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Royals opt for shortstop Colon with top pick

Royals opt for shortstop Colon with top pick

KANSAS CITY -- Make no mistake about the Royals' intentions: They drafted a shortstop in Christian Colon and he'll stay a shortstop.

Colon, a right-handed-hitting shortstop with good power, was the Royals' first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday night. A junior from Cal State-Fullerton, he was the fourth overall selection made in the Draft.

Draft Central

One of the first questions to the Royals' assistant general manager of scouting/player personnel, J.J. Picollo, was if Colon might be switched to second base.

"Not at all," Picollo said. "He's a shortstop. He has been his whole life. Obviously, he's like most shortstops and spent some time at second base, but we selected him because he's a shortstop and, in our opinion, the best in the country."

Colon has 16 home runs, 18 doubles and 67 RBIs in 61 games this year, including going 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored from the leadoff spot in Monday's 9-5 win over Minnesota that advanced Cal State Fullerton to the NCAA Super Regional. In 257 at-bats, he struck out just 18 times and also drew 32 walks. In the field, he has 14 errors.

"We've scouted him back to high school," Picollo said. "He's a tremendous makeup guy, a tremendous leader, and everywhere he's been, he's been part of winning programs."

The 21-year-old Colon was born in Puerto Rico and is called "C.C." He went to Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills, Calif., after attending high schools in West Jordan, Utah, and Waco, Texas. The family moved often because of his father's job in the pharmaceutical industry.

A second-team All-America, the 6-foot, 180-pounder hitter was named to the All-Big West first team. He power numbers increased this year from the eight homers with 40 RBIs he had in a .357 season in 2009.

"I think that's just a sign of a kid who has matured even more as a hitter," Picollo said.

The Royals don't envision Colon as primarily a home-run slugger.

"I think he is more of a gap-to-gap guy, he'll hit for some average," Picollo said. "He stays within himself, recognizes situations well. He's the kind of guy that's going to give himself up offensively to hit for a situation."

Colon played for Team USA's Collegiate national team last year and was named team captain. He led the squad with 34 hits, five homers, 37 RBIs and 24 stolen bases before he suffered two broken bones in his left leg in late July during a tournament in British Columbia. The injury came as he was making a double-play pivot at second base and was hit by a sliding runner.

"Early in the year, we saw a little difference, but as the year went on, as our doctors and medical team predicted he would pick up, he did," Picollo said. "He was running much better at the end of the year."

Scouting reports also indicate that Colon's range, regarded as average, has been maintained since he recovered from the injury.

"That's the question that's come up, but when you have a player that has the instincts and the ability to learn hitters and play the game a certain way, he's going to handle that position -- he always has," Picollo said.

He's regarded as having an above-average arm and good hands.

Asked about his leadership values, Picollo said: "There are personality [traits] similar to the way Derek Jeter plays. It's a quiet confidence. It's a lead-by-example [quality], but he's not afraid to show emotion on the field."

General manager Dayton Moore said one of the reasons for Colon's selection was that he melds, in terms of development, with top prospects Mike Moustakas, a third baseman at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and Eric Hosmer, a first baseman at Class A Wilmington. They were the Royals' first-round picks in 2007 and '08, respectively.

The Royals have not had a prominent shortstop prospect in their system since Moustakas was shifted from that position to third base.

Moore characterized Colon as a difference-maker.

"What you've seen out here on our baseball team, whether it's base running mistakes, or poor executions, or missing signs, that's what costs you winning a championship," Moore said. "When you get to a point where you're competing with four teams in your division and you don't execute, you lose the division. ... We're very confident and we trust this player a great deal to be that winning championship-type player."

Pre-Draft projections indicated the Royals might take University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal or Florida Gulf State University pitcher Chris Sale, but the club instead opted for a middle infielder. Grandal was taken 12th by Cincinnati and Sale went 13th to the Chicago White Sox.

The Royals said they finally made the decision to take Colon late Sunday.

"He's just one of those guys that has the 'it' factor," Picollo said.

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

{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }