06/09/07 1:07 AM ET
Pitching an emphasis for KC in Draft
Half of Royals picks in annual lottery end up being hurlers
By Conor Nicholl / MLB.com
"We went in wanting to take the best player we could in each round and it happened to be a right-handed pitcher," scouting director Deric Ladnier said. "We took guys with big arms, guys that have plus velocity, sometimes plus-plus -- guys with breaking balls, very competitive, athletic. It was probably a very physical, athletic Draft we had ... pretty deep into the Draft also."
Overall, the Royals, like most teams, selected high school players early, taking nine prep athletes in their first 14 picks. After that, the club leaned more toward the collegiate ranks, finishing with 27 collegiate players, six junior college athletes and 16 from the high school ranks. By position, the Royals selected 25 pitchers, 21 of them right-handed, six catchers, three first basemen, two second basemen, three third basemen, four shortstops and seven outfielders. While several teams passed early, Kansas City made selections in all 50 rounds.
"We were going to draft all 50 rounds," general manager Dayton Moore said on Thursday. "Our scouts have worked hard enough and we have another Minor League team to fill. If there were 70 rounds, we would have drafted 70 rounds."
The Royals took high school shortstop Mike Moustakas from Chatsworth (Calif.) High School with their first pick, the No. 2 overall selection in the Draft. After that, the Royals went straight to pitching, selecting three high school hurlers with their next three picks, including 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander Sam Runion from North Carolina with their second selection. Six-foot-2 left-hander Daniel Duffy from Cabrillo (Calif.) High School was the team's third round pick and Peter Hodge Nielsen, a 6-foot-2 right-hander from Vancouver, British Columbia was selected in the fourth round.
"I had a chance to meet him in the pre-Draft workout up in Washington," Ladnier said of Nielsen. "He showed velocity, 93-94 mph. We did a few things to him in regards to his breaking ball, got him to finish it out front. It was 82-83 [mph] and a true power curveball. He already had a good feel for a changeup. Strong body, good lower half, wants to go out and play."
The Royals also focused on speed early in the Draft, taking Pepperdine University center fielder Adrian Ortiz in the fifth round. Ortiz, who stole 15 bases in 16 attempts this spring, is considered by many scouts as the fastest college player in the Draft. He was timed at 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
"We wanted to upgrade the speed," Ladnier said.
Switch-hitting Patrick Norris, a 16th round selection, was another elite runner. He hit .379 for Oklahoma City University this season and has been timed at 6.3 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
|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|
"I'm obviously very happy," Norris said in a release from his school. "I had a bunch of trouble sleeping [Thursday] night because I was ready to get it over with. I've loved the game ever since tee ball. I was always taught to have fun while playing the game. My dad pushed me so hard to be the best."
Lake Washington High School center fielder Hilton Richardson, the team's seventh round selection, and Oregon State University Chris Hopkins, picked in the 44th round, are also considered fast players.
"Hopkins also was a plus-speed guy," Ladnier said. "There are about three or four guys that are top of the grade. Richardson is super, super athletic and is probably a 70 runner [on the 20-80 scouting scale]. ... That is obviously something that we wanted to focus on."
One of the more interesting selections was Fernando Cruz, a 6-foot-1 switch-hitting shortstop from Puerto Rico Advancement College. Cruz will not turn 18 until next March 28.
"He wasn't necessarily going to be a player who was going to be eligible, but he just graduated early. He just turned 17, so he is a very, very young 17," Ladnier said. "What stood out with him is that he is young, he has plus power and he has some type of an arm. You could make it plus-plus right now. It's really a powerful arm. He is kind of a gangly kid, so our intent is to move him to third base. We are not going to leave him at shortstop because he is a below-average runner."
Some of the other top right-handed pitchers included Greg Holland, Kansas City's 10th round selection. Holland, a product of Western Carolina University, fashioned a 3.77 ERA and a 54/28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45 1/3 innings.
"He is up to 94-95 [mph], really big arm," Ladnier said.
Two other right-handed pitchers included 6-foot-2 Benjamin Norton from Evansville University and 6-foot Dane Secott from Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Norton, picked in the 24th round, went 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings this spring, while Secott, the team's 27th-round pick, fashioned a 2.91 ERA and struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings.
"All the guys we drafted, we didn't draft any soft tossers," Ladnier said.
Ladnier expects to follow some of the selections -- especially the junior college pitchers -- through the summer leagues. Some players may return to school, including right-hander Stephen Dodson from the University of Georgia. He said Friday through a university statement that he will remain at Georgia.
"We realized that his expectations, dollar-wise, were a little bit higher," Ladnier said of Dodson. "We knew that he was going to be going to the Cape Cod League this summer and [we want to ] see if we want to make a run at him from a financial aspect."
Because baseball eliminated the draft-and-follow system, all players have to be signed by Aug. 15, a move that Moore doesn't agree with.
"Losing the draft-and-follow is a direction the industry wanted to go," Moore said Thursday.
"Personally, I was not in favor of eliminating the draft-and-follow. Eliminating it loses options for both parties. It will probably help in some cases. It will probably help the colleges more than anything else because they know what to expect."
Ladnier said the team hasn't started negotiations with Moustakas, a Scott Boras client. Last year, the Royals' No. 1 selection, Luke Hochevar, was also represented by Boras and held out for several months before signing a four-year Major League contract worth $5.3 million with a $3.5 million signing bonus.
"We really haven't started the negotiations," Ladnier said. "I haven't contacted him since we started, because obviously we have been busy. I anticipate giving him a courtesy call sometime [Saturday] to start the negotiations. We are excited [about] being able to start that and get the player out there."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.