KC feels strongly about first-round pick
Shortstop/third baseman Moustakas has proven he can hit
KANSAS CITY -- Royals general manager Dayton Moore believed he knew eight weeks ago who the Royals were going to select with their first-round pick: Chatsworth (Calif.) High School infielder Mike Moustakas.
On Draft day, Moore's prediction proved true.
"[Scouting director] Deric [Ladnier] called me [Thursday] morning and told me what he was going to do," Moore said. "I had a feeling I knew what he wanted to do two months ago on who he felt was the right guy. He hadn't wavered with regard to Mike."
A few hours later, Kansas City picked Moustakas with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Moustakas is considered, along with California native and eventual No. 3 overall selection Josh Vitters, the best high school hitter in the country.
At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Moustakas (pronounced Moo-STOCK-is), played shortstop this past spring, a position at which the Royals believe he can remain.
"We have felt strongly about him being an impact bat, which is something that we obviously want to get with the No. 2 selection in the country," Ladnier said. "We feel strongly that he will stay at shortstop. He is an athletic kid with good hands, plus arm, feet are good. He is a baseball player with character makeup. He's ecstatic about being a Royal. ... We selected who we felt was the best player for this organization."
Moustakas had no idea where he was going to land. He was at home with his friends and family when his name flashed on ESPN2's coverage.
"I had absolutely zero clue that I was going as the second overall pick," he said on a conference call. "It was kind of a shock to me and my family. It was an unbelievable experience. Everyone just started jumping up and screaming; it was kind of unreal. [There were] a lot of phone calls and a lot of text messages, everyone was giving me hugs."
Moustakas is represented by Scott Boras, the agent who represents several other high-profile players in this year's Draft, including Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters and Rick Porcello -- considered to be the best high school pitcher in the Draft. Both players have seen their Draft status slip because of signability concerns. The Royals' No. 1 pick from last year, Luke Hochevar, is also a Boras client and didn't sign for several months.
Moustakas, who has signed with USC, would like to play professional baseball as soon as possible, though.
|2||Moustakas, Michael||Chatsworth HS||SS|
|66||Runion, Samuel||AC Reynolds HS||RHP|
|96||Duffy, Daniel||Cabrillo HS||LHP|
|126||Hodge Nielsen, Peter||Prince of Wales SS||RHP|
|156||Ortiz, Adrian||Pepperdine U||CF|
"My dad is handling all that, so I am looking forward to getting out and playing some ball with the Royals," he said. "Obviously, the sooner the better."
"I have spoken with the family," Ladnier said. "We feel strongly that this young man wants to go out and play. We have felt that way the entire time. We feel like we will hopefully get something done at a faster pace than some of the ones that have been done in the past."
Moustakas, a two-time Los Angeles City Player of the Year, is a high school All-American and played on the U.S. Junior National Team. The Royals have followed him for several years, including watching him at several summer showcases where he used wooden bats.
"Just to hear Deric talk about this player and to read the tone of his voice, just seeing where it was headed, we just felt this was a guy that we really, really wanted and was a guy who was expected to make a difference for us," Moore said.
The left-handed-hitting Moustakas set California high school records for career and single-season home runs. Moustakas hit .577 this spring and broke his own school marks with 24 homers and 52 RBIs -- bettering the numbers of teammate Matt Dominguez, another first selection in the 2007 Draft.
"This guy is a baseball player," Moore said. "He is the leader of that team. He has leadership qualities which are infectious."
"He has an innate ability to play the game, and that is what you are looking for when you are trying to select a player that high in the Draft," Ladnier added.
Moustakas led the U.S. Junior National Team in runs scored last season (nine) and collected a homer and seven RBIs at the World Championships.
"He has always hit, and that is the one thing that we have liked about him," Ladnier said. "You start putting everything together, and all of a sudden you realize that you have one heckuva player."
Moustakas, the highest position player taken by the Royals since Alex Gordon went No. 2 overall in 2005, will likely start at Rookie League Idaho Falls.
"We feel he will put up the type of numbers to make the jump to a higher level next year," Ladnier said. "Everyone goes on a different path, but he is a young man who needs to get out and play. He is an advanced bat. ... We envision him not necessarily being a level-to-level guy."
Other Day 1 selections:
Second round, No. 66 overall: RHP Sam Runion, AC Reynolds High School, Asheville, N.C.
Runion, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander is an AFLAC high school All-American who throws from a three-quarters delivery with a hard, heavy sinking 89-93 mph fastball and a biting 79-83 mph slider. He went 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA and an 85/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 59 innings this spring. He pitched very well against Madison Bumgarner, the No. 10 overall pick in the Draft, including besting him April 28, when Runion tossed a complete game over Bumgarner's team to win the conference title.
Ladnier: "He is a solid kid with a lot of upside. He's been up to 96 miles an hour and he has competed in high-pressure situations and knows what it takes to win. He's a winner, and that's the type of athlete that we want: someone who wins."
Third round, No. 96 overall: LHP Daniel Duffy, Cabrillo High School, Lompoc, Calif.
Duffy, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-hander, throws a high-80s to mid-90s fastball, curveball and a low-to-mid 70s change. Duffy, who has signed with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, has drawn some comparisons from scouts to the Marlins' Scott Olsen and the White Sox Mark Buehrle.
Ladnier: "Duffy throws 94, and left-handers who throw 94 miles an hour are great commodities to have. He has a solid curveball and will develop into a starter. He's a great competitor."
Fourth round, No. 126 overall: RHP Peter Hodge Nielsen, Prince of Wales Secondary, Vancouver, British Columbia
Nielsen, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-hander, has been selected to the Premier Baseball League high star team and was a four-time member of the British Columbia Selects Team. He will not turn 18 until June 15.
Ladnier: "We have seen him up to 94 miles an hour. He is strong in his lower half, throws a hard curve 79 to 83 miles an hour and is very competitive, durable with a great work ethic. We have seen him at all the showcases, and he has faced the best competition. Peter has a lot of upside."
Fifth round, No. 156 overall: CF Adrian Ortiz, Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif.
Ortiz, the Waves' center fielder this past spring, batted .355/.387/.423 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) and stole 15 bases in 16 attempts. Speed is definitely Ortiz's biggest asset: He can cover a lot of ground in center field and is built like a track star, according to one scouting report.
Ladnier: "I have really liked him since high school. He is a very skilled center fielder who runs very well and makes a lot of plays. He doesn't have a lot of power, but can hit the ball gap-to-gap. I had a chance to talk with him personally and he is a really intelligent kid with a great makeup."
Quotable: "It's pretty simple, really, to evaluate who the top four to five players are. You are going to get a good player with your first pick. Really, the work begins now when you go forward on the next 49 selections. The challenge is to draft and sign a Major Leaguer with every single pick that you make." -- Moore
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.