Would the Royals go with another prep pitcher?
The current wave of pitching prospects has had mixed results so far, and the Royals will need a steady pipeline of arms to get back into contention. They went for a prep pitcher in the first round in 2021 with Frank Mozzicato, and he has had some good results early on, despite his recent injury.
The Royals may look to the high school ranks for their next first rounder, if the most recent mock draft at MLB.com is accurate. In last week’s mock, Jim Callis projected high school pitcher Noble Meyer to the Royals with the eighth pick, and in their mock draft this week Baseball America also projects him going to the Royals.
Meyer is a 6’5’’ right-hander out of Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon. Baseball America ranks him as the #9 prospect in this draft, MLB Pipeline ranks him #11, Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had him at #13 back in February, and Keith Law of The Athletic has him #26. Law writes:
Meyer is probably the top high school pitcher in this draft, certainly the top right-hander, and in some years he’d be looking at a sure top-10 selection and would be at least a little higher on my rankings — although new readers should bear in mind that I discount all high school pitchers based on the much higher attrition rates for such players taken in the first round. (They reach the majors at a much lower rate than other categories, and even if they get there a lower percentage of them have sustained success.)
Baseball America also calls him the “clear-cut top prep pitching prospect in the class” getting plenty of attention despite industry-wide skepticism of taking a right-handed prep pitcher in the top ten picks.
There seems to be some debate about his fastball, which some say sits in the low 90s, but others say can sit at 95-96 mph and occasionally touching triple digits. He has a large frame that should allow him to build up some repeatable velocity under the right tutelage. He has a clean delivery with good mechanics and few moving parts. He whips the ball with good velocity, but without being a max effort guy.
Meyer throws a plus slider that has good horizonal movement and spin rate as his “out pitch”. He has been able to get by with the fastball/slider combination, only occasionally flashing a change up. The change has some drop to it, but he would need to throw it more often to develop it. He has also flashed a cutter at times. Overall Meyer is said to have good command of the strike zone and is fairly polished for a high school pitcher.
Oregon does not have the kind of competition that Florida or Texas would offer at the prep level, but Meyer has excelled in national showcases, and he attends the same high school that 2020 first-round pick Mick Abel attended. He struck out 14 and allowed just two hits in the state championship game that Jesuit lost. Meyer is committed to pitch at the University of Oregon.
Prep pitchers are the riskiest position to draft, but the upside can be huge if the organization has the tools to develop arms. Meyer is not some raw, flamethrowing kid who has no idea where the ball is going. He already has a solid fastball and slider, with some projectability left in his frame. However, the Royals may not be the organization to take on the development of a teenager, considering their track record of the last decade and a half. The Royals badly need pitching, but they may not be able to afford a risky pick like a high school arm.