke Hochevar (who was drafted by the Dodgers last season but failed to sign), we'd be pleased as punch with that as well. There just doesn't seem to be a clear-cut #1, so RC is willing to rely on the judgement of the folks who have actually seen all of the players under consideration. We feel kind of wimpy in not taking a stronger position, but we've gone back and forth so many times that it became clear we'd never arrive at an unyielding preference.
Whatever happens, RC is confident that we're not only going to get a very good pitcher, but that he'll be the guy who the Royals truly believe is the best player available. Truth be told, we're probably just as excited to see who they take in the second round.
Anyway, be sure to tune in frequently tomorrow throughout the day, as RC hosts a live draft tracker. We'll update each Royals pick as it happens, and we'll do our best to provide you with all the information we can possibly find on the draftees. Draft day is RC's favorite day of the year, and as we write this we can't help but get that feeling we had as a child on the night before Christmas. It will probably be a sleepless night at RC Headquarters.