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06/06/06 8:42 AM ET

Royals lean toward Hochevar

Royals deem former Tennessee ace too good to pass up

I'm man enough to admit when I was wrong.

Just a scant 24 hours ago, I dismissed as rumors a certain buzz around the Kansas City Royals and the No. 1 overall pick.

Sometimes, rumors are true. I am now prepared to definitively project Luke Hochevar as the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.

With that out of the way, and with some more information being confirmed, the first-round pieces are falling into place a little more solidly. So let's not waste any more time in my final first-round projection before the main event at 1 p.m. ET.

1. Kansas City Royals: Luke Hochevar, RHP, no school
This is where I continue to eat humble pie. There was plenty of logic behind the rumors that Hochevar, the former University of Tennessee ace who didn't sign with the Dodgers and re-entered the draft, could find his way to the top spot. I just didn't want to believe it. The Royals evidently think that Hochevar is the best talent in the draft class, and not Andrew Miller or Brad Lincoln, the two main names that had been mentioned in this spot. The combination of the strength of the draft class, how quickly Hochevar can get to the big leagues and his overall potential was a package they decided they couldn't pass up.
Previous projection: Andrew Miller.

2. Colorado Rockies: Greg Reynolds, RHP, Stanford
Let the Andrew Miller slide begin. It seemed for the longest time that Long Beach State infielder Evan Longoria would be the pick here, but that the Rockies would take Miller if the Royals did not. Now there is late word of a pre-draft deal between Colorado and Stanford right-hander Greg Reynolds. Reynolds moved way up the charts, partly because of his consistency and partly because of a string of outstanding starts facing some other elite college aces. He cemented his place with a strong Regional start. The Rockies decided they wanted the arm and went with the one that wouldn't break the bank.
Last week's projection: Evan Longoria.

3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State
Here's the second place it sounded like Miller would be a possibility if he fell to here. And here's the second place he'll pass by. Instead of going with Lincoln, they'll opt for the bat they perhaps didn't think would be there for them a day or two ago. And unlike with the Rockies, they'll probably let him stay at third.
Last week's projection: Brad Lincoln.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Brad Lincoln, RHP, University of Houston
In a lot of ways, this is the best-case scenario for the Pirates. Miller isn't a consideration for them and they hoped things would fall that either Lincoln or Reynolds would be there. And Lincoln is the guy they probably liked better, so they won't be upset at all to take the Houston ace, who you could make the argument was the best pitching performer in college this season.
Previous projection: Greg Reynolds.

5. Seattle Mariners: Brandon Morrow, RHP, Cal Berkeley
Whew, a pick that hasn't changed in the last 24 hours.

The tie to Hochevar hasn't gone away, and it's still a possibility here. North Carolina right-hander Daniel Bard's name has come up of late, but I think that's more of a backup option. They've liked Morrow all along and it looks now like he'll be there for the taking.
Previous projection: Morrow.

6. Detroit Tigers: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Highland Park HS, Dallas, Texas
The Tigers are faced with a decision, and not the one that seemed to be facing them. Now it may come down to the college lefty in Miller or the high school lefty in Kershaw (with Tim Lincecum as the "safe" pick). Obviously, Miller has some high bonus demands, the reason why he's still around at this spot. Reportedly, Kershaw is looking for a good number, too. So it's a question of who they'd rather ride it out with. An argument could be made that it should be Miller because if you're going to play that game, might as well do it with the guy they rate the highest. They rode it out with Justin Verlander and that seems to be working out OK. In the end, though, something tells me they'll settle on Kershaw when push comes to shove.

Previous projection: Luke Hochevar.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Drabek, RHP, The Woodlands HS, Texas
This is where the men are separated from the boys. With Kershaw off the board -- and there's no guarantee the Dodgers would take him even if he was still there -- the discussions are wide open. Drabek fits the mold of the high upside arms the Dodgers covet. Serious discussions about Drabek's perceived makeup issues have undoubtedly been held, and probably will continue to go on right up until draft time. They could very well go the high-school bat rout with Chris Parmelee, which some might think is the safer pick. And Drew Stubbs could sneak in here in the last minute.
Previous projection: Clayton Kershaw.

8. Cincinnati Reds: Drew Stubbs, OF, University of Texas
No change here. They still like a high school bat (Bill Rowell) and a college arm (Tim Lincecum), but they won't pass on Stubbs' five tools if things play out like this. The questions about his bat have left his status a little clouded, but he can do just about everything and talent like that is hard to come by in this draft (or any, truth be told).
Previous projection: Stubbs.

9. Baltimore Orioles: Bill Rowell, 3B, Bishop Eustace Prep, Pennsauken, NJ
Still sticking with Rowell's power potential here. This is another spot where Tim Lincecum figures into the mix, but likely gets left out.
Previous projection: Rowell

10. San Francisco Giants: Daniel Bard, RHP, University of North Carolina
Bard's name has been mentioned more strongly with the Mariners at No. 5, so the Giants may be left with the other college pitchers, though Miller and Lincecum don't make sense. There's been noise of a deal with Chris Parmelee, a high-school bat, but I still like the Giants sticking with their M.O. and going with the big right-hander.
Previous projection: Bard.

11. Arizona Diamondbacks: Andrew Miller, LHP, University of North Carolina
A while back, I heard a rumor that the Miller camp would try to get their guy down to the Cubs at No. 13. That no longer seems preposterous. But the D-Backs like to take risks and will almost always take the best player on the board, regardless of signability issues. Without a doubt, Miller will be the top guy on their board in this scenario and Arizona will not hesitate to take him off the board, even if he'd rather play in Chicago.
Previous projection: Max Scherzer.

12. Texas Rangers: Kasey Kiker, Russell County HS, Phenix City, Ala.
Still the only sure thing is that Stubbs won't go any further than here. They were looking at Drabek for a long time, but it wasn't even a guarantee he'd go here if he was still around. Kiker moved his way up into this slot with a terrific private workout in Arlington and then a second workout with the club gave some inkling they were serious. There were some bats in consideration, but they're no longer in the picture.
Previous projection: Kyle Drabek.

13. Chicago Cubs: Chris Marrero, 3B, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami, Fla.
I was tempted to slot Scherzer here, but I'm hearing whispers that his medical reports don't look good and will cause a long slide. So I'll stick with the high-school bat. Of course, if Miller does make his way all the way here, that's locked in.
Previous projection: Marrero.

14. Toronto Blue Jays: Tim Lincecum, RHP, University of Washington
There was all this talk about Matt Antonelli here, but that has seriously died down. They do like Travis Snider, the high-school OF from the state of Washington, and there could be a debate in the draft room right up until draft time. In the end, though, they won't let Lincecum's electric stuff and rubber arm get pass them. Stick him in the pen and he could help the Jays in a Wild Card run down the stretch if he's not too worn out from overuse in school this season.
Previous projection: Travis Snider

15. Washington Nationals: Emmanuel Burriss, SS, Kent State
I had him going No. 22 in my last go round, but if it's going to be a pre-draft deal, why not do it up higher and go after a high ceiling guy lower down? He's from D.C. and the Nats love taking local guys when it fits. There's some question about his ability to play short, but he can flat out run and there's not a whole lot of speed out there to be had. Besides, with Ryan Zimmerman at third, how often will he have to make the throw from the hole anyway?
Previous projection: Lincecum.

16. Milwaukee Brewers: Travis Snider, OF/1B, Jackson HS, Everett, Wash.
While there may be some interest in some college arms who could slide -- a guy like Scherzer could come into the picture, though I have a feeling the medical stuff will make Milwaukee pass -- it's looking more like a high-school bat here (They liked Kasey Kiker, but he will be gone). That leaves Snider and Chris Parmelee and I think the Brewers like Snider's bat a little bit more.
Previous projection: Kasey Kiker.

17. San Diego Padres: Brett Sinkbeil, RHP, Missouri State
There was some serious talk about high-school bat Chris Parmelee, but it now seems to me that they'll go with the best college arm available (sleeper pick: Matt Antonelli). That should mean Sinkbeil, who has come back from that oblique injury and thrown very well down the stretch. Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, previous possibilities, keep sliding because of health concerns.
Previous projection: Parmelee.

18. Philadelphia Phillies: Brett Anderson, LHP, Stillwater HS, Stillwater, OK
Nothing has come up to make it seem like the Phillies will not go with the high-school arm here. If Drabek somehow falls, they're interested. They've got an interest in Colton Willems and even Chris Tillman some. In the end, though, I'll stick with the known commodity in Anderson, the polished HS lefty.
Previous projection: Anderson.

19. Florida Marlins: Colton Willems, RHP, John Carroll High School, Fort Pierce, Fla.
They could go with Parmelee or Marrero if he got to here, but in the end, I think they'll stick with the best high-school arm they think is on the board. That should mean Willems if the Phillies don't nab him.
Previous projection: Willems.

20. Minnesota Twins: Jared Mitchell, OF, Westgate HS, New Iberia, La.
Looking for a high-school bat, I was tempted to switch this to Parmelee. But I think they'll stick with the toolsy athlete in Mitchell, a raw two-sport star (he's got a football commitment to LSU). The Twins don't shy away from athletes who may take a little more time to develop.
Previous projection: Mitchell.

21. New York Yankees: Max Scherzer, RHP, University of Missouri
It appears as of now that there are two teams prepared to take Scherzer with the health question mark: the Diamondbacks at No. 11 and the Yankees here. Both teams, it seems, have gotten the medical clearance to take the Missouri ace so he won't slide any further than this spot.
Previous projection: Pedro Beato.

22. Washington Nationals: Chris Parmelee, OF/1B, Chino Hills HS, Calif.
If they go with Burriss at No. 15, they'll almost definitely go with a high schooler here. And a projectable high school arm could still be in the cards, particularly in the form of local fireballer Jeremy Jeffress. But Parmelee's bat is special, according to some, and here's saying the Nats won't let it go by with this pick.
Previous projection: Emmanuel Burriss.

23. Houston Astros: Kyle McCulloch, RHP, University of Texas

This is a possible stop for the Chamberlain-Scherzer express, but look for that to keep on going. They like Sinkbeil, but he won't be here. That leaves McCulloch, certainly tested in pressure situations, as the best college arm on the board.
Previous projection: Sinkbeil.

24. Atlanta Braves: Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Halifax County HS, South Boston, Va.
Thinking high-school arm here isn't exactly a shock, though Jeffress could go No. 22 to the Nats very easily. That would leave a guy like Chris Tillman as a possibility, but in this scenario, they'll go with Jeffress' power arm.
Previous projection: Jeffress

25. Los Angeles Angels: Hank Conger, C, Huntington Beach HS, Calif.
They'd still love for Willems to get here, but it's not going to happen. And while the high school arms still will get consideration, they will be hard-pressed to let Conger's switch-hitting power go by them. They'll give him every chance to prove he can't catch.
Previous projection: Conger.

26. Los Angeles Dodgers: Bryan Morris, RHP, Motlow State CC, Tullahoma, Tenn.
It would require a leap of faith, since the work done on him would be a bit minimal because he was a draft-and-follow, but he's got a great arm and terrific makeup. They probably would take Jeffress over him if he were to fall here, but he won't in our little projection game.
Previous projection: Morris.

27. Boston Red Sox: Matt Antonelli, 3B, Wake Forest
That's quite a slide, I know, but unless he goes up in the 11-15 range, that's what will happen. There's a risk in taking a guy from your own backyard (he's from Peabody, Mass.), but it also could be a bad PR move to let him go, not that the Sox would make their pick based on that. He fits the Sox mold for college bats and has some athleticism to boot.
Previous projection: Kyle McCulloch.

28. Boston Red Sox: David Huff, LHP, UCLA
Huff's the best college lefty on the board and his name has been mentioned as high as 21. If he's here, the Sox could be tempted. My previous projection, Chamberlain, will slide out of the first round (Scherzer might as well).
Previous projection: Chamberlain.

29. Chicago White Sox: Chris Perez, RHP, University of Miami.
I'm going to stick with the college closer here because the high-school arms that make sense won't be here, unless they revisit the Chris Tillman idea.
Previous projection: Perez.

30. St. Louis Cardinals: Brennan Boesch, OF, Cal Berkeley
The Cards could go in any of a number of directions, from high-school bat to their more usual college pick in an arm like Brooks Brown. But instead I'll go with a new name someone paired with St. Louis in Boesch, who had his best season, especially power-wise, this year.
Previous projection: David Huff.

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