Armitage made it as high as Double-A, then spent a year in indy ball in 2007. He pitched in the '06 World Baseball Classic and is again on the South African provisional roster for '09.
The experience with Armitage, it seems, has led to another opportunity for a young South African arm in the Royals organization. Right-hander Dylan Lindsay is all of 17 years old and won't be done with high school in South Africa until 2010. But that's not the surprising part about the Royals' signing of the 6-foot-2 hurler. No one, at least not among the Royals brass, has seen Lindsay in action.
"Mike Randall's the only one who's seen him," said Royals assistant general manager of player development and scouting J.J Picollo of the scout who discovered Lindsay. "He felt strongly we should sign him. He's more of a projection guy.
"We had Barry Armitage a couple of years ago. That's what led us to hire Mike Randall. He comes to Spring Training every year. He's trying to cultivate the game in South Africa and brings what he learns back there, trying to develop the game."
Randall has been impressed with how much Lindsay has developed in the brief time he's known the pitcher. Randall first spotted Lindsay back in April '07 at a junior tournament. He was a gangly sort then, one who didn't seem all that special, though Randall thought there was something worth watching. It turned out that Lindsay is a pretty good all-around athlete, a top javelin thrower who also recently broke his school record in the triple jump.
Fast forward to a national tournament last September, and Randall saw Lindsay's velocity improve into the upper 80s with good, quick arm action and good movement on the fastball.
"This ability that he has shown, I must add, is without any real formal pitching, teaching or coaching," Randall said via email. "He is a very young and inexperienced player that will need a lot of good teaching and coaching. He is an interesting challenge and a true prospect. With the expertise and experience available at the Royals, I am convinced that he will move through the ranks at professional level.
Randall points out that Lindsay is still growing and that he's never been involved in any kind of real strength and conditioning program. He may be a project, but Randall feels it is one that could have a big dividend.
"It is exciting when I think of when he grows into himself and gets better and stronger," Randall said. "He also needs to mature a lot and will have to learn how to handle success as well as failure. The baseball kids in South Africa grow up in a very protected environment. The players/kids in the USA are far more mature both physically and mentally than our kids in this country. Challenging yes, but boy oh boy, I think we are going to have some fun with this kid."
The Royals may have to wait a while for that. They are letting Lindsay finish high school before bringing him here, perhaps for instructs, maybe in the Australian Academy next winter. From there, they could evaluate him and possibly bring him to Spring Training in Surprise, Ariz., in 2010.
The immediate question, of course, is whether Lindsay might get the chance to hit the United States earlier, as part of the South African World Baseball Classic roster. Sure, they'd have to get through a group in Mexico City that involves Cuba, Mexico and Australia, but you've got to be in it to win it and at least Lindsay could get the chance to visit the Western Hemisphere.
"Mike thinks he has a chance," Picollo said. "It's not out of the question. He would certainly be one of the younger guys. Maybe he can get some experience this time around for a bigger chance down the road."
"In my opinion, I think that, yes, he will make it," Randall said. "Although he is young, he is and will be part of the future of South African baseball. He needs the experience and in my opinion needs the exposure to a higher level and standard of baseball.
"He is great to work with, wants to learn and has an extremely good work ethic. I believe that he has a bright and exciting future."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.