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Royals striving for organizational balance through Draft

Holding No. 8 overall pick, club expects process to be 'wide open'

Royals striving for organizational balance through Draft

KANSAS CITY -- The Royals will have to exhibit a bit more patience in the First-Year Player Draft of 2013.

Goodness, they're way down at No. 8 in the picking order this time around. Only once in the previous eight years has their first pick been out of the top five.

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One thing about being behind the eight ball is the Royals will be quite sure that the two or three prime prospects in the Draft will be gone.

There was a four-year run in which the Royals had one of the top three picks each time. Then came a No. 12 (Aaron Crow) in 2009 followed by a four and two fives.

"Eight is not that much further down. It doesn't change how you scout," said J.J. Picollo, Royals assistant general manager of scouting and player development. "But at the end, instead of honing in on two or three guys, you know who's going No. 1 and you might know who's going No. 2, so now you can go watch two or three [other] guys. Last week, we were out watching still up to six different guys that could potentially get to our pick. ... It is going to be wide open, it is going to be unpredictable in who's going where."

Who will the Royals take? It'll be easy to find out -- just watch or read.

The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 11:30 a.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 12 p.m.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

A cliché in which many clubs indulge is that they'll take the best player available, regardless of position. The Royals are not strangers to that cliché.

In the last three years, they selected a shortstop (Christian Colon), an outfielder (Bubba Starling) and a pitcher (Kyle Zimmer).

What's their need this year?

"I really don't think we're identifying what our needs are," Picollo said. "In the upper rounds, we've maintained all along we've got to take the best players available. We're going to line these guys up according to their ability. We're going to select a player that falls in that spot for us. It could be a pitcher, it could be a position player. With the top pick, we could use either one."

Quite naturally, pitching is a prime commodity and commands a lot of attention.

"There are some pitchers at the top of the Draft that I think are quality guys. There are a couple of college arms," Picollo said. "I don't think there's as much high-school depth in pitching as you typically see in the first round."

Catching also is a prized commodity, although the Royals seem set there for years with 23-year-old Salvador Perez under a long-term contract.

"There's a good group of high-school catchers," Picollo said. "The college catching is just as it's been, not real strong, but there are a couple guys that typically get drafted higher just because of the need for catchers and the importance of the position. It's the supply-and-demand factor. There's a lot of demand and very little supply."

He expects three or four of those prep catchers might go in the first two rounds.

Shortstops also are much coveted.

"A lot of them are young. There's probably a half-dozen guys that will probably go in those top two rounds again," Picollo said.

Here's a glance at what the Royals have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The top two choices this year are expected to be right-handed college pitchers, Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray, being eyed by the Astros at No. 1, and Stanford's Mark Appel, supposedly in the Cubs' sights as the second selection. The top hitter seems to be third baseman Kris Bryant from San Diego and the third-picking Rockies are looking at him.

The scoop
If the Royals center on pitchers in the early rounds, look for them to focus on hitters in the succeeding rounds and vice versa.

"As we get deeper into the Draft, we've got to create balance -- how do we get enough pitching and get some of the bats we really value and get a balance of the two?" Picollo said. "But I wouldn't say we have a glaring need of one over the other. We could use hitters and we could use pitchers just the same."

First-round buzz
High-school pitchers are sometimes passed over in the first round because college pitchers generally move up to the Majors faster.

"There's not a whole of Jose Fernandezes that basically get to the big leagues. Or we talk about Zack Greinke and how quickly he got there," Picollo said. "But in the history of the game, there's not as many as the college guys who will jump within a year or year and a half to the big leagues."

Even so, if the Royals are prevented from grabbing a top-quality college pitcher such as right-hander Braden Shipley of Nevada, MLB.com expert Jonathan Mayo expects them to tap left-hander Trey Ball of New Castle (Ind.) High School.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

The Royals' pool for their 11 picks in the first 10 rounds is $8,290,700, ranking sixth among the 30 clubs. That includes $3,137,800 for their first-round pick.

Shopping list
"Based on our first pick and then our sandwich pick, if by chance if we take two hitters with our first two picks, then, obviously, when we get to the second round, we've got to look at some pitching because the top pitchers are going to start going off the board," Picollo said. "So those first two picks are really going to be based on who the best players are available and we'll adjust after that."

See, it boils down to that "best player" thing.

Trend watch
Mayo had a slight edge for hitters over pitchers in his second Mock Draft of the 33 first-round picks published on May 30. The 18 position players included eight outfielders, four third baseman, three catchers, two shortstops and a first baseman. Of the 15 pitchers, nine were college products, six from high schools.

Recent Draft History
2012: Kyle Zimmer, Class A Advanced Wilmington
2011: Bubba Starling, OF Class A Lexington
2010: Christian Colon, 2B-SS, Class AAA Omaha
2009: Aaron Crow, RHP, Kansas City
2008: Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City

Rising fast
Right-hander Kyle Zimmer was selected last year out of the University of San Francisco. As a college pitcher, he was expected to rise fast and possibly reach Double-A this year. On the other hand, he's relatively new to the mound, switching from third base, so he's still got a lot to learn at Class A Wilmington.

"His numbers aren't great and they can certainly tell a story, but the feedback from our coaches, from our scouts and other scouts have been outstanding," Picollo said. "His stuff has been really good. He's run into some buzz-saw innings where the numbers are very elevated on him ... but, most importantly, the grades on his stuff have been really good -- it's all been really plus. His fastball has been up to 100 [mph] and he's pitching at 96. His curveball and slider have got plus grades and he's starting to use his changeup more and understand the importance of it."

Cinderella story
Outfielder Jarrod Dyson continues to be a prime example of coming from the depths of the Draft to The Show. He was taken by the Royals in the 50th and final round in 2006, basically because of his superlative speed. Heck, there isn't even a 50th round anymore. Dyson, after four Minor League seasons, reached Kansas City in 2010. Last season, he got into 102 games and hit .260 with 30 stolen bases. This year, he was the fourth outfielder but was just getting his chance at a regular role when he climbed the center-field fence at Anaheim and sprained an ankle. He's still on the disabled list but could figure prominently when he returns.

In The Show
Despite some recent trades that have brought in talent from elsewhere, original Draft selections of the Royals still have a very strong presence on the Major League roster. They include first-rounders Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Crow as well as Louis Coleman, Dyson, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland and David Lough.

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

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