The Royals got the ballpoint pen rolling on getting their top 2011 draft picks in uniform a couple of days ago when they got 3B/OF prospect, 5th round selection Patrick Leonard. Leonard was coached in high school by the great Craig Biggio, whom he gives huge amounts of credit to the development of his game.
Leonard receives big praise for his right handed power, something that has become a commodity in today's game. He's 6-3, 200 and was clocked as having a 6.73, 60 yard dash according to Perfect Game USA. The site also states that he has an "awesome bat, good in field, can do it all." Hopefully that short run down proves to be true. Leonard signed a deal with a bonus of $600K, the slot value for the pick was $161K.
This morning the Royals continued to force the Commisioner's office to approve overslot deals with a couple more big time prep signings. This time the players came in the right handed pitching variety.
First we learned about 29th round pick Jake Junis, whom the Royals signed to bonus of $675K. Here you can read about Pinetar Press's scouting report on the player. To highlight, Junis is a 6-3 righty with a very athletic frame. He has a fastball that currently sits in the low 90s, a curveball that has been at times a plus offering, and a changeup that is a show pitch at the moment.
Junis was considered a top 10 round pick by Baseball America entering the draft. His bonus demand of $800K scared teams off so much that he fell all the way to the 29th round. Once there he became a guy that most thought would be going to college for sure. The Royals did a great job of putting the dollar sign on the muscle with Jake Junis.
Just tens of minutes later the Royals signed their second prep righty of the day, 4th round pick Kyle Smith. I have to admit that outside of the Starling selection, no pick in the Royals draft had me as excited as the selection of Kyle Smith. His high school numbers were outrageous. He had an era of 0.40, with 116 Ks to just 14 walks in 69 innings his senior year. He also faced great competition, and had the privilege of playing baseball all year round in the state of Florida.
Smith has shown the ability to uncork mid 90s heat, a hard curveball, and a changeup that he has thrown much more than the typical college righty. Judging by his numbers he seems to already be polished to a certain degree and for that reason I'm hoping he can be a fast riser in the system. Smith signed to a $695K bonus, nearly three times the slot value.
Another thing that really intrigues me about Smith is his build. he is only 6 feet tall. This tells me two things. First, if Smith was a couple inches taller and posted the same numbers his senior season he would have been a top talent and coveted at the top of the draft. Second, the Royals must really like him if they were willing to deviate from their ideal frame for right handed starters.
Personally, I think it is only doing disservice to oneself when you create a typecast for the type of players you want to fill each position. It narrows your potential field of vision and disallows your staff from finding the absolute best players available. If you can see past prejudices and in this case old scouting prejudices and stereotypes you are enabled the opportunity to be more efficient than your competitors.
But the Royals didn't stop there. Later in the day they signed their 16th round selection, shortstop Jack Lopez. Lopez fell hard on draft day, due to a baseball scholarship to play for the hometown Miami Hurricanes. Jack Lopez was very open that there was a dollar amount that could prevent him to going to school, but it wasn't cheap. Well a couple of months later we know that the amount was $750K.
Lopez has soft hands and should stay in the middle infield long term. His father is a bullpen coach for the Cincinnati Reds, which is definitely a feather in his cap considering that players with Major League ties often adjust easier to pro baseball life.
The Royals latest work on the day comes in the signing of right handed starter Bryan Brickhouse. Aside from having a top flight name Brickhouse also attended a top flight high school baseball program at the Woodlands, TX. The high school has also produced Kyle Drabek, Jameson Tallion, and Brett Eibner.
The 3rd round pick Brickhouse had a UNC baseball scholarship in hand, but was bought out for $1.5 million. Brickhouse currently sits in the low 90s, but will flash mid 90's heat when he is on. He also displays a plus 11-5 curveball and like Junis has a show changeup. Baseball America says that Brickhouse could develop into a mid rotation starter, but if he can't find enough consistency he will find a home in the bullpen.
While the Royals have undoubtedly had a great day thus far, the attention now fully turns to Bubba Starling. Yes I believe he will sign. I think at one point I even ventured a guess of 9.1 million as a bonus for him.
If Bubba doesn't sign there will definitely be a taste of disappointment in the mouths of Royals fans, though I am sure it won't be due to lack of effort on the Royals part. The deadline is still almost two hours away, I am convinced he'll sign, but with each passing minute I grow just a little more nervous.