Russell signs, officially joins Royals

Russell signs, officially joins Royals

KANSAS CITY -- Just as soon as he could slip on his white No. 1 jersey and squeeze his blue KC cap over his long, poofy hair, first-round Draft pick Ashe Russell became a Royal.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players

A few weeks ago, Russell was nervous about being drafted at all, as expected for an 18-year-old awaiting the one day that could determine his future.

"It's a reality now," Russell said. "It wasn't a couple of weeks ago."

Russell, the 21st overall pick, now joins second-round pick Joshua Staumont and the 27 other draftees signed with the club, bringing the total number of signees up to 29 (out of 41).

"It's been busy, but it's been very exciting," said Russell, a right-hander with a fastball in the 92- to 95-mph range, touching up to 98. "It's an honor, honestly. Been a little stressful on the parents, but I've handled it well."

Russell also works with a low-80s slider for a secondary strikeout pitch, courtesy of his athleticism and quick-twitch mechanics. That, combined with his 6-foot-4 frame, has led to some comparisons with Clay Buchholz and Justin Verlander.

"He's one of us, he's a team guy," said Lonnie Goldberg, director of scouting. "He's everything we look for. He's big, he's physical, he throws strikes. Good stuff. And he's going to be a really good Major Leaguer.

The team plans to send Russell to Arizona for about 10 to 14 days for bullpen work, then he will be sent to the team's rookie affiliate, the Burlington Royals in North Carolina.

As far as workload goes, Goldberg said the team plans to hold Russell within 40 to 50 innings for the upcoming year.

"I think, obviously, the main thing is to get him out, get him acclimated to pro ball," Goldberg said. "But as we do with all of our pitchers, our main objective is to keep them healthy. He'll get out and get a chance to compete, but he's not going to get overworked by any means."

Although the Royals have now signed two of their top three picks, the verdict is still out on second-rounder Nolan Watson, the right-handed rival to Russell who played against him in Lawrence, Ind.

"Even previously, before the Draft, me and him spoke a lot. We've been close for two or three years now, just due to the township rival," Russell said. "But once he got his name called by Kansas City, it was pretty exciting for both of us. It's definitely going to help our friendship grow."

But have they debated about which of them is the best pitcher from Indiana?

"We have not," Russell said. "We joke about it all the time, but he's pretty good. I'll give him that. He's very good. Very talented."

Jordan Wilson is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.