06/07/2004 9:31 PM ET
Royals get impact bat, pitchers
KC selects Butler, Campbell with two first-round picks
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
|Texas' J.P. Howell, the 31st pick in the draft, is no stranger to the College World Series. (U. of Texas)
KANSAS CITY -- Say this for Billy Butler, the kid has brass.
The Royals' first draft pick, a third baseman from Jacksonville, Fla., Butler was asked how he'd pitch to himself.
"I'd be scared of me," he said. "I don't honestly want to throw to myself."
The rest of the 21 players taken by the Royals on Monday should have such self-confidence.
Butler, who agreed to sign within hours of being drafted, is a right-handed power hitter who played five years at the high school level. This year he didn't get too many chances to show his stuff as opponents, treating Billy Butler like Barry Bonds, walked him 48 times.
That's why he felt a bit cheated during his senior year at Wolfson High.
"Sure, I mean I've dominated the four years before this and I was just wondering when they were going to stop throwing to me," Butler said.
"My senior year obviously that's what happened. They didn't throw to me at all."
The Royals also took left-handed pitcher Matt Campbell from the University of South Carolina as the 29th pick of the first round. He was the first of 15 pitchers selected by the Royals.
Oddly enough, the Royals could have selected Butler's high school teammate, pitcher Eric Hurley, but decided Campbell would arrive in the Majors faster. Butler and Curley were just the fifth high school teammates to be picked in the same first round in draft history. Curley was picked 30th by the Texas Rangers.
Campbell is still pitching for South Carolina in the NCAA playoffs.
"I don't want to say he's a touch-and-feel-type guy because he's got a little bit above-average fastball. I think he'll pitch in that 87-to-90 range and if he needs to get an extra mile an hour to get a strikeout, he can do that," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said.
"But the thing that sticks out with this guy is he has a very, very good
curveball and he can throw it for strikes at any time."
Ladnier predicted Campbell could move through the organization to the Majors in two or three years. Like Butler, he'll probably start the season at Single-A Idaho Falls.
In the sandwich round, the Royals took left-hander J.P. Howell from the University of Texas. That was compensation for outfielder Raul Ibanez, who signed with the Seattle Mariners.
"He's got a good curveball and changeup and has been highly successful in college," Ladnier said.
Howell has a 13-2 record with a 2.24 ERA in 21 games for the Longhorns. He was a first-team All-America selection by
Collegiate Baseball and USA Today Sports Weekly.
In the second round, the Royals took right-hander Billy Buckner (no relation to the former first baseman), also from the University of South Carolina. He has a 6-2 record with a 3.16 ERA in 14 games with 22 walks and 95 strikeouts in 77 innings.
"His fastball is up to 93, good two-seam life, and he has a Major League-ready curveball now," Ladnier said.
"I saw him pitch against Clemson earlier in the year and he punched out 16."
Another second-round pick was right-hander Erik Cordier from Southern Door High School in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc.
"We've seen up to 96 (mph), tremendous life on the fastball. Very, very fresh arm, obviously, because of where he comes from he hasn't pitched a lot of innings," Ladnier said.
"For a high school kid, he has a tremendous upside to be an upper level starter
but the development process obviously is going to take longer. We got the three
pitchers (Campbell, Howell, Buckner) who could get through the system (quickly)
and we felt like here's a guy we just can't afford to pass on."
After those first five choices, the Royals went for five infielders and 11 more pitchers.
"I think it went very well," said general manager Allard Baird. "We knew we were
going to get pitching. We knew that's what the draft presented us. But the
impact bat is far and few between so that took care of some pressure to get that
guy (Butler) on No. 14 out of the way."
The other infielders selected were shortstops Josh Johnson, Edward Lucas and Christopher McConnell, second baseman Joshua Haney and third baseman Bradley Hayes.
The pitchers were right-handers James Moore, Enrique Barrera, Chad Blackwell, Patrick Green, Travis Trammell, Kyle Howe, Patrick Hicklen and Michael Trent, and left-handers Bobby Beeson, Gilbert De La Vara and Andrew Coffey.
None of them probably would want to face Billy Butler either.
"Most of the time I don't get a lot of pitches to hit and when I do I don't miss
-- that's pretty much how it goes," Butler said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.