06/07/2004 7:50 PM ET
Infielder, pitcher taken in first round
Royals attracted to impact bat, left-handed hurler
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
|The Royals selected South Carolina pitcher Matt Campbell with their second pick in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. (Dave Weaver/AP)
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals, eager for an impact bat, made high school third baseman Billy Butler their first selection Monday in the
2004 First-Year Player Draft and moved quickly to sign him.
Butler, a right-handed hitter from Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Fla., was the 14th pick
overall of the first round. Before the day was over, he was poised to sign for a bonus of $1.4 million.
"I'm signing today, believe it or not. I have a deal worked out so it's pretty much official," Butler said by phone from Florida.
"I've done research and Kansas City has convinced me that they have one of the
best player developmental systems and that I have my best opportunity to play in
the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals and that's what I want to do."
Although this year's draft was heavily laden with quality pitchers, the Royals wanted a good hitter if possible in the first round.
"If there was an impact bat available in the draft, we wanted to get that. We felt he was that type guy," said Deric Ladnier, the Royals' senior director of scouting.
"He's a skilled high school player as far as the bat goes. He has tremendous
power which is something if you're going to get it, you're going to have to get
in the first round and we were able to do that today."
The Royals also had the 29th pick of the first round and took left-handed pitcher Matt Campbell from the University of South Carolina. That selection came from the San Francisco Giants as compensation for signing free-agent outfielder Michael Tucker.
Listed at 6-2 and 225 pounds, Butler hit .426 (29-for-67) with four homers and 14 RBIs for Wolfson High. He had an on-base percentage of .627.
"He's a guy who had 115 official plate appearances this year and I think he had 48 walks so that will give you an idea," Ladnier said.
"They were pitching around him a lot because, obviously, he can do a lot of
damage if he gets his pitch to hit. And every time we were there, when he did
get his pitch to hit he was able to do something with it."
One opposing high school coach so feared Butler that he intentionally walked him with a runner on base, no outs and the score tied.
Baseball America called Butler
"perhaps the best power prospect in the high school class of 2004."
Although Butler also played at first base and pitched, the Royals plan to leave him at third base.
Wolfson Senior HS
Position: 3B B/T: R/R
H: 6-2 W: 225
Born: 1986-04-18 Class: HS
MEDIUM, STRONG, SOLID BUILD. GOOD STRENGTH THROUGHOUT. BUILT LIKE FORMER MAJOR LEAGUER MATT WILLIAMS. STRAIGHT OPEN STANCE, HANDS HELD HIGH. PULL HITTER W/ LOFT PWR. BALL EXPLODES OFF BAT. VERY AGGRESSIVE HITTER. WILL ADJUST TO OFF SPEED STUFF. GOOD CARRY ON THROWS.
"Defensively, we've got him projected to be an average third baseman. He doesn't necessarily do it pretty and flashy but he makes the plays. He's got an average arm, tremendous makeup and he's a guy we've targeted for a long time," Ladnier said.
Butler, 18, will be assigned to Single-A Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League, a rookie advanced league heavily stocked with more experienced college players.
"He has tremendous strike-zone management skills," Ladnier said. "We feel like
he's an advanced high school player and we're going to send him to Idaho Falls
so that will give you an indication of how we feel about his bat."
Butler was covered by Cliff Pastornicky, the Central Florida scout who steered the Royals to right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke. He signed just out of high school and now, at 20, is part of the Royals' starting rotation.
"The kid will be a middle-of-order run-producer," Pastornicky said. "He's very,
very disciplined for a high school kid. It's an aggressive discipline. He's not
the type who'll fish for bad pitches but, when he does get his pitch, he's
aggressive on it and he can turn it loose."
Campbell, still playing for South Carolina, is 6-3 and 174 pounds. He has a 9-4 record with a 3.02 ERA in 19 games in his junior season.
"We compare him with a John Tudor-type," Ladnier said. "He has a very good
strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fastball 88 to 91 (mph), even touching 92. Very good
curveball -- he has tremendous command of an above-average curveball. He's got an
average to a tick above an average changeup."
Campbell has walked just 26 with 129 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings. He pitched three complete games for the Gamecocks, who are in the NCAA Super Regionals this week.
He was scouted by Spencer Graham, who covers the Carolinas and Virginia.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.