Royals' Sandford Has Speed To Burn
KANSAS CITY— People in the Royals organization have a long-running debate over whether Jarrod Dyson or Derrick Robinson is the fastest player in the organization.
The answer is: none of the above.
Outfielders Dyson and Robinson, not to mention Paulo Orlando, are legitimate burners. But outfielder Darian Sandford, a 47th-round pick in June, has been timed at 6.19 seconds in the 60-yard dash on turf. Sandford, a switch-hitter, also has been clocked at 3.4 and 3.5 seconds from home to first while bunting lefthanded.
It's easy to see how Sandford might have been overlooked, though. He's 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, and is the first player ever drafted out of NAIA Park University, a small school in the Kansas City suburb of Parkville, Mo. He led the NAIA last spring with 59 stolen bases while batting .366.
"They drafted me as a center fielder, but in college I played second base," Sandford said. "Right now, I'm just transitioning there. It was a tough adjustment, but I think I'm making a good transition."
Sandford, 23, led the Rookie-level Arizona League with 30 stolen bases in 36 attempts, while batting .279/.364/.361. The Royals brought him to instructional league, where in addition to working on his outfield angles and throwing, the Royals insisted he bunt and then bunt some more.
"I bunt every day," he said. "I go to the machine and bunt at least 50 a day. Once I get my bunting together, I feel my game will take off."
Sandford is also working on his basestealing approach. At present, he doesn't linger on the bases too long. "Usually when I get on base, I go on the first pitch," he said. "When I lead off a game and get a hit, the next pitch I steal second, the next pitch I steal third. I try to get on third by two pitches on the next batter."Sandford played in two wood-bat summer college leagues, the Alaska League and MINK League, to face better competition and get himself ready for pro ball, but he admits it has been an adjustment.
"I've never seen pitching day in and day out that throws 90-plus," Sandford said. "I'm very confident. Once I learn the aspects of the game, how pitchers are pitching, I've made a good transition. I have a lot more confidence. My first year, I'm just focusing on putting the ball in play."
• In addition to major league righthander Vin Mazzaro, the Royals acquired minor league lefthander Justin Marks from the Athletics in the David DeJesus trade. Marks went 3-12, 4.92 for low Class A Kane County in 2010, striking out 119 in 110 innings before a promotion to high Class A Stockton, where he went 3-1, 4.58 in 20 innings. He throws four pitches, keeps the ball on the ground and has enough control to profile as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
• The Royals claimed infielder Lance Zawadzki off waivers from the Padres. He hit .200 in 20 games with San Diego in 2010. He is a career .268 hitter in 380 minor league games after being drafted in the fourth round in 2007.