KANSAS CITY -- The Royals first noticed newly signed right-hander A.J. Puckett when he was in high school in Northern California. There, Puckett built a relationship with area scout Max Valencia and would eventually connect with area scout Rich Amaral as he attended Pepperdine University.Puckett turned down a chance to
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals first noticed newly signed right-hander A.J. Puckett when he was in high school in Northern California. There, Puckett built a relationship with area scout Max Valencia and would eventually connect with area scout Rich Amaral as he attended Pepperdine University.
Puckett turned down a chance to go to the A's out of high school as a 35th-round selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Three years and one day later, he was drafted again, this time by the Royals.
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"I'm very fortunate for that decision. I think I learned a lot," Puckett said of choosing to return to school. "You're growing up in high school, you want to get drafted, you want to get to the [Majors] as fast as you can."
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And four days after being selected, Puckett made it official by signing a $1.2 million deal with the Royals (the slot value for the 67th pick is $963,700).
"I heard great things about this organization," Puckett said. "Kansas City is a really fun place to play."
Puckett's path to the Royals was not without its bumps and bruises, both in a metaphorical and literal sense. In high school, he spent two weeks in the hospital and several days in a coma after sustaining a head injury.
At the time, Puckett was a two-sport athlete, starring in both baseball and football at De La Salle (Calif.) High School. After undergoing brain surgery and making a recovery, he shifted his focus to baseball, where he made significant strides throughout his high school and college career.
"It wasn't an easy road," said Jeff Puckett, A.J.'s father. "He's battled with all kind of adversity."
With Puckett officially signed, Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg, general manager Dayton Moore and Amaral all spoke highly of their selection. Amaral talked about how Puckett checks all the boxes you want to see in a prospect, while Goldberg and Moore spoke about Puckett's temperament and personality.
"From Day 1, Lonnie has raved about his makeup, his competitive spirit, his desire to win," Moore said. "Lonnie said it best. We're proud that he's a part of our Royals family."
The next step for Puckett is right around the corner. He'll be on a flight to the Royals' spring facilities in Surprise, Ariz., where he'll work out with other members of the Draft class before being assigned to one of their affiliates.
Puckett said he was eager to get going on the next step of his career, but that he understands he has a long road ahead of him. For that, it may be a while until he makes his debut in the Majors, but he's ready to embrace the process.
"It's a long process," Puckett said. "I have to go out there to Arizona, work with the guys there. ... We'll take it one step at a time from there."
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.