CHICAGO | Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier knows the rumors as well as anyone as the hours trickle down to the 1 p.m. start Thursday of baseball’s first-year player draft.
The word circulating throughout the industry is Tampa Bay will take prep shortstop Tim Beckham with the first pick, and Pittsburgh will follow with Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
That same rumor mill of scouts, agents and club officials believe the Royals will then opt for Florida State catcher Buster Posey. If so, Ladnier isn’t tipping his hand.
“I’m not going to get into any specifics or names,” he said. “We’ve got two teams picking in front of us this year, and that can change things. I’ve got no clue on what they’re going to do.
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“We’ve heard all of the different scenarios. But, really, you don’t know until the draft happens.”
The Royals are believed to favor Alvarez, if he’s available, but also like Beckham, prep first baseman Eric Hosmer and Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham (no relation).
Most insiders, however, predict the Royals will take Posey, whom Baseball America characterizes as “an offensive catcher with Gold Glove-caliber defense.” The magazine also calls Posey “one of the safest picks in this year's draft.”
Aviles sits again
Rookie infielder Mike Aviles appears to be slipping deeper onto the Royals’ bench after manager Trey Hillman opted for Tony Peña as his starting shortstop for Tuesday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
“I want to try to get some good defense in there for what we’ve got on the mound,” Hillman said. “I think (Peña) is, by far, our best defensive shortstop. We’ll hit him down where he always hits and, hopefully, he can makes strides in better pitch selection and recognition.”
Peña carried a .155 average into the game, but Hillman expressed hope that “some of the work we got done on this last homestand will play out.”
Aviles was batting .336 through 51 games at Class AAA Omaha when the Royals purchased his contract before last Thursday’s game against Minnesota. Aviles, 27, started that night and went zero for three in a 5-1 loss.
It seems that was all Hillman needed to see.
Aviles didn’t get off the bench in the three weekend games against the Indians. Peña started Friday before Hillman turned Saturday to Esteban German and on Sunday to Alberto Callaspo. Peña played in the latter two games as a defensive replacement.
Hillman characterized Aviles as “just as an extra for us. Not to depreciate his value, but that’s what he is for right now.”
No changes for White Sox
The post-game rant Sunday by Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen, calling for changes within the organization prior to Tuesday’s series opener, produced nothing more than a meeting between Guillen and his boss, general manager Kenny Williams.
Guillen admitted he was wrong to suggest Williams needed to be catalyst for change.
“This one was the most uncomfortable situation I ever went through,” he said, “because it was a relationship, it was a friend. When it's a friendship and he thinks I threw him under the bus, that hurt my feelings.”
Guillen’s outburst came after the White Sox lost three of four weekend games at Tampa Bay while going five for 35 with runners in scoring position. He said changes needed to be made and if the players “can’t get it done, Kenny should find someone to get it done.”
Guillen contends he was only suggesting that changes were needed and it “might be my job to change the lineup.”
Tuesday’s lineup offered no substantive changes.
First baseman Billy Butler is batting .294 through Monday in five games at Class AAA Omaha. He is five for 17 after going hitless in three at-bats Monday in a 7-5 loss at Oklahoma.
“He just needs to get his confidence back,” Hillman said. “I talked with (Omaha manager) Mike Jirschele after our Sunday game. He said (Butler) was better than what was reported here. He’s starting to get that swagger back.
“If he’s confident and can continue to square balls up, I think we know he’ll be OK.”
Right-hander Julio Pimentel produced one of his best starts of the season Monday in Class AA Northwest Arkansas’ 3-1 victory at Frisco. Pimentel allowed just one run and three hits in seven innings.
It was a much-needed effort because Pimentel, generally regarded as one of the organization’s top prospects, yielded 19 earned runs and 24 hits in 13 1/3 innings over his three previous starts.
Shortstop Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, is slumping again at Class A Burlington. His average is down to .237 after going six for 38 in his last 10 games.
Second baseman Jeff Bianchi is going in the opposite direction at Class A Wilmington. Bianchi, a second-round pick in 2005, is 13 for 29 in a six-game hitting streak, which has his average up to .258.