KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Royals think they landed the best left-handed pitching prospect in the country in Asa Lacy, and perhaps the next Whit Merrifield in super-utility man Nick Loftin during the two days of the 2020 MLB Draft.
“We felt pretty good when our heads hit the pillow Wednesday night,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “They’re not signed yet, but we are very excited to get them into the organization.”
On Day 2, the Royals added more pitching, landing prepster Ben Hernandez, Oregon State lefty Christian Chamberlain and Eastern Illinois power right-hander Will Klein.
“We do feel that some things landed our way,” Royals assistant scouting director Danny Ontiveros said. “A lot of work went into this, and it’s a credit to all of our scouts.”
The Royals now get to work on signing those six picks, as well as prepping to sign nondrafted free agents. Here are the slot values for those players Kansas City drafted:
• Asa Lacy (No. 4 overall pick): $6,664,000
• Nick Loftin (No. 32): $2,257,300
• Ben Hernandez (No. 41): $1,813,500
• Tyler Gentry (No. 76): $818,200
• Christian Chamberlain (No. 105): $554,300
• Will Klein (No. 135): $414,000
The signing deadline this year is Aug. 1.
If a club exceeds its assigned pool, it faces a penalty. Teams that outspend their allotment by 0-5 percent pay a 75-percent tax on the overage. At higher thresholds, clubs lose future picks: a first-rounder and a 75-percent tax for surpassing their pool by more than 5 and up to 10 percent; a first- and a second-rounder and a 100-percent tax for more than 10 and up to 15 percent; and two first-rounders and a 100-percent tax for more than 15 percent.
In eight years with those rules, teams have exceeded their allotments a total of 149 times, but never by more than 5 percent. Twenty-one of the 30 teams outspent their pools last year.
The Royals began making a concerted effort to stockpile college pitching in the 2018 draft, and that trend has continued in a big way, including in this year’s draft. Of their six picks this year, Kansas City took three more college pitchers. The Royals now have chosen 47 college pitchers in the past three drafts.
“It’s a volume game,” Moore said. “Out of 10 pitchers drafted, you hope to get two, maybe three, who rise through the system and stay healthy and contribute at the big league level. That’s just the way it works with pitchers.”
Lacy said in a Zoom call that he has great passion for baseball, then revealed one of the reasons for that passion.
“Both of my parents were tennis players,” he said, then joked, “I think I went for baseball so they wouldn’t be coaching me all the time.
“I used to play tennis with my Dad, and I would swing and hit the tennis ball over the fence like I hit a home run. I always felt baseball was my sport.”
Hernandez, an 18-year-old out of De La Salle Institute (Ill.), already has special stuff that could become elite as he continues to grow from his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame.
“That kid could be really good,” Moore said. “That’s another one we were very pleased to get.”
Hernandez has a fastball now that can reach 95 mph, and his changeup has become a plus-plus pitch with devastating fade.
Teams cannot have contact with nondrafted free agents until after 9 a.m. Sunday, so the next two days will involve a lot of prepping by the Royals’ scouting department to determine which players to target. Moore said the Royals have the green light from owner John Sherman to sign as many as they want — rules limit the signing bonus to $20,000 for each player.
“We’re going to be smart about it,” Moore said. “We’re not going to have mass signings. We’re not going to be signing guys just for the sake of signing them. But there are players out there right now who want to play, and we’ll do what we can to constantly add more talent to the system.”