The draft is quite a crapshoot, and although that doesn't totally excuse the Royals ineptitude the past decade or so in the June amateur draft, it does illustrate how difficult it is to correctly predict which players will be key Major League components.
The following are brief excerpts before and after selected drafts. Keep these in mind when we hear how the player we selected is a future Hall of Famer, or how guys we passed up on were sure-fire All-Stars.
By the time the 14th pick rolls around, the three highly touted shortstops - Florida State's Stephen Drew and high schoolers Matt Bush and Chris Nelson - are expected to be gone, one of them likely to the Padres at No. 1. Baird is crossing his fingers that other everyday players remain. Among the possibilities: Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields, a right-handed power hitter who also plays quarterback for the Cowboys' football team; Princeton outfielder B.J. Szymanski, regarded as a five-tool talent and also a football player; and first baseman Mike Ferris, a Miami (Ohio) product who mashed 21 home runs this season. Don't discount the Royals choosing a high school player, either.....Seneca (Mo.) High School's Scott Elbert, a 6-foot-2 left-hander with a good fastball and slider, could be around.
The Royals selected high school third baseman Billy Butler.
"My only setback is in the field. I'm actually an average third baseman. You have to work on it every day."
The Royals are believed to favor a choice among three players: high-school outfielders Chris Lubanski of Schwenksville, Pa., and Ryan Harvey of Palm Harbor, Fla., and University of Richmond pitcher Tim Stauffer. Dark-horse possibilities include Tulane first baseman Michael Aubrey and Wake Forest pitcher Kyle Sleeth. Baseball America ranked all five among the nation's top 10 players. "A No. 5 pick needs to be a guy that we anticipate is going to the All-Star Game," general manager Allard Baird said. "Player, pitcher - either one."
With Sleeth and Stauffer off the board, the Royals selected Pennsylvania high school outfielder Chris Lubanski.
"Let me tell you something," the grand old scout, Art Stewart, says as we walk away from the batting cage after Lubanski's first-ever batting session at Kauffman Stadium. "You will remember this day. You will remember this day for the rest of your life.
That could be John Mayberry Jr. from Rockhurst High, son of former Royals star John Mayberry, or Prince Fielder from Melbourne, Fla., son of former Royals draft choice Cecil Fielder. (Fielder was traded to Toronto and became a home-run star for Detroit.) The Royals have scouted both players extensively, and both are strong hitters. Mayberry is right-handed, Fielder left-handed.
The Royals selected Florida high school pitcher Zack Greinke.
"It's weird, but their colors are Royal blue, and that's my favorite color. All my clothes match it. I just had a great feeling that it was going to happen."
The publication Baseball America projects that the Royals ' first pick will be outfielder Roscoe Crosby, a left-handed hitter who has been mashing home runs for Union High School in Buffalo, S.C. "We do like Roscoe - a lot of clubs like Roscoe," said Royals general manager Allard Baird. Crosby is called the "best athlete" coming out of high school, and with good reason. He's a fine wide receiver who could go to Clemson and hone his skills for the NFL. Of course, Baseball America says the Royals might also opt for a right-handed pitcher with the intriguing name of Colt Griffin. He's from Marshall (Texas) High, throws like a Colt .45 - at about 100 mph - and strikes out two batters an inning. "This is more of a high school pitching draft ," Baird said.
The Royals actually got both, taking Griffin with the number nine overall pick, and Crosby with the fifty-third pick.
"If somebody had told me before the draft that we'd get Mr. Griffin and Mr. Crosby, I'd say you were nuts,"
Point is, now might be the time to address other weaknesses, and it's no secret the Royals would like to land an impact catcher or middle infielder.
Scott Heard, a catcher from Rancho Bernardo, Calif., High School, is rated as the draft 's top prospect by Baseball America. If he's gone before the fourth pick, as seems likely, the Royals could again draft Pepperdine catcher Dane Sardinha, rated No. 10 overall. The club used its second-round pick in 1997 and chose Sardinha, then a high school senior in Hawaii. He chose instead to attend Pepperdine, where he batted .353 with 17 homers and 72 RBIs this season as a junior. "We're not going to take a catcher," Wetzel said, "just to take a catcher. But there's a couple of good ones out there." Baseball America rates three shortstops among its top 19 picks, and all are high school players: No. 5 Luis Montanez of Miami, No. 17 David Espinosa of Miami and No. 19 Corey Smith of Piscataway, N.J. But if the Royals stick to their basic policy of taking the best available player, only Montanez would seem to merit consideration as the No. 4 overall pick.
With Montanez off the board, the Royals selected California high school pitcher Mike Stodolka.
"He's got good mound presence. I liked his poise. I think he's a guy who showed command of the fastball, which is unique at such a young age. Every outing toward the end, he seemed to improve."
Well, don't count on the Royals abandoning their conservative nature by drafting the controversial but highly talented J.D. Drew, who was the first pick last year and is back in this year's draft still demanding a contract worth over a third of the Royals ' entire payroll ($32 million). ``We simply can't afford what he's asking,'' Robinson said.
The Royals selected Stanford pitcher Jeff Austin.
"If you wanted to compare me with someone, I'd say more like a Mike Mussina or even a Greg Maddux type."
"He's probably the college pitcher who's closest to the big leagues,"
If the Royals stick to their game plan, left-hander Eric DuBose of Mississippi State could be their man. DuBose, 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds, is ranked as the 10th-best prospect by Baseball America and is showing off his sweeping curveball this week during the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. ... The Royals also are keeping in contact with 6-5 right-hander Jason Grilli of Seton Hall, but they don't think he'll be around by the seventh pick.
After Grilli was selected, the Royals passed up DuBose and took P Dan Reichert from Pacific University.
"He is a pitcher with a high ceiling...He is a competitor. And he could get to the big leagues very quickly and help, hopefully within the next year or so."
Coincidentally, this year's amateur draft has many talented pitching prospects. So the Royals can arm their farm system with capable arms. Sixty of the top 100 prospects listed by Baseball America are pitchers. ... ``We're looking for the best player available. It would be great if it is a pitcher or a power hitter. '' With this group of prospects, it's likely to be a pitcher. The draft begins at noon today. The Royals have the 14th pick overall. Baseball America lists right-handed pitcher Jake Westbrook of Madison County High in Danielsville, Ga., as the 14th-best prospect.
The Royals selected high school outfielder Dermal Brown.
"He's the best power-hitting prospect in the draft."
The Royals have the draft 's fifth pick, and scouting director Art Stewart said he's "90 percent sure" Kansas City will select a college pitcher. Based on draft projections, it appears the best prospect that will be available to the Royals is Texas A&M pitcher Jeff Granger, who probably will start against Kansas in the first game of the College World Series on Friday... If it's not Granger or a player projected to go ahead of him, the Royals will have a pool of college pitching talent from which to choose: Billy Wagner from Ferrum (Va.) will become the first player from a Division III school in a decade to be drafted in the first round. He's a 5-11, 180-pound lefty whose fastball has been clocked at 98 mph. Fresno State right-hander Steve Soderstrom has an injured shoulder and his stock has dipped this spring. Creighton right-hander Alan Benes is the younger brother of Padres pitcher Andy Benes, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1988 draft . The most discussed position players are Georgia Tech catcher Jason Varitek and Texas outfielder Brooks Kieschnick. But don't look for the Royals to go that route...
The Royals selected Granger.
Granger compares his style on the mound to that of another Texan, Roger Clemens. "I feel I'm in basically the same boat," Granger said. "Maybe not the velocity, but the aggressiveness. " Granger's goal of reaching the majors within two years sounds reasonable to the Royals. "He's closer to the big leagues than even he realizes," Stewart said. "He's such a competitor, he's like a Clemens. "The one person he reminds me of the most is Steve Carlton.
Let's hope Dayton and his team get it right tomorrow! His job is not an easy one.