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Butler Does It For Royals

June 7, 2004
By Alan Eskew

KANSAS CITY--Most projected the Royals would use their first pick and 14th overall selection on a pitcher, but scouting director Deric Ladnier was looking for an offensive threat and believes he found one in Billy Butler, out of Jacksonville's Wolfson High.

"If there was an impact bat available in the draft, we wanted to get that," Ladnier said. "We felt he was that that type guy. He's a skilled high school player as far as the bat goes. He has tremendous power, which is something if you're going to get it, you're going to have to get in the first round, and we were able to do that."

The Royals and Butler reportedly had agreed to a pre-draft bonus of $1.45 million.

Butler, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, hit .419-4-13, but also drew 48 walks in 115 plate-appearances.

"That will give you an idea that they were pitching around him because obviously he can do a lot of damage if he gets his pitch to hit," Ladnier said. "And every time we were there, when he did get his pitch to hit, he was able to do something with it."

Area scout Cliff Pastronicky, who also recommended the Royals draft righthander Zack Greinke with the sixth overall pick in 2002, followed Butler closely. While Butler played primarily first and pitched in high school, the Royals have projected him to play third base.

"He doesn't necessarily do it pretty and flashy, but he makes the plays," Ladnier said. "He's got an average arm, tremendous makeup, and he's the guy we've targeted for a long time."

Butler was one of two Wolfson players drafted in the first round, as righthander Eric Hurley (Rangers, 30th overall) and Butler became the fifth such pair in draft history. Ladnier expects Butler, who was a Florida recruit, to sign quickly; if he does, he would open the season with Rookie-level Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League.

"We feel like he's an advanced high school player, so we're going to send him to Idaho Falls," Ladnier said. "That gives you an indication of how we feel about his bat."

ROYALTIES

The Royals took college pitchers with their next two selections, snagging lefthanders Matt Campbell out of South Carolina with the 29th overall pick and J.P. Howell of Texas with the 31st overall selection. Campbell pitched for Team USA last summer and was 9-4, 3.02 this season with a sterling 129-26 strikeout-walk ratio. "The thing that sticks in my mind with this guy (Campbell) is has a very, very good curveball and he can throw it for strikes at any time," Ladnier said. Much the same can be said for Howell, who was also a second-round pick of the Braves in 2001 out of a Sacramento high school. Howell didn't sign and went to Southern California for a year before transferring to Texas. Howell is 23-4, 2.38 in two seasons with the Longhorns.

Area scout Spencer Graham will be busy following South Carolina the rest of the year, as Campbell was one of three Gamecocks the Royals selected. They took righthander Billy Buckner, an unsigned ninth-round pick last year out of Young Harris (Ga.) Junior College, in the second round. Buckner was slowed earlier this season by mononucleosis. The Royals also took Gamecocks righty Chad Blackwell, a reliever, in the sixth round.

In the third round, the Royals chose Florida prep shortstop Josh Johnson, the son of former major leaguer Larry Doby Johnson.

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