Royals select friendly rivals atop MLB Draft
Right-handers Russell, Watson played for opposing Indiana schools
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals selected not only two high school right-handed pitchers, but a pair of rivals from the same township of Indiana.
Kansas City selected Ashe Russell from Cathedral (Ind.) High School with the 21st pick and Nolan Watson from Lawrence North (Ind.) High School with the 33rd pick overall on Monday night in the 2015 MLB Draft.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at noon.
"Outside of baseball, we're good friends, and now we're clearly good friends," Russell said. "We text almost every single day, and we have the past two months talking about the Draft and where he wants to go. We actually made a joke during the season: 'How sick would it be if we got drafted by the same team?' And now it has happened."
Recently, Russell and Watson dueled for a sectional championship -- elsewhere known as Districts -- where Watson's team came out on top, 5-3, before losing the next weekend.
"We didn't like their team, and they didn't like us. We were No. 1 in the state, they were No. 2," Russell said. "I was rooting for them to win state, though."
Russell, at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, has the frame of a Major League starter and touts a 92-95 mph fastball. He also frequents a low-80s slider as a secondary pitch.
Watson (6-2, 185), who also played third base, features a fastball that breaches 90 mph in combo with a mid-70s breaking ball, which draws many of his strikes. He also continues to develop a curveball and a changeup.
"Both are high-quality right-handed high school pitchers," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "We saw both of these pitchers a little over a week ago, and they're throwing the ball very well. They fit the profile, and we're proud to have them."
Though he was selected after Russell, scouts liked Watson's arm better prior to the Draft. Russell has yet to develop a strong changeup and he will need further development with his mechanics and control. However, scouts indicate he counters with his athleticism and quick-twitch arm speed.
Watson went 5-1 with a 0.63 ERA in high school and earned the MVP award at the Midwest Futures Game last August at Indiana University after striking out five and giving up just one hit in two innings.
Russell was named the Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year for leading the Fighting Irish into the Class AAAA sectional tournament, going 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 34 innings through 21 games.
"Last year, we took some high-profile high school pitchers as well," Moore said. "We're intentionally trying to stockpile as many arms as we can for the future."
Both players are currently committed to colleges -- Russell with Texas A&M and Watson with Vanderbilt.