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Royals use No. 2 pick on prep star

Friday, June 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:51 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

KANSAS CITY — There was pandemonium at the Mike Moustakas house.

The husky shortstop knew that setting California high school home run records had made him a hot topic among major league scouts. But not until his name was called on television Thursday afternoon did he know the Kansas City Royals would make him the No. 2 selection in baseball’s June draft.

“Everyone just started jumping up and screaming. It was unreal,” he said. “A lot of phone calls came in, a lot of text messages. Everybody was giving me hugs. It was unreal. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

A 6-foot, 195-pounder who throws right and bats left, Moustakas hit .577 for Chatsworth High School and set the California high school record with 52 career home runs. His 24 home runs as a senior also broke the state’s single-season record, and he was named the Los Angeles City player of the year.

The Royals also followed Moustakas in summer competition against above-average players, such as Team USA.

“We got a chance to see him in various things during the summer and he’s always hit,” said senior director of scouting Deric Ladnier. “That’s the one thing we’ve liked about him. We’ve seen the home runs, we’ve seen the doubles. He’s athletic, he runs the bases. He has instincts.”

In the second and third rounds, the Royals went for high school pitchers. Samuel Runion, a 6-4 right-hander from Asheville, N.C., was taken in the second round and Daniel Duffy, a left-hander from Lompoc, Calif., went in the third.

Ladnier spent time getting to know the Moustakas family, and was assured he would not be a problem to sign even though he’s a client of agent Scott Boras and has the leverage of a scholarship at USC.

“You start putting everything together and you go, ’You know, this is one heck of a player,’” Ladnier said. “And that’s exactly what we got: a very, very good player.”

A lack of great speed is the only knock on Moustakas.

“He’s a fringy, average runner, I guess you could say,” Ladnier said. “He’s not a burner. But he has great instincts in the field, great anticipation skills. His arm’s a plus. He has this innate ability to play the game. And those are the things that we look for when you’re trying to select a player that high in the draft.”

His fastball has been clocked at 97 mph, but the Royals have no intention of playing Moustakas anywhere but shortstop.

Moustakas was taken right after Tampa Bay selected Vanderbilt pitcher David Price as the No. 1 pick.

The Royals have had trouble in the past signing Boras’ clients. After making right-hander Luke Hochevar the No. 1 selection last year, negotiations dragged on for more than two months before he finally signed for $5.3 million. Hochevar, who sat out the entire season in a contract dispute after being drafted in the first round in 2005 by the Dodgers, is 3-5 with a 4.71 ERA for Kansas City’s Double-A club in Wichita.

But the Royals are confident after talking with Moustakas’ family that negotiations will not be a problem.

“If somebody doesn’t want to be a part of the Kansas City Royals, I don’t want them. I don’t care who it is,” said general manager Dayton Moore. “This kid wanted to be with this organization. And that’s ultimately how we’re going to build something and win here.”

Moustakas seemed to echo those thoughts.

“I want to go play baseball. The sooner the better,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable organization. It’s got a lot of potential upside.

“I met with a couple of the guys that are part of the organization,” he added.

“They made me feel like I was a part of the team already. And I just wanted to be part of like a family. So this is the kind of team I wanted to be a part of.”

MLB, trying to avoid protracted contract negotiations, recommends $3.1 million for the second overall pick this year.


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