KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are on a roll. They can pick 'em.
Each of their first selections in the First-Year Player Draft from 2004 to 2009 is either a key player on their Major League roster or close to it.
Designated hitter Billy Butler (2004) and left fielder Alex Gordon (2005) are big parts of the offense. Luke Hochevar (2006) heads the pitching rotation and Aaron Crow (2009) has just been named closer. Eric Hosmer (2008) is a rising rookie at first base. Third baseman Mike Moustakas (2007) is expected to join the team sometime this summer.
It's too early to tell about the 2010 first choice, Christian Colon, who is playing shortstop at the Double-A level.
General manager Dayton Moore says it's also too early to tell which first-round pick ultimately will have the most impact on the Royals' future. Hosmer, though, is an example of a choice that paid off in a hurry.
"Hosmer, obviously, we took in 2008. He played later that year for a brief period of time, but really he got going in 2009 and two years later he's in the Major Leagues," Moore said. "This time three years ago he was an undrafted player and now he's in the Major Leagues, so he moved very, very quickly. But picking third in the country, you hope to get that kind of impact talent."
Monday night when the 2011 Draft unfolds, the Royals will have the fifth selection, and fans can watch.
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Once the Royals make their first selection, they'll have a long wait until their next pick, No. 65.
"Big gap, it's going to be a big challenge," Moore said. "You try to put your board together in a way that reflects players that you could potentially get there. But, at the same time, you've got to line them up because you never know who's going to be there. You've got to line them up based on how you think they're going to help you win a championship in the Major Leagues."
The Royals have had 30 scouts and front-office personnel checking out players all over the country for months.
"We've got a great scouting department," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They work hard, they put in endless hours. They've been meeting all day for two straight weeks going over every player in the country."
Now all they have to do is pick the right one. Again.
Last 5 first-round picks
Northwest Arkansas (AA)
Kansas City (MLB)
Kansas City (MLB)
Kansas City (MLB)
In about 50 words
Unlike the last two years, where pitcher Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper were no-contest No. 1 picks, the 2011 class features no sure-fire star. But there is a strong and deep class of both high school and college pitchers available.
When you're rated as having the best Minor League organization in the game, as the Royals do according to Baseball America, why not just take a break and skip the Draft? Don't try that little joke on Moore.
"We've got a lot of areas to improve in," he said. "There's a lot of fragility when you're dealing with young players. Building our farm system is as important as anything that we do, and the Draft obviously is crucial to our long-term success."
Case in point on fragility: Left-hander John Lamb, a top prospect for the KC rotation, is facing possible Tommy John surgery.
First-round buzz First-round buzz
In his latest mock draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has the Royals looking local with the fifth-overall pick. Gardner, Kansas, product Bubba Starling is projected to go to Kansas City, a choice Mayo writes, makes "almost too much sense." A five-tool outfield prospect, Starling is also a quarterback committed to the University of Nebraska. If Starling is off the board, or if pitchers Gerrit Cole or Trevor Bauer of UCLA are available, the Royals might look for arms instead.
Moore wouldn't specify any target areas for the Royals but last year's priorities of pitching, catching, shortstop and right-handed power probably still apply.
"We're going to, as we've done in the past, probably take the best guy available with the fifth selection," Moore said. "I wouldn't say there's any one position we need to fill. You're always looking to acquire as much pitching as you can. We're not really focusing in on any one area."
Most of Mayo's top Draft prospects are in college, including two of the top pitchers, Gerrit Cole and Danny Hultzen. Overall, eight of the 15 players to go first in his mock draft are college pitchers.
Recent Draft History Rising fast
MLB.com named Moustakas the seventh-best prospect in the game for 2011, and he's having a solid season for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers.
The 21-year-old is batting .281 with a .349 on-base percentage. After drawing just eight walks in 52 games for Omaha last season, he already has 18 in just 48 games in 2011. He also has nine home runs and 41 RBIs this season, along with 12 doubles and a triple.
Left-handed pitcher Everett Teaford wasn't selected until the 12th round of the 2006 Draft, which by no means guarantees a trip to the Major Leagues.
But after six seasons in the Minor Leagues, Teaford made his big league debut on May 17, and has allowed just two runs in seven appearances. Teaford is one of six rookies in the Royals' bullpen this season.
In The Show
Where to begin? The Royals have three players drafted in the last three years on their roster. But most of the attention is on Hosmer, who made his Major League debut on May 6. In less than a month, the left-handed slugger had five home runs.
Crow, the 2009 first-round pick, began the season with the Royals and was recently promoted to the role of closer after incumbent Joakim Soria's recent struggles. Louis Coleman, a fifth-round pick in 2009, is also part of a young Kansas City bullpen.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Adam Holt contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.