KC's focus on pitching on Day 1 of Draft
Seven pitchers among club's 18 overall selections on Tuesday
KANSAS CITY -- Of the three pitchers the Royals had contemplated selecting No. 1 overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Luke Hochevar's last name was the hardest to say.
But as the throng of media glanced at the news release announcing him as Kansas City's highest pick in club history -- complete with a new pronunciation (HO-chay-vur) -- Royals senior director of scouting Deric Ladnier didn't stumble over his words. Hochevar had something that Brad Lincoln and Andrew Miller didn't, Ladnier said, and it wasn't just an elusive surname.
"We feel like with this young man we have a guy who's going to be able to get here quickly," Ladnier said.
The "here" he was referring to, of course, was the Major Leagues. Ladnier said that Hochevar was especially regarded because, as a member of the independent Fort Worth Cats, his most recent team, he pitched on a five-day rotation. Most collegiate pitchers, such as Lincoln (University of Houston) and Miller (University of North Carolina) go on seven days' rest.
"There was a lot of debate, quite frankly," Ladnier said. "Similar ability. We felt like, advancement-wise, he was a little bit more advanced. We were able to evaluate him against some hitters that had been in A ball, Double-A ball, using wooden bats. It was really a unique situation for us to be able to evaluate his ability under those conditions, which doesn't happen very often."
Despite passing on Lincoln and Miller, Kansas City showed a penchant for college pitchers throughout the rest of the first day of the draft. Seven of their 18 selections were college pitchers. Further, the Royals added four high school athletes, two shortstops and two outfielders.
Kansas City will have the first choice on Wednesday as well when the draft resumes in the 19th round. The draft will end when either of two scenarios comes about: each team passes on a selection or a 50th round is completed.
A look at each of the Royals selections from the first day of the draft follows:
Round 2: Jason Taylor, SS, Floyd E. Kellam HS, Virginia Beach, Va.: A member of the 2005 USA Baseball Junior National Team, Taylor, 18, has also played at the AAU, Little League and PONY levels. He played basketball and baseball for two years each at Kellam. Taylor batted .370 (17-for-46) with 13 RBIs and 14 runs in 15 games for the Knights this spring. He signed a letter of intent to attend Clemson University last fall.
Round 3: Blake Wood, RHP, Georgia Tech:Wood's arrival in the Royals system will be slightly delayed. The Yellow Jackets won the Atlanta regional in the NCAA tournament and will play host to the College of Charleston this weekend. Wood, the ace of Georgia Tech's staff, was named a 2006 Preseason All-America. He had compiled a 10-4 record with a 5.01 ERA in 17 starts entering the Super Regionals, collecting 84 strikeouts and 40 walks in 102 1/3 innings pitched.
Round 4: Derrick Robinson, OF, P.K. Yonge Laboratory School, Gainesville, Fla.: The player regarded as the fastest in the draft might take his time in getting to Kansas City. Robinson has committed to the University of Florida to play both baseball and football. At 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, the switch hitter is projected as a leadoff man. He shouldn't have trouble backpedaling to track down a fly ball: the Gators have him slated to play cornerback in the fall.
Round 5: Jason Godin, RHP, Old Dominion: In Godin, the Royals get a power pitcher with room for growth. The 6-4, 185-pound right-hander led the Colonial Athletic Association with 146 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings in 2006. That mark was five shy of the CAA record set by Godin's former teammate Justin Verlander in 2004. Verlander, now a rookie with Detroit, threw his first career complete-game shutout at Kauffman Stadium on May 22. Time will tell whether Godin will surpass his efforts there.
Round 6: Harold Mozingo, RHP, Virginia Commonwealth: Mozingo was drafted in the 15th round by the New York Mets in 2003 but didn't catch on as he missed a month with a hand injury. He has shown command with his fastball, changeup and curve. A junior, Mozingo was 7-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts and one relief appearance for VCU this season. He threw five complete games and struck out 101 batters in 95 2/3 innings.
Round 7: Brett Bigler, OF, California-Riverside: A slap-hitter for the Highlanders, Bigler was named All-Big West as a junior in 2006. He batted .356, though only 15 of his 73 hits went for extra bases, none of them home runs. Scouts believe that he can add strength in the Minor Leagues, giving a team added pop from the leadoff slot. One thing they aren't overly concerned with is Bigler's speed and defense. He stole 27 bases in 31 attempts while committing just one error in 126 chances.
Round 8: Joshua Cribb, RHP, Clemson: If anything, Cribb shouldn't need a veteran teammate to coach him on his interviews, a la Crash Davis in "Bull Durham." The senior starter spent this past semester as an intern in the Clemson sports information office. He plans to stick around the Clemson campus a little while longer this summer, though not to aid the SIDs. The Tigers will host an NCAA Super Regional this weekend and look to Cribb to help them advance. He was 9-0 with a 3.16 ERA entering this weekend. Thus far, he has been the only Tiger to throw a complete game in 2006.
Round 9: Marc Maddox, 2B, Southern Mississippi: A change in position is in the cards for Maddox, who started regularly at third and first base during his senior season for the Golden Eagles. Wherever he was in the lineup, however, he showed skill at the plate. Maddox batted .313 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 2006. Though his average was a significant dropoff from the .359 he hit a year before, his power numbers were the highest they had ever been.
Round 10: Nicholas Van Stratten, CF, St. Louis Community College-Meramec: Van Stratten was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American and the All-Region Player of the Year in 2006. A native of Winnetonka, Mo., just north of Kansas City, Van Stratten had a .497 average as the leadoff hitter for the Magic. That mark was the third-highest in the nation.
Round 11: William Chambliss, RHP, Florida State: Take a breath, Royals fans. This is not the son of Chris Chambliss, the former Yankee who hit a ninth-inning home run in Game 5 to clinch the 1976 American League Championship Series against Kansas City. Thirty years later, William Chambliss struck out 117 batters in 115 innings for Florida State, going 12-4 with a 2.97 ERA.
Round 12: Everett Teaford, LHP, Georgia Southern: While he needs to add muscle to his 6-foot-0, 155-pound frame, Teaford has shown the ability to dominate hitters. The junior was 10-4 with four complete games in 2006. The summer before, he went 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA to help the Orleans Cardinals to the 2005 Cape Cod League title.
Round 13: Kurt Mertins, 2B, College of the Desert: As a Roadrunner, Mertins wore a cap that featured an Old English "D" very similar to that of the Detroit Tigers. He'll be happy if getting used to a new uniform is the biggest adjustment he'll have to make. In 2006, the second baseman hit a team-best .387 with 42 RBIs and 37 steals in 43 games, earning him first team All-Foothill Conference honors.
Round 14: Daniel Best, RHP, Southern Mississippi: Though it would have been appropriate, Best's 13 saves did not lead Conference USA in 2006. He fell one short of Tulane's Daniel Latham. The second Golden Eagle of Kansas City's draft class, Best is also the second person in his family to play collegiate baseball. His father, Jeff, was a Louisiana Tech Bulldog.
Round 15: Nicholas Francis, OF, Pensacola (Fla.) JC: Francis' eight home runs and 53 RBIs led the team in 2006. The shortstop also batted .364. Though the Royals plan to convert him to the outfield, at least they are not trying to put Francis on the mound full-time. He allowed four runs in his only appearance this season, inflating his ERA to 36.00.
Round 16: Tyrone Wilson, SS, Southern Durham (N.C.) HS: Like Robinson, his counterpart from the fourth round, Wilson played baseball and football in high school. He is slightly undersized, however, at 5-9 and 180 pounds.
Round 17: Matthew Morizio, C, Northeastern: Morizio's versatility added to his appeal. He played five different positions for the Huskies this season -- catcher, first base, third base, pitcher and left field -- but he is predominantly viewed as a backstop.
Round 18: Chase Larsson, OF, Kitsilano Secondary School (Vancouver, B.C.): Larsson will be a member of the North Delta Premier Blue Jays, a junior team in Canada, this summer. The Blue Jays' alumni include current Major Leaguers Jeff Francis (Rockies) and Justin Morneau (Twins).
Kevin Druley is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.