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05/25/06 8:00 AM ET

Three men and a maybe

Royals will draft Miller, Lincecum or Lincoln with first overall pick

KANSAS CITY -- Call them the Big Three.

They are the three most prominent names in the Royals' search for the No. 1 overall choice in the First-Year Player Draft. They have one thing in common.

"I want the best available guy," general manager Allard Baird said. "In this case, it's going to be the best available pitcher."

All three are pitchers -- college pitchers.

They are left-hander Andrew Miller of the University of North Carolina, right-hander Brad Lincoln of the University of Houston and right-hander Tim Lincecum of the University of Washington.

All three are hard throwers who, the Royals hope, could make a rapid trip to the Major Leagues.

This is the first time in franchise history that the Royals will have the first selection and they want to get it right. It's a big challenge in a year where Baird sees the talent as rather thin, with no single player dominating the scene.

Miller was forecast as the top choice by Baseball America as long ago as last winter. The Royals have paid close attention to the 6-foot-7 North Carolina lefty but have made no commitment.

"Size, leverage, quality breaking ball, good fastball with life," Baird said. "His fastball is up to 96."

However, his location and command seem to be a source of concern.

Miller has an 11-1 record and 1.71 ERA in 13 games. In 89 2/3 innings, he has 53 strikeouts and 17 walks. Opponents are hitting .206 against him.

Lincoln also has an 11-1 record with a 1.67 ERA in 15 games for Houston.

"Lincoln is strong-bodied, six-foot, 195 or 200 pounds. Above-average fastball, changeup. At times, he can be average. His strikeout pitch is his curveball," said Deric Ladnier, the Royals' senior director of scouting. "His fastball velocity fluctuated this year."

In 113 innings, Lincoln has 141 strikeouts and 26 walks. Opponents have a .197 average.

Up in Washington, Lincecum has a 12-3 record and 2.01 ERA plus three saves in 21 games. He has 185 strikeouts and 61 walks in 116 1/3 innings, holding opponents to a .168 mark.

"He doesn't use his changeup as much as he probably should. An above-average breaking ball, curveball and slider -- both of them have power and depth," Ladnier said.

"The only mark is the workload he's taken on this year. He's thrown a lot of innings, but he's maintained his stuff and we'll watch him down to the wire."

From 1997 through 2002, each of the Royals' first picks were pitchers -- Dan Reichert, Jeff Austin, Kyle Snyder, Mike Stodolka, Colt Griffin and Zack Greinke. Only Greinke, currently on disabled list, has made a significant mark in the Majors.

Their last three first choices were outfielder Chris Lubanski and third basemen Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.