Royals take 'best left-hander in draft' and local talent
When the seventh overall pick in Sunday's first round of the MLB Draft came around, the Kansas City Royals had top-end talent to choose from.
Sitting there was Vanderbilt righty Kumar Rocker, a collegiate star since winning the College World Series as a freshman, and two high school shortstops in Kahlil Watson and Brady House. The consensus was one of those three would be the selection.
Instead, the Royals threw the league for a loop, selecting left-handed pitcher Frank Mozzicato out of East Catholic High School in Connecticut. A UConn commit, Mozzicato is the third pitcher taken in the first round in the Royals' last four drafts along with Asa Lacy ('20) and Brady Singer ('18).
"After the sixth pick, (the Royals) called me and said, 'We're taking you. You're gonna be a Kansas City Royal.' It was awesome, and I was speechless," Mozzicato said. "When I heard my name called, it was crazy. I was at a loss for words."
Ranked the No. 39 prospect in the draft, according to MLB.com, Mozzicato serves as an underslot pick that will allow the Royals to sign him below the $5,432,000 slot value to spread through rounds 2-10, creating larger signing bonuses for later picks.
But in the days leading up to the draft, Mozzicato had an inkling that Kansas City could be a landing spot.
"Coming into the draft, I've had a lot of contact with the Royals. We had a great hour and a half Zoom call a couple days before the draft. The way they develop players is amazing, an awesome fit. It was a little surprising because six months ago I didn't think I'd be in this position."
Mozzicato, who turned 18 in June, tossed four consecutive no-hitters and recorded an average of 21.7 strikeouts per 9 innings for his final high school season after losing his junior year to COVID-19. He reportedly has a fastball that tops out at 93 mph.
His signature pitch is a knuckle curveball, seen as one of the best by a high schooler in the country, that is between 74 and 80 miles per hour.
"I've been throwing that pitch since I was 8, 9, 10 years old. I was at my brother's game and one of his teammate's dad's was like, 'Hey, try this grip.' I tried it and never went back from it," Mozzicato said. "It's something naturally I've been able to do, which is awesome."
The Royals view Mozzicato as a starter at top of the rotation and among the best hurlers in the draft.
"We thought at the end of the day that he was the best left-handed pitcher in the class," said Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals' assistant general manager for amateur scouting. "It's a body that has a lot of projection to it. It's a breaking ball that has a lot of spin on it. He can command the spin of the breaking ball. We just dream on the projection. It's there. Everything's there."
Sunday's portion of the MLB Draft featured 29 first-round picks — the Houston Astros lost their selection as penalty for the illegal sign-stealing scandal. It also included one compensation round pick and six competitive balance round selections. Louisville catcher Henry Davis was selected first overall to the Pirates.
The Royals went for some homegrown talent to open the second day of the draft Monday.
They selected right-handed pitcher Ben Kudrna of Blue Valley Southwest in Overland Park in the second round (43rd overall), and then took Park Hill High School catcher Carter Jensen in the third round (78th overall). In between in the competitive balance round, the Royals selected University of Alabama second baseman Peyton Wilson.
Kudrna was 9-1 with an 0.99 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 57 1/3 innings and pitched a three-hit shutout in the Kansas Class 5A championship game.
Jensen, a Perfect Game Preseason All-America selection, has committed to LSU.
Wilson hit .290 with nine home runs and 10 stolen bases for the Crimson Tide this season.
The Royals completed the second day by selecting Shane Panzini, a right-handed high school pitcher from New Jersey (fourth round, 108th overall); Mississippi State right-handed pitcher Eric Cerantola (fifth round, 139th); Central Arizona College second baseman Dayton Dooney (sixth round, 169th); University of Central Arkansas left-hander Noah Cameron (seventh round, 199th); Ryan Cepero, a shortstop from the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy (eighth round, 229th); Louisiana Tech outfielder Parker Bates (ninth round, 259th); and Virginia Tech left-hander Shane Connolly (10th round, 289th).