KANSAS CITY -- There's always euphoria immediately following the First-Year Player Draft surrounding a team's selections, especially in the first round. There's the promise of the new kid's future, the anticipation of him signing his contract and starting his pro career, and then ... well, it's off to the World Series.
Whoa. Let's get back to reality with the help of Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore.
"It's very hard to predict the strength of the Draft. You won't realize the impact of this year's Draft class until three or four years from now," Moore said. "But there's always enough talent that if you draft properly, you can improve your system."
That, of course, is the key: Improve the Minor League organization so it will produce enough high-quality Major League players so that you can get to that World Series.
The Royals have had good first rounds in recent Drafts. It's an oft-told tale, worth repeating with this year's Draft starting on Monday. Each of their first selections from 2004-09 is an important part of their '12 big league roster.
Designated hitter Billy Butler (2004) has become one of the American League's most dangerous right-handed hitters. Left fielder Alex Gordon ('05) is coming off a breakthrough season both in the field and at the plate. Right-hander Luke Hochevar ('06) is one of the team's top starting pitchers. Third baseman Mike Moustakas ('07) is soaring offensively and defensively in his second year. First baseman Eric Hosmer ('08) is starting to recapture his tremendous rookie glow of last year. Right-hander Aaron Crow ('09) was an All-Star as a rookie and remains a bullpen force.
Still undergoing Minor League processing are shortstop Christian Colon (2010), who is doing well at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, and outfielder Bubba Starling ('11), who is at extended spring camp in Arizona and probably will be assigned to a short-season team after the Draft.
Who will be the Royals' 2012 choice at No. 5 overall? It'll be easy to find out.
Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 5 p.m. CT on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following@MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
After their first-round selection, the Royals will have to wait a while until their second choice comes around at No. 66.
Given the current state of the Royals' Major League team, the most pressing need is an influx of starting pitching that will make an impact -- and soon. The logical first-round selection could be a college pitcher who could reach the big leagues ASAP.
Moore, while conceding he follows that reasoning, stands by the old standard: "Like always, we're going to take the best available player at [No.] 5. Pitching is certainly something we're always trying to improve. Last year, 10 of our first 18 picks were pitchers, both college and high school, so that will always be a strong focus of ours."
Make no mistake, the charts and boards have been posted and scrutinized in the Herk Robinson Room at Kauffman Stadium for weeks. With director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg pointing the way, an army of scouts, supervisors and front-office personnel ponder and debate the results of a year of on-site scrutiny in this "war room" for long hours daily before and during the three-day Draft.
"The Draft is as important as anything we do," Moore said. "It's an opportunity to bring in new talent to the organization. It's a very fulfilling and long process, but it's very rewarding."
Here's a glance at what the Royals have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Two of the possible top picks this year, right-hander Mark Appel of Stanford University and outfielder Byron Buxton of Appling County (Ga.) High School, seem to epitomize the two strongest areas of the first round: college pitchers and high school outfielders. Middle infielders, though, might be few and far between.
In the new slotting system, the Royals can pay up to $3.5 million to sign their first-round selection.
"That doesn't mean we're going to pay our first-round pick $3.5 million. That's not what that is saying," Moore said. "That is the most that you can pay a player in that slot without potentially receiving some type of penalty going forward, whether it being losing a supplemental pick or paying a tax. That doesn't mean we're going to pay the guy that; it's a guideline, it's kind of a ceiling for what you pay that particular slot."
At No. 5, the Royals would like to grab a top-flight pitcher, preferably with collegiate experience, according to MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo. They would love it if Appel or LSU righty Kevin Gausman fell to them, but they could get snapped up before the Royals are on the clock. If that's the case, the Royals are also looking at Kyle Zimmer, a University of San Francisco right-hander. The team has also had conversations about Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney and Mississippi State righty Chris Stratton, but those two names are further down in the top 20 on Mayo's list. If they find them to be too much of a reach at No. 5, they could look at Max Fried, a left-hander from Harvard-Westlake High School in Southern California.
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
The Royals' total for their first 10 picks is $6,101,500, including $3.5 million for the first-rounder. The total ranks 17th among the 30 clubs.
Where does the Royals' system need help?
"Everywhere," Moore said. "It's very hard to predict who is going to be a good Major League player. Therefore, you're always looking to improve in all areas. In pitching, you want to have a prospect for every spot in the rotation. Our goal is to have a catching prospect at every level. We want to have a shortstop prospect at every level. We want to have speed and defense in the outfield. We're certainly going to try to get as many offensive players as we can. So our goal is to draft a Major League player with all of our selections."
Expect a lot of celebratory chomping throughout the Draft's early rounds. Mayo's Top 100 ranking is rife with Florida Gators -- six of them, to be precise. The top-ranked Gator is catcher Mike Zunino, who comes in at No. 3 overall. There are also 33 players who have been selected in previous Drafts in Mayo's Top 100, including 26 who were picked in 2009. The Rays and Dodgers had plenty of foresight, with four former draftees of each club ranking in the Top 100 this year.
Recent Draft History
Outfielder Wil Myers, a third-round pick in 2009, was promoted after 35 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas to Triple-A Omaha earlier this month. In his first 12 games with the Storm Chasers, Myers clubbed three home runs with eight RBIs and a .326 average. In 47 total games in the Minors this season through Tuesday, Myers had 16 home runs, already twice as many as he hit all of last season at Northwest Arkansas. Myers was ranked the No. 16 prospect in baseball by MLB.com before the season.
Royals' recent top picks
Extended spring camp (Royals)
Double-A Northwest Arkansas (Royals)
Kansas City (MLB)
Kansas City (MLB)
Kansas City (MLB)
Outfielder Jarrod Dyson might be the ultimate when it comes to the long shot making good. Dyson was drafted in the 50th and final round of the 2006 Draft, and he now is the starting center fielder in Kansas City. He became the first player drafted in the final round to reach the Majors since the Draft was limited to 50 rounds in 1998. Efren Navarro of the Angels joined him in that company last season. After four seasons in the Minors, Dyson debuted for the Royals in 2010 and appeared in 18 games that season. He played in 26 more last year. Dyson started this year at Triple-A Omaha, but after an injury to Lorenzo Cain, he was called up.
Utility man Irving Falu is following Dyson's lead. Falu was selected in the 21st round of the 2003 Draft, and after 10 years in the Minors, he's currently getting his first taste of the Majors as a backup infielder.
In The Show
There are four players on the current 25-man roster drafted by the Royals within the past four years -- pitchers Louis Coleman and Crow from 2009, and infielders Hosmer and Johnny Giavotella from 2008. Of the 35 players on the 25-man roster or disabled list, 16 were originally drafted by the Royals.