Your Primer on Potential First Round Draft Candidates for the Royals

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 23: Dayton Moore general manager of the Kansa City Royals watches batting practice before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium April 23, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Mike Moustakas. Eric Hosmer. Aaron Crow. Say what you will about his MLB roster management, but Dayton Moore has retained his job as General Manager for finding good talent in the June Amateur Draft. All three of those players could still end up as busts for all we know, but the fact they have even reached the big leagues is quite an accomplishment for this franchise. The organization has gotten MLB service time from six consecutive first-round draft picks (Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Aaron Crow), a feat not performed since 1977-1985 (Mike Jones, Buddy Biancalana, Atlee Hammaker, Frank Wills, Dave Leeper, John Morris, Gary Thurman, Scot Bankhead, and Brian McRae). Long gone are the days of Colt Griffin and Chris Lubanski.

Now I'm just relying on online reports and videos and I'm not an expert on these players. You may instead want to rely on the coverage of MLB Network beginning at 7pm ET tonight.

***

MATT VASGERSIAN: And there's the Royals pick. In studio we have two draft experts who have followed these players all season in MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo and Baseball America's Jim Callis. But instead of talking to them, let's talk to some retired ballplayers! With us we have Harold Reynolds, Dan Plesac, and Mitch Williams. Harold, what did you think of this pick?

HAROLD REYNOLDS: Well you can tell this guy is a baseball player. He's a winner who just wins everywhere he goes, that's why he's getting selected at the top of this draft.

DAN PLESAC: A great pick, in fact these are all great picks and I am confident all of the draft picks we see today will pan out. Dayton Moore is doing a terrific job building his farm system. If you put this guy on the field with Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and whatever other Royals players I have heard of, this team could contend in the Central Division in a few years.

MITCH WILLIAMS: Yea, this reminds me of when I used to play, I also threw and caught a baseball just like this young guy.

MATT VASGERSIAN: That's terrific filler guys. Now let's turn to Kevin Millar giving Brian Kenny a wedgie as the Cubs prepare to make their selection.

OF Albert Almora, Mater Academy (Hialeah, FL)

Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’2’’

170

Right

Right

April 16, 1994

Hialeah, FL

Almora is a bit of a paradox in that he has very polished tools for a high school player, but because of his thin build, scouts will have to look at "projectability" to envision a future Major Leaguer. Despite his light stature, Almora has displayed decent power, hitting six home runs for his high school during his senior season. Almora is reportedly already a plus-defender in centerfield with terrific instincts although his speed is considered just a bit above average. His arm also plays well enough to play all three outfield positions, although he should stick in centerfield and is considered by many to be the best defensive outfielder at the top of this draft.

Almora has drawn raves for continuing to step up his game in national tournaments against elite competition. Scouts rave about his work ethic and the fact his skills are polished at such a young age. Some have compared him to Carlos Beltran. Albert is probably a top ten pick, but would probably be a stretch at number five overall. Scott Boras advises Almora, who has a commitment to the University of Miami.

Almora is the rare high school player with a strong combination of polish and ceiling.

-Keith Law

Perfect Game - Albert Almora

MLB.com: Prep star Almora could be top-10 Draft pick

Crawfish Boxes: Albert Almora

Baseball Prospect Nation: Albert Almora

VIDEO: Albert Almora

RHP Mark Appel, Stanford University (Jr.)

Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’5’’

215

Right

Right

July 15, 1991

Houston, TX

W-L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

10-1

2.27

119.0

92

32

30

26

127

Appel has been at the top of draft boards for much of the last year, but his stock has slipped slightly due to performance this year. The 20-year old junior still had a fantastic year at Stanford, posting a 2.27 ERA and striking out over a batter per inning, but it wasn’t quite the dominant performance some scouts were expecting. Some scouts are concerned with how hittable his fastball has become due to a long delivery and fastball with little movement.

The 6’5’’ Houston native throws a mid-90s fastball that can top out in the high 90s. He has good command of it, although some feel he leaves it up in the zone too much. He also throws a two-seam fastball with good command. There are mixed reviews on his slider, with some concerned it is too horizontal while others feel it is an outstanding out pitch. Most seem to feel his changeup could use some refinement. There are some concerns about a heavy workload at Stanford, including a 149-pitch outing, but with his easy delivery and big frame, most scouts aren’t too worried. Appel has drawn comparisons to Matt Cain because of his low center of gravity, durable legs, and easy delivery. Appel is majoring in engineering and management at Stanford. He is almost certain to be among the first two players selected, with some reports already indicating Houston will take him first overall.

"He has three Major League plus pitches. He has a body that's projectable and there are things you can work with him on to make him better. He pitches on Friday nights for one of the best teams in the country. His innings to hits to walks to strikeouts is as good as any other pitcher in the country. What's there not to like?"

-Anonymous scout

Go Stanford: Mark Appel Biography

ESPN: Mark Appel and Astros? Too perfect

MLB.com: Stanford righty Appel has makings of top pick

Baseball Prospect Nation: Mark Appel

Hardball Times: Scouting Mark Appel

VIDEO: Mark Appel

OF Byron Buxton, Appling County High School (Baxley, GA)

Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’2’’

175

Right

Right

December 18, 1993

Baxley, GA

Buxton has been considered the best position player in this draft for most of the year. Scouts project him as a five-tool player who can play centerfield and hit for plus power. Buxton is a tremendous athlete overall, having earned success as a pitcher with a 90-mile per hour fastball, as well as standing out on the football field as the star quarterback. Buxton has not faced a lot of top competition, and thus, has drawn comparisons to Bubba Starling from last year's draft. His power has yet to develop as he hit just three home runs, but scouts feel he will able to fill out his frame and develop 20-25 home run power.

Buxton already has blazing speed and a tremendous arm. He has a fluid swing that should make for high contact, although he has yet to face a lot of quality off-speed offerings. Buxton has been compared to the Upton brothers and Eric Davis.

Buxton is a good student and is committed to the University of Georgia. He is almost certainly going to be among the first 2-3 players selected.

"Byron Buxton is the biggest game-changing player that I have seen in Georgia since Jeff Francoeur."

-Josh Cole, head coach at Tatnall County High School (Reidsville, GA)

ESPN: The rapid rise of Byron Buxton

SI: Prep star Byron Buxton the most talented, intriguing draft prospect

MLB.com: Who's No. 1? Buxton brings five tools to Draft

Baseball Prospect Nation: Byron Buxton

VIDEO: Byron Buxton

SS Carlos Correa, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy (Gurabo, PR)

Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’4’’

190

Right

Right

September 22, 1994

Santa Isabela, PR

Correa is a young, but raw shortstop who scouts rave about for his projectability. His 6'4'' frame may eventually lead him off the shortstop position, but he fields the position adequately now and he features a plus arm that may get him moved to third base. Correa is quick on his feet, but has average to above-average speed overall. What excites teams the most is the power potential in his bat. He already drives the ball using his tall frame to generate good leverage, and teams can envision him being a power hitter as he fills out his frame.

Correa did not face a lot of top competition regularly in Puerto Rico, but fared well in elite tournaments like the Area Code Games. His swing can be a bit long at times, and he has trouble with breaking pitches at times. His plate discipline could be a problem going forward. Some have compared him to recent top five draft pick Manny Machado or Rockies slugger Troy Tulowitski with some even saying he has Alex Rodriguez-type upside. Correa graduated with a 4.0 GPA and was named class valedictorian. He is committed to the University of Miami.

"Correa has the athleticism and arm to stay at short now, but it's hard to foresee his body playing there when he's 23 or 24; he should be comfortably above-average at third if not better, as his feet move well and he has plenty of arm strength. He could easily end up the best player out of this draft, given his youth and upside at the plate. I doubt he ever sets foot on campus at the University of Miami, except as a spectator."

-Keith Law

ESPN: Carlos Correa Jr.: Special bonds

Perfect Game: Carlos Correa

Crawfish Boxes: Carlos Correa

Baseball Prospect Nation: Carlos Correa

VIDEO: Carlos Correa

LHP Max Fried, Harvard-Westake High School (Studio City, CA)


Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’3’’

170

Left

Left

January 18, 1994

Van Nuys, CA

Fried is a tall gangly left-hander with a fluid delivery that has made a devastating curveball his meal ticket. He draws a lot of comparisons with Barry Zito for featuring a hammer-curve that he can throw with command. Fried has a projectable frame, so while his low-90s fastball is nothing to get excited over now, scouts hope he can improve that velocity as he fills out. He throws an average changeup that some feel he can improve upon to give himself a complete repertoire. He is a great athlete who is still a bit inexperienced to pitching.

Fried had to transfer his senior season due to his high school cutting all sports programs, and he ended up at Harvard-Westlake where he was teammates with Lucas Giolito, another top draft prospect (see below). He is bright kid who is committed to UCLA.

A UCLA signee, Fried is cerebral and determined; his late-season dip notwithstanding, he projects as a potential No. 2 starter in the big leagues with a chance to be a No. 1.

-Baseball America

ESPN: Dream rotation thrown a changeup

Perfect Game: Max Fried

Baseball Prospect Nation: Max Fried

Crawfish Boxes: Max Fried

VIDEO: Max Fried

RHP Lucas Giolito, Harvard-Westlake High School (Studio City, CA)


Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’6’’

230

Right

Right

July 14, 1994

Encino, CA

Giolito looked like he would be the top prep pitcher for the 2012 draft when he was posting a 1.00 ERA for Harvard-Westlake. He then hit 100 mile-per-hour on the radar gun earlier this spring, igniting talk that he might become the first high school pitcher ever to be taken #1 overall. But a sprained ulnar collateral ligament this March dropped his stock dramatically. Giolito has not pitched since March and has only recently begun throwing again. Giolito is a long-toss devotee.

When healthy, Giolito not only features a blazing fastball, but he throws a plus curveball he can throw for strikes, and a plus change-up that drops out of the zone like a split-fingered pitch. There were some concerns about his command as he walked 26 hitters in 70 innings as a junior. He has a big frame and an easy delivery and is able to generate late movement on his fastball. His build is compared to Roy Halladay, although his stuff is compared more to Nolan Ryan due to his velocity. Giolito is the son of a Hollywood producer and an actress, and rumors are he will require a hefty bonus of around $5-6 million to tear him from his commitment to UCLA.

At 6'7" Lucas Giolito has projectability written all over him. When you see that he already reaches 96 MPH with his fastball and has room to add on 25-30 pounds to his frame, you understand why he is considered one of the top prep prospects for the 2012 Draft. Giolito has a smooth delivery and has taken great strides in repeating it. He also features a power 12-6 curveball that has plus potential and an improving change that features depth and could also be a plus pitch. His command could use some work and he could incorporate his lower half more to help maintain his mechanics. He threw a no-hitter in the spring and it will be interesting to see how he fares with Team USA 18U squad in the fall. No 2012 prep pitcher has more upside than Lucas Giolito and he is definitely one of the top follows over the next year.

-Diamond Prospects

LA Times: After injury, Lucas Giolito hopes his arm is still considered golden

MLB Draft Insider: Giolito throws from 220 feet

Yahoo! Sports: Superstar prospect Lucas Giolito hits 100 mph on the radar gun in first win of season

Perfect Game: Lucas Giolito

Crawfish Boxes: Lucas Giolito

Diamond Prospects: Lucas Giolito

VIDEO: Lucas Giolito

RHP Kevin Gausman, Louisiana State University (Soph.)


Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’4’

185

Left

Right

January 6, 1991

Centennial, CO

W-L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

10-1

2.84

107.2

93

38

34

24

125

Gausman is a draft-eligible sophomore coming off a sensational season for college baseball powerhouse LSU. He was a top prep prospect out of Centennial, Colorado his junior season, but a disappointing senior season caused his stock to drop and he rejected the Dodgers in favor of the Bayou Bengals. Gausman features a fastball that can hit the mid-90s, and a change-up that produces nice sink. He has a nice easy delivery that causes the fastball to explode late on hitters. He will throw in a two-seam fastball with nice run as well. His breaking pitches have been a work in progress. He ditched a slider earlier this year in favor of a curveball that has yielded better results, but is still an average pitch. Scouts feel that if anything holds him back it will the lack of command he exhibits on his breaking pitches. He has been compared to Josh Beckett and Max Scherzer, although some also compare him to Luke Hochevar. Gausman is also a long-tosser.

The Royals were linked to Gausman earlier this spring, but the Orioles, who own the #4 pick, have been heavily linked to him lately.

"I think I have some qualities that could play at the next level but I also don’t think I have the efficiency that guys in the big leagues do. I have the fastball and the change. I think the big question for me is which one of the breaking balls is going to get me there or if it will be one or the other. I think I’ll kind of be pretty polished, I think I’ll be able to compete at that level and I’d like to get there as soon as possible. Get through those days in the minors."

-Kevin Gausman

LSU Sports: Kevin Gausman biography

ESPN: The development of Kevin Gausman

Perfect Game: Kevin Gausman

Baseball Prospect Nation: Kevin Gausman

Baseball Prospect Report: Q&A with Kevin Gausman

Crawfish Boxes: Kevin Gausman

Camden Chat: Kevin Gausman

VIDEO: Kevin Gausman

RHP Kyle Zimmer, University of San Francisco (Jr.)


Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’4’’

220

Right

Right

September 13, 1991

La Jolla, CA

W-L

ERA

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

5-3

2.85

88.1

75

28

28

17

104

Zimmer is a tremendous athlete who has come out of nowhere to become a potential high first-round draft pick. He only began pitching full-time last year and impressed scouts with a mid-90s fastball that can occasionally reach 98. He throws a plus power curveball that he uses as his out pitch and a slider that can be inconsistent but devastating when thrown correctly. He throws a changeup with nice sink that scouts feel could be an effective fourth pitch with refinement. Zimmer is a quick worker on the mound who fields his position well and exhibits excellent command of the strike zone. He has drawn comparisons to Adam Wainwright, although some scouts feel he is more of a mid-rotation starter than an ace.

Some scouts noticed a decline in velocity late in the year, causing concerns about durability. Zimmer has often risen to the challenge against big-time competition, out-dueling UCLA’s Gerrit Cole in regionals last year, and excelling in the elite Cape Cod League last summer. Zimmer has been linked to the Royals in many mock drafts.

"It's clearly a first-round arm, but I think there's enough doubt about him staying a starter in the majors to put him below the Mark Appel/Kevin Gausman/Michael Wacha tier of college starters for now."

-Keith Law

University of San Francisco Dons: Kyle Zimmer biography

San Francisco Chronicle: USF pitcher Kyle Zimmer set to be top draft pick

Bleacher Report: The incredible development of Kyle Zimmer

Baseball Prospect Nation: Kyle Zimmer

Crawfish Boxes: Kyle Zimmer

VIDEO: Kyle Zimmer

C Mike Zunino, University of Florida (Jr.)

Height

Weight

Bats

Throws

Date of Birth

Hometown

6’2’’

220

Right

Right

March 25, 1991

Cape Coral, FL

AVG

OBA

SLG

AB

HR

BI

BB

SO

SB

.318

.392

.655

223

16

55

27

43

9

Zunino is the best power bat at the top of this draft, and his ability to hit the ball over the fence is what will get him to the Major Leagues. Zunino finished seventh in the nation in home runs in 2011 with 19, and followed that up with 16 more this season. He projects as a solid middle-of-the-order type bat that can drive in runs. His defense is merely ordinary, although it should be good enough to allow him to catch at the Major League level. He is considered a gamer and a heady player who can handle a pitching staff. His dad was a former minor leaguer who has served as a scout for the Cincinnati Reds for over a decade.

Zunino’s swing can be a bit long, causing him to have trouble with off-speed stuff away. He also struggled a bit in conference play this year, causing some scouts to worry about how he will far against top competition. While many scouts do not feel Zunino is as premiere a catching prospect as Buster Posey or Matt Wieters were in their draft classes, he should still be an impact bat. Zunino has been compared to Jason Varitek. The Mariners, who own the #3 pick, have been heavily linked to Zunino.

Florida Gators Baseball: Mike Zunino Biography

MLB.com: Mike Zunino stands out top college bat

Baseball Prospect Nation: MIke Zunino

Crawfish Boxes: Mike Zunino

VIDEO: Mike Zunino

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