KANSAS CITY -- The Royals are back in the hot zone of the First-Year Player Draft. They have the fourth pick of the first round on Monday night.
For four straight years, 2005-08, the Royals had one of the first three picks, including No. 1 in '06, when pitcher Luke Hochevar was chosen. Last year, they were 12th in line and took pitcher Aaron Crow.
Choosing fourth not only gives the Royals one of the nation's top players, but it also simplifies their scouting plan of attack.
"You know there's only three players that have to go in front of you, so once you get down to six or seven guys you know you're interested in, you start going back again and again," said J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager/scouting and player development.
But once the Royals make their first choice, they've got a long wait for a second pick. Their next selection will be the 54th of the Draft.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft Monday through Wednesday on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the Royals have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
It's predicted that the Draft will begin with the selection of power-hitting catcher-outfielder Bryce Harper by the Washington Nationals. After that, the emphasis should be on a strong group of pitchers, primarily from colleges. That was the case last year, when 16 of the 32 first-round selections were pitchers.
Recent Top Draft Picks
RHP Aaron Crow
Northwest Arkansas (AA)
1B Eric Hosmer
3B Mike Moustakas
Northwest Arkansas (AA)
RHP Luke Hochevar
OF Alex Gordon
This year's Draft will center on the same old commodity in Picollo's view: "This year is no different than every year -- you're always looking at pitchers. It's the currency of baseball. If you have pitching, you have value in your system, it gives you flexibility, it gives you protection. Pitchers are also the most difficult to predict -- where they're going to be in the long run, just because of the injury rate that pitchers have."
When the Royals make their first-round selection, they'll take left-handed pitcher Chris Sale from Florida Gulf Coast University -- at least according to Mayo. Of course, there are other pitching possibilities, such as left-hander Drew Pomeranz of Ole Miss and right-hander Asher Wojciechowski of The Citadel, as well as catcher Yasmani Grandal of Miami U.
"We're hitting the colleges very hard. I don't think it's any secret to the other teams in baseball," Picollo said 10 days before the Draft. "We've got it narrowed down to a couple of pitchers and there are three position players that we're still evaluating and scouting."
"Pitching, catching, shortstop and right-handed power are the areas that we've identified, and if there's a fit there for us in the first couple of rounds, we need to jump on it," Picollo said.
Maybe today's fathers are grooming their kids to be left-handed hitters. Whatever the reason, Picollo noted: "We have a good number of left-handed hitters that we feel good about being in Kansas City in the future. But right-handed power -- there's a lack of it throughout baseball."
"It's not a high school-oriented Draft this year, at least not in our eyes," Picollo said. "There's more depth in the college players than there has been in the last couple of years with varying degrees of talent. It's not a Draft like the year that [Alex] Gordon and [Ryan] Zimmerman and all those high-end guys were picked, but there are a lot of good college players that will be taken in the first round."
Recent Draft HistoryRising fast
Third baseman Mike Moustakas is the current favorite of the Royals' Minor League watchers and new manager Ned Yost was among those who were impressed by the left-handed slugger at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Moustakas, despite a late start because of rib-cage injury and four games missed with a knee bruise, was hitting .367 through Wednesday with 12 homers, 13 doubles and 42 RBIs in 34 games. His on-base percentage was .451 and he had almost as many walks (17) as strikeouts (20).
Blaine Hardy pitched at three different colleges and finally helped Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho win the 2008 NAIA national title. He wasn't picked until the 22nd round that year. A reliever, he blossomed with a 2.05 ERA and nine saves last year at Class A Burlington. This year, boosted up to Double-A, he posted an 0.69 ERA with one win and four saves in 12 games, earning a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he had six scoreless innings in his first three games.
In The Show
None of the players the Royals drafted in the last three years has reached the Major Leagues, but '06 top pick Hochevar is a member of their rotation.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.