Scouting Blog: Royals Elite Scout Team - Infielders

By Sean McCann
Prep Baseball Report Kansas

We’ve had a chance to evaluate the Kansas high school infielders playing on the Royals Elite Scout Team the last two Wednesdays in their mid-week contests against area community colleges.   A talented group, each of the three brings something different to the table:

The Hitter

If someone threw a party for the top uncommitted class of 2014 hitters, Brett Andersen would get an invitation.  Earlier this fall we had a chance to video the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Andersen hitting in an indoor facility.  This normally takes a while as you wait for the hitter to put together 3-4 good swings, in Andersen's case it took 20 seconds, 4 middle of the field line drives off the back of the indoor and click the camera off. 

In addition, during the Royals Elite Scout Team games he has more than held his own swinging wood versus older junior college pitching.

He has a medium, athletic frame with noticeable strength for a kid his age/size. Andersen (Olathe East HS) has an advanced gap-to-gap hitting approach that allows him to square up pitches on both sides of the plate – basically the approach most college hitting coaches hope the high school kids they bring in develop by their sophomore or junior years.

He has a medium stance, short stride with a simple and efficient swing with impressive bat speed.

Defensively we saw him at third base and left field.  At 3B, he looked solid during infield/outfield despite fumbling a couple of plays - which I chalked up to sloppiness more than lack of athleticism to play the infield. His arm strength needs to improve some for him to stick at 3B in college or to become a more effective defender in the OF. 

Odds are good he will hit himself into the line-up in college regardless (aka LF/1B/DH), but I do believe that if he worked as hard on his fielding/throwing skills as he obviously has on his hitting and strength training he'd be just fine at 3B - he's a good enough athlete.

Andersen is also an excellent student, scoring a 1300 SAT (Math + Verbal), which on most SAT-ACT conversion scales is, equivalent to a 29 ACT.  He also recently took the ACT.

For hitting and fielding video on Andersen, click here:

The Athlete

When you walk up to he field its pretty hard to miss the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Connor Kaiser (Blue Valley West HS, Class of 2015). Everything the RHP/SS does looks easy and athletic - whether it be playing catch, running, taking ground balls, hitting or pitching (or when he suits up for the Blue Valley West hoops team, I would imagine). 

During pre-game infield at shortstop he showed soft hands and a strong accurate arm.  In the game, he was challenged to be quick by a couple of difficult plays and responded by getting the outs. 

In limited at bats swinging wood, he was a little long and late at times but I doubt that the stronger, 195-pound version of Kaiser (which is likely coming in the next year or so) is going to have much problem developing into a productive offensive player. 

On the mound it’s no different.  Easy. Athletic. Simple. Mid-to-upper 80’s FB. Not much more to say, Kaiser is a no-doubt 2-way prospect at the major college level – if the 2015 MLB Draft doesn’t strike first.

Click here for video footage of Kaiser fielding and pitching.

The Baseball Player

The Royals Elite Scout Team roster has a boatload of MLB-sized athletes on it, as it should being a scout team.  Sixteen guys 6-foot-2 or taller and eighteen weighing in at 190-pounds or more. Playing along side all of those physical  baseball prospects is one Blake Shinkle, who checks in at 6-foot, 155-pounds.

The class of 2015 Shinkle (Blue Valley Southwest HS) has plenty of time to fill out and develop physically before stepping on a college baseball diamond for his first game in February of 2016  - but for now he’s the little, skinny kid among his more physical teammates.

Interestingly, he’s also one of the best baseball players. In much the same way that most of the other Royals Elite Team prospects have “right now” physical tools, Shinkle has “right now” baseball skills.

During pre-game infield and game action at 2B he demonstrated the hands and actions necessary to make all the plays and was always in the right spot. His arm strength is currently below average but he’s got a quick release to compensate for it. For now he profiles out as a 2B in college but with improved arm strength would likely make a very good college shortstop. 

At the plate he already has a top of the order identity - working the count, forcing pitchers to throw called strikes – grinding out at bats. In game one, he walked 3 times, refusing to expand the zone despite being in a high-pressure situation with scouts and college coaches all over the place.

He also showed no fear on the bases – after he lead the game off with a walk; he promptly stole second and third in short order.  Mind you, this was against a junior college team whose pitchers/catchers were fairly skilled at controlling the running game. Didn’t matter - Shinkle got good jumps and they couldn’t throw him out.

This past Wednesday, the pitchers challenged him more resulting in a laser right at the left fielder in his first at bat followed up by a squared up ball to right field in his second, both for loud outs.

Shinkle’s skills and feel for the game are evident, but so is his passion for the game.  He has a high motor – lots of energy, plays the game hard and is almost always the first guy on and off the field.  One might think college coaches don’t notice this stuff.  Well – let me assure you, standing in the company of SEC and Big 12 Conference coaches in attendance both days - they did notice.

Shinkle probably won’t be the highest draft pick of the group, but colleges that value players that do things that help win baseball games will like him and, someday, he will do just that for the program that gets him.

For video of Shinkle taking pre-game infield, click here.