"I think it's safe to say right now that it'll be a positional player," general manager Allard Baird said.
The speculation centers on five players: Shortstops Justin Upton and Troy Tulowitzki, third basemen Alex Gordon and Ryan Zimmerman, and outfielder Cameron Maybin.
"I've seen all of them a lot," said the Royals' senior director of scouting, Deric Ladnier. "I like all of them."
If the Diamondbacks, who are believed to have Upton on their list, take the player the Royals have slotted as their top choice, it's decision time.
"It just depends on how the player profiles out," Baird said.
Upton, from Chesapeake, Va., long has been forecast as a No. 1 possibility and gets that listing from Baseball America. He's a strong hitter, very quick and has great arm strength. His brother, B.J. Upton, was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the second overall choice in 2002.
"There are different scenarios. Upton has been heralded as 'the guy' since he was about 16," Ladnier said. "There are issues with him as to whether he can play shortstop or has to move to center field. Everyone feels like he can hit."
Tulowitzki, from Long Beach State, has great arm strength and range at shortstop and big power. Baseball America says that "all his tools are close to big league-ready."
Gordon, from the University of Nebraska, is a left-handed batter who hits for power and average. He could play third or move across to first base. Zimmerman, who plays third for the University of Virginia, hit .458 last summer for Team USA. He has gap power and doesn't strike out much.
Maybin, from Arden, N.C., is a high school switch-hitter with speed and grace in center field. He turned 18 in April so he's a few months older than Upton. Maybin is touted as a very "toolsy" guy.
Ladnier already has met with the club's cross-checkers and special assistants. Scouts from all parts of the country will be reporting to Kansas City this week for more discussions.
"In a draft meeting, there is rarely a consensus that this is the guy that we should select," Ladnier said. "As an example, last year there was only one player that the organization had a consensus on and that was that Billy Butler was going to hit. So we took Billy Butler, knowing that there was going to be pitching (later in the draft)."
Ladnier denied rumors that the Royals would be limited to $2 million in signing their pick. He also said the club has not yet made a decision on their pick.
"We want the most complete player that we can get and the one that we feel has the most offensive upside and, honestly, someone that can get here and help us out in a hurry," Ladnier said.
Ladnier said the club will disregard the current state of the Royals' lineup or positional strengths within the Minor League system when picking.
"We're not drafting for weaknesses in the organization," he said. "We're going to take the best player."
Picking a position player veers away from the Royals' recent history. Nine of their last 12 first-round picks have been pitchers but they feel they have enough good, young arms in the system now and need some offense.
"I hate to break it down to a position we need because we might be walking away from a better overall player. The other thing is your draft player today does not affect your Major League club as of today," Baird said. "He'll help us tomorrow."
After taking the second pick in the draft, the Royals will have a lot of time before their next pick, No. 52.
"I have no idea about that," Ladnier said. "There are a lot of players in between."
ROYALS DRAFT HISTORY
The Royals have taken a third baseman, outfielder and pitcher with their first pick each of the last three years as they have stayed with their philosophy of drafting the best available player regardless of position.
LAST THREE TOP PICKS
Billy Butler, 3B, 2004, Pick #14: After making an immediate impact last year for Idaho Falls at the Rookie Advanced level -- he led the Pioneer League with a .373 average and 68 RBIs -- Butler, 19, has flourished this year in the Single-A California League. In his first 44 games, he hit .368 with 12 homers, 38 RBIs. He also drew 26 walks and had an on-base percentage of .460.
Chris Lubanski, OF, 2003, Pick #5: From the Northeast, he's been slow developing in the California League. But an early-season slump has eased and he's picking up recently. In 41 games, his average was .208 but he had eight home runs and the Royals see his power potential growing. Last season, he hit .275 (nine homers, 56 RBIs) for Single-A Burlington.
Zack Greinke, RHP, 2002, Pick #6: It didn't take long for Greinke to arrive. Last year as a rookie, he went 8-11 and his 3.97 ERA was the best among Royals starters. He's pitched very well this season but suffered from a lack of run support and lost his first five decisions. With uncanny savvy and pinpoint control, Greinke looms as the staff leader for years to come.