With the 2021 MLB Draft underway and the first round in the books, the MLB’s next generation has arrived. There were surprising picks and some expected picks in round one, but that is a normal draft night. The Kansas City Royals made a surprise pick in round one with the seventh overall pick.
It was surprising not because it was a pitcher, but rather who they picked. Kansas City selected left-handed pitcher Frank Mozzicato out of East Catholic High School (Conn.) with the seventh overall pick. Mozzicato is also committed to the University of Connecticut next fall. So, why is this a surprise pick? Let’s check it out.
1.) There were better picks available
When the Royals pick was up, there were plenty of options for Kansas City that had a lot of potential. Vanderbilt pitcher Kumar Rocker was still on the board as well as prep shortstops Brady House and Khalil Watson. All three names I just listed were near the top of every prospect board heading into draft night.
However, Kansas City decided to go the high school route and take Mozzicato instead. Mozzicato was ranked 39th overall on MLB Pipeline’s Top 250 Draft prospects list.
As I mentioned before, there was much higher value picks on the board but Kansas City decided to draft someone for a long-term process versus immediate impact. Will that come back to haunt KC later on down the road? Maybe, maybe not but the reality is Kansas City might have missed out on immediate talent in Rocker and others.
2.) The high school route?
Kansas City in the last three years has been notorious for taking college pitchers with their first couple of picks in the draft. This season, KC has taken the high school talent route by picking Mozzicato. Mozzicato was nowhere near the top of boards let alone going on the first day of the draft.
This is the third time in four years that the Royals’ first pick has been a pitcher (Asa Lacy in 2020 and Brady Singer 2018). This is also the first high school pitcher selected by the Royals in the first round since Ashe Russell out of Cathedral High School (IN) in 2015.
The high school route means Kansas City is preparing for long-term improvements and not looking for immediate impact until further into his career. However, if Mozzicato decides to fully commit to the University of Connecticut, then his deal might change. The high school route can get tricky but Kansas City clearly saw something.
3.) This is an economic centered draft pick
When it comes to drafting in the top ten, the money can become the issue if a team is tight on cap space. The Royals however might be able to avoid the full payout for the seventh overall pick. The seventh pick slot carries a deal of $5,432,400 but Kansas City might be able to sign Mozzicato to a deal below that amount.
While a deal has yet to be signed, this was well thought out in the board room for Kansas City. There is breathing room here with the deal because Kansas City will get a lefty pitcher with plenty of time to improve. The downside is whether KC can get Mozzicato to fully commit to a minor league deal.
I think the Royals would have been better off taking Kumar Rocker with the seventh pick. He brings in incredible mechanics that are definitely ready for the MLB level. While the payout would an issue based on how the Mozzicato pick was justified, Rocker would be worth the money.
I do agree with the Royals taking a pitcher; however, I just think KC should have gone for more immediate impact rather than long-term. In the grand scheme of baseball, though, KC still got a good pick for the small money hit. The Royals have a lot to improve on, and if building the farm system is step one, then so be it.
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