Last time Royals drafted this low (17), they took (gulp) Juan LeBron
JUN 04, 2014 10:00a ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Royals again will have two picks in the first round of the MLB Draft that begins Thursday night -- No. 17 and No. 28.
But the Royals will have their lowest top pick in the draft since 1995, when with the 19th overall pick they selected Juan LeBron, who, as longtime Royals fans will recall, was a complete bust. LeBron bounced around the minor leagues and independent ball for 12 seasons before finally calling it quits in 2007.
Naturally, the Royals hope to do far better with a late-teens pick this time around.
"Part of being successful as an organization is you wind up picking later in the draft, so that's a problem we want to always have," said Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg. "But it's a challenge.
"Fortunately, the draft is really deep. But as much as we dissect it, it's hard to determine how the top 16 or so will go. We didn't used to have that problem because we were picking up higher and you kind of knew who was going to take who.
"But picking down in the order makes it a little more challenging to predict. We'll just have to wait and see."
Last year the Royals took third baseman Hunter Dozier with the eighth overall pick, then took left-hander Sean Manaea with their competitive balance pick at No. 34. Both prospects are playing at Class A Wilmington.
This time around the Royals have the No. 17 pick, and the compensatory pick for losing Ervin Santana (No. 28). They also will have a competitive balance pick at No. 40, and their second-round pick at No. 56.
"We feel we're going to get some good ballplayers with those picks," Goldberg said. "It's pretty exciting."
MLB mock drafts are, predictably, all over the board.
One mock draft has the Royals taking University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer, younger brother of Kyle, the Royals' top pick in 2012.
"One of the most talented guys on the board," Goldberg said. "There's obviously a question of whether he will even get to us at No. 17.
"He's just a good all-around athlete. He can run, throw, hit, defend. He has a different body type than Kyle, a little more muscular."
A local star -- Lee's Summit West center fielder Monte Harrison -- also is a possibility for the Royals.
"Very athletic," Goldberg said. "He has a lot of energy and he's got a great body. Got a football body. Again, hard to say whether he would fall to us. But he's on our radar."
Harrison (6 feet 3, 200 pounds) already is drawing comparisons to another famous Royals first-round pick -- Bubba Starling. Harrison, like Starling, already has committed to play football for Nebraska.
Other possibilities include outfielder Derek Hill of Elk Grove High School in California, and first baseman Casey Gillaspie of Wichita State.
One mock site even had the Royals going with UNLV left-hander Erick Fedde. The catch there is that Fedde just had Tommy John surgery three weeks ago.
"You'd have to shut him down sort of the way we did with Sean Manaea, though he had a different injury," Goldberg said. "But you'd have to figure he could be back up throwing next summer."
Goldberg said the Royals will likely stay with the predictable best-player available approach when their pick comes up Thursday.
"I'd say we don't have preferences whether it's high school or college players, but we always will love the high school player," Goldberg said. "We love to dream, like any other scout. But you have to keep the balance."