Royals hold plenty of draft options
Club selecting in top two spots for third straight year
KANSAS CITY -- Compared to 2006, Royals' scouting director Deric Ladnier is taking a different approach on the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
"We have a 50-50 chance on getting the guy we want," he said.
That's certainly true. Last June, Ladnier and the Royals had the No. 1 overall pick and selected right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar from the independent Fort Worth Cats. This year, Kansas City picks No. 2 overall behind Tampa Bay -- the third straight year the Royals have enjoyed a top two selection.
Unlike past drafts, the 2007 First-Year Player Draft will take place June 7-8 at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. The first round will be aired on ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. CT, and MLB.com will have every pick of the 50-round draft, start to finish.
That includes the three names Tampa Bay recently said it had narrowed its pick to: Vanderbilt left-hander and the prohibitive No. 1 favorite David Price, Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and Cypress HS (Calif.) infielder Josh Vitters.
"That doesn't affect how we draft," Ladnier said. "If they draft one of those players, it still leaves the rest of the guys."
That includes about eight to 10 players. Price, Wieters, Vitters and Rick Porcello, considered to be the top high school pitcher in the draft, are among those.
"There seems to be a lot of debate in our organization and throughout baseball on who is the top-notch talent," general manager Dayton Moore said. "Our guys will get the top players."
Porcello and Vitters headline the high school crop, a group that is considered the strength of this year's draft. If the Royals do select a high schooler, it would be the highest prep player taken by the team since Billy Butler in 2004.
"There is a lot of high school pitching and there is a lot of high school players," Moore said. "There is not a lot of impact college talent, but that's OK. We will get the best players. I don't care if they impact our team next year or four years from now. The most important thing is for them to impact the team the most whenever that might be."
|1. TB||LHP||David Price||Vanderbilt U|
|2. KC||SS||Michael Moustakas||Chatsworth HS (Calif.)|
|3. CHC||3B||Josh Vitters||Cypress HS (Calif.)|
|4. PIT||LHP||Daniel Moskos||Clemson U|
|5. BAL||C||Matthew Wieters||Georgia Tech|
|6. WSH||LHP||Ross Detwiler||Missouri St U|
|7. MIL||LF||Matthew LaPorta||U Florida|
|8. COL||RHP||Casey Weathers||Vanderbilt U|
|9. ARI||RHP||Jarrod Parker||Norwell HS|
|10. SF||LHP||Madison Bumgarner||South Caldwell HS|
Ladnier said the organization's scouts, as well as the national and regional cross-checkers, made their final evaluations before starting meetings Monday.
"This is our Christmas," he said. "We want to provide a good foundation to future success."
2006: Luke Hochevar, No. 1 overall: Hochevar is 2-5 with a 5.47 ERA, but has still displayed very good stuff, averaging more than a strikeout per inning pitched and posting a strikeout-to-walk rate better than three to one. The organization has tinkered with his mechanics, especially from the stretch position, but Hochevar is still considered a Major League talent and will likely push for a spot on the roster in 2008.
2005: Alex Gordon, No. 2 overall: Everyone's can't-miss prospect rose quickly through the Minor Leagues after winning the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's best collegiate player at the University of Nebraska. He earned the consensus 2006 Minor League Player of the Year honor and won the Royals' starting third base job at the beginning of the season. Gordon struggled immensely early in the season, but recently enjoyed a six-game hitting streak that included three multi-hit contests. Gordon has benefited from a little luck -- hard hit balls started falling -- but has developed better plate discipline, too.
2004: Billy Butler, No. 14 overall: Butler received a Major League callup earlier this season, batting .243 in 37 at-bats through 10 games. His bat is considered Major League-ready, but his defense is a work in progress. The Royals can't find a position for him -- he mainly played left field with the Major League club but switched to first base when he sent down to Triple-A Omaha in mid-May.
Matt Campbell, No. 29 overall: Campbell underwent shoulder surgery and missed the entire 2006 season, but has pitched well for Class A Burlington this season, compiling a 2-2 record with a 3.68 ERA in nine games (five starts).
J.P. Howell, No. 31 overall: After being drafted from the University of Texas, Howell rose quickly through the Minors and made 15 starts for Kansas City in 2005, posting a 3-5 record and 6.19 ERA. Kansas City traded him to Tampa Bay on June 20, 2006 and Howell compiled a 1-3 mark and 5.10 ERA the rest of the season. He nearly captured the No. 5 spot in the Devil Rays' rotation when Spring Training broke, but was sent to Triple-A Durham. Since then, Howell has a 3-4 record and 4.29 ERA in 10 starts.
Rising Fast: Other than Gordon (one of the first players from his draft to make the Majors), Marc Maddox has enjoyed a fast rise through the Royals' system. A ninth round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft from Southern Miss, Maddox hit .336 for Rookie League Idaho Falls last year. This season, the second baseman hit .301 for Class A Burlington before a promotion to high Class A Wilmington. Helped by just nine strikeouts in 80 at-bats, Maddox hasn't cooled at Wilmington and leads the team in batting.
Cinderella story: Rowdy Hardy has yielded a terrific story this season for Class A Wilmington, leading the Carolina League in several statistics and posting a 5-0 record and 1.22 ERA. Hardy went undrafted after winning 32 games in three years for Austin Peay University, but earned a spot on the Rookie League Idaho Falls team last summer.
Buoyed by an incredible 52/5 strikeout-to-walk rate, Hardy went 5-3 with a 2.80 ERA for Idaho Falls. He bypassed Class-A Burlington and went straight to high Class A Wilmington this spring.
Since then, Hardy has been spectacular. Standing 6-foot-4, 170-pounds, Hardy exhibits terrific control with a fastball in the low to mid-80s, changeup and curveball. Drawing Jamie Moyer comparisons, Hardy has permitted more than one earned run just once this season and has posted a startling 30/5 strikeout-to-walk rate.
In the Show: Players from the last three drafts who have reached the Majors: Gordon, Butler, Howell.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.