Royals expected to take Miami catcher

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Assistant general manager J.J. Picollo says the Royals are taking an NFL approach to baseball's annual Rule 4 (new-player) draft, a 50-round marathon that begins tonight and runs through Wednesday.

Say what?

"It's going to be more need-based," Picollo explained, "than high ceiling."

Picollo is running the club's draft operations for the second year, and his priorities explain why the Royals, with the fourth overall pick, sought to reach a provisional agreement with Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal.

Such an agreement appears to be in place.

Grandal, 21, fills the organization's need for a fast-track catcher, which club officials contend makes him the best fit in a year when a can't-miss prospect isn't likely to be available.

"Look, he's a guy who projects as a solid major-league prospect," a scout with a rival organization said. "Will he be a star? Maybe, but probably not. But he's a guy with advanced skills who could get to the big leagues in a hurry.

"Our evaluation is he'll be ready soon to play regularly and help a club. The problem with Grandal is he wants to be paid like (Matt) Wieters and (Buster) Posey. We don't like him at that price."

Posey received a $6.2 million signing bonus in 2008 from San Francisco as the fifth overall pick. Wieters got $6 million a year earlier from Baltimore as the No. 5 pick.

Grandal's demands to be paid similarly sent his draft stock into a sharp decline because of signability concerns. That led to a willingness to discuss signing with the Royals for a bonus believed to be between $3 million and $4 million.

"He's a guy we like," one Royals official acknowledged. "He's had a great year this year offensively. Catching, he's been about the same for three years. He's thrown fine. No concerns with his throwing at all."

The draft begins at 6 p.m. is limited to the first 50 picks: 32 in the first round and 18 compensation picks between the first and second rounds.

The Royals do not have a compensation pick, so they will make just one selection.

Washington is expected to open proceedings by taking junior-college catcher Bryce Harper with the first overall pick. Pittsburgh and Baltimore follow and figure to select the draft's two premier high school players: right-handed pitcher Jameson Taillon and shortstop Manny Machado.

The Pirates continue to debate whether they prefer Taillon or Machado, but Orioles appear ready to grab whichever one remains available with the third pick.

Most scouts see Harper and Taillon as can't-miss talents. Some include Machado in that group. The general consensus is everyone else grades out a notch (or more) lower.

"When you evaluate the talent pool as it sits today," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said, "I can see how people would view that. But it's been proven time and time again that three years from now you'll evaluate this draft a little differently."

The Royals spent the last several days sifting candidates on the assumption that Harper, Taillon and Machado will not be available. They kept coming back to five college players:

Grandal, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Miami. Defense has always been solid, but his offense spiked this year when he switch his emphasis to a hit-to-all-fields approach.

Left-handed pitcher Chris Sale, 6-6 and 172, Florida Gulf Coast University. Slender side-armer whom many scouts project as a situational reliever.

Left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, 6-5 and 235, Mississippi. A workhorse starter who generally tops out in projections as a No. 3 starter.

Third baseman Zack Cox, 6-0 and 215, Arkansas. Generally viewed as the draft's most-advanced bat but lack of speed and range prompt concerns.

Outfielder Bryce Brentz, 6-0 and 185, Middle Tennessee. A streaky hitter who shows projectable power and sufficient skills to play all outfield positions.