KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)The Kansas City Royals brought their entire six-man draft class to town this week, signing them to their first professional contracts and giving them a chance to see spacious Kauffman Stadium and learn about the organization.
Worry not: In the age of COVID-19, the prospects and their families maintained plenty of social distancing.
The headliner of the crop is Asa Lacy, their first-round pick out of Texas A&M, whom scouting director Lonnie Goldberg believes has the talent to pitch at the front of the rotation. The big, rangy left-hander was widely considered the best arm in the draft earlier this month, yet he slid to the Royals at the fourth overall pick.
The Royals continued the draft by taking Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin in the competitive-balance round; high school right-hander Ben Hernandez in the second; Alabama outfielder Tyler Gentry in the third; Oregon State left-hander Christian Chamberlain in the fourth; and Eastern Illinois right-hander Will Klein in the fifth and final round.
”We’re very proud of the players we selected. We’re proud of their families and we’re proud of the scouting departments and the great work that many people in our staff are doing,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. ”So we wanted to share knowledge, we wanted to share vision, but most importantly we wanted to begin that relationship, and doing what we can to break down barriers and build trust through transparency and learning and growth.”
Typically the Royals have a news conference when their first-round pick signs his contract, and then showcase him to fans during a home game. But all that pizzazz was put on hold while the country continues to deal with the coronavirus, which has kept big leaguers sidelined and is likely to prevent minor league baseball from happening at all.
That didn’t stop Lacy from marveling at a ballpark that has played host to two World Series in the past six years.
”Just to have all of us here, all the picks, and have us together and have some sense of normalcy, and to kind of learn and realize what we’re about to embark on has been special,” he said, ”and this is only the beginning.”
Goldberg said the plan for the rookie class is to join the rest of the Royals’ prospects in a series of video meetings, and the hope is that they eventually will be given a green light to begin workouts at their facility in Surprise, Arizona.
The pandemic caused Major League Baseball to shorten its draft to just five rounds, creating a massive pool of undrafted prospects that teams could sign for a maximum of $20,000. The Royals attacked the market the minute the draft ended and came away with seven other players that many scouts ranked among the top 25 that were still available.
They included Washington State left-hander A.J. Block; Georgia outfielder Tucker Bradley; Arkansas-Little Rock catcher Kale Emshoff; LSU catcher Saul Garza; Texas Tech right-hander John McMillon; Michigan infielder Matt Schmidt; and Tennessee right-hander Chase Wallace.
”They all really want to play baseball,” Moore said, ”and like I’ve told Asa and some of the other players that have earned those slots in the draft where they’ve been awarded pretty good financial packages – they’ve earned that. They’ve earned that through their hard work and commitment and perfecting their skills.
”The other players, because of only five rounds, were kind of left out of that mix a little bit, so it speaks volumes that they just want to play baseball. The money doesn’t make the player and these guys all understand that. And they’re going to get the same opportunity here in Kansas City, and some of them are going to be in a different spot financially as they begin their career, but they’re all going to have the same opportunity to make it to the major leagues.”
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