ProChucks Update: Royals Prospect Nick Loftin Rolling in Quad Cities
Nick Loftin received what few peer prospects experienced in 2020: A lucrative Major League Baseball Draft selection and a multimillion dollar signing bonus.
Baseball was decimated by the COVID-19 Pandemic unlike any other major professional sport. This was a curveball thrown at every organization from the major leagues, to the independent minors, down to college, high school and youth leagues right as many teams were getting their seasons underway.
Logistical and financial hardships forced MLB to cut back its operations and investments, highlighted by its first-year draft. Normally a 40-round spectacle, the annual selections were cut to a measly five rounds. Hundreds of would-be drafted players did not hear their names called or were forced to accept lesser signing bonuses.
He left little doubt that he’d be earning every penny he deserved. The Corpus Christi native and shortstop slashed .298/.339/.544 in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 college season, but even though he played just 14 games as a junior at Baylor University a year ago, the Bears’ .313 career hitter was going to hear his named called early in the draft.
The Kansas City Royals took Loftin No. 32 overall last June, in the draft’s Competitive Balance Round A. He outdid his own projection from MLB Pipeline, who pegged him as the 36th-best prospect in last year’s class.
“Loftin focuses on making contact and ranked 12th in NCAA Division I with 13.8 at-bats per strikeout as a sophomore. While he does have some sneaky power, he’s mostly content with hitting line drives to all fields,” his MLB Pipeline evaluation stated.
This skillset explains why Loftin’s signing bonus significantly exceeded his slot value. Due to make roughly $2.2 million, his contract with the Royals was worth $3 million.
“When I got my name called, I really couldn’t put it into words how great of a feeling it was,” Loftin said at a post-draft, Baylor-sponsored media availability. “I’m so excited to be a Royal and I’m ready to go out there and play again.”
Even as jubilation replaced draft day butterflies as Loftin received the call, he admitted that the process was just beginning.
“I can enjoy this moment right now, but it’s time to get back to work.”
For Loftin, it all comes full circle as he ascends to his goals.
He batted .454 across his four-year career at W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi. Loftin was unanimously selected to the All Big 12 Freshman team after his first season in Waco with Baylor. Loftin was a first-team All Big 12 selectee in 2019 and was the conference’s preseason player of the year ahead of 2020. Off the field, the Environmental Science major was an Academic All Big-12 first-teamer a year ago.
As a Wisconsin Woodchuck in 2018, he batted .253 with 26 RBIs and two home runs in 49 games. Loftin hit a walkoff single on July 26 that summer to beat the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders at Athletic Park.
A key career step this year was getting an invite to the Royals’ Major League Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz. In 11 games and 17 plate appearances against members of MLB 40-man rosters, Loftin slashed .188/.235/.250.
“He just looks like a shortstop,” Royals manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com. “Threw him into some games that he had tough plays out of the gate and did a nice job. Excited to watch him to continue to show his visibility.”
The 22-year old currently ranks No. 7 overall among the organization’s top overall prospects according to MLB.com, as well as the Royals’ second-highest valued infielder.
Loftin was assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Royals’ High-A affiliate in Davenport, Iowa after Spring Training in 2021.
Starring at the club’s Modern Woodman Park on the banks of the Mississippi River, Loftin wasted little time making a splash. In his debut with the River Bandits on May 6, he homered in his first plate appearance.
He has four home runs on the season while slashing .229/.317/.385 with a .702 OPS. As of June 14, he’s registered a hit in eight of his last 11 games played.
While Loftin’s accolades to date are nothing short of lofty, he remains hungry for the next step.
“My goal as a kid wasn’t to be drafted, my goal was to play Major League Baseball.”