Turns out, Johnny Football was on Royals' radar

06/07/2014 5:49 PM

06/09/2014 4:49 PM

The Royals aren’t averse to drafting star college quarterbacks. In 1979, they selected Dan Marino in the fourth round and John Elway in the 18th. Neither signed to play baseball, and Johnny Manziel wouldn’t have either.

But for a fleeting moment, the Royals thought about drafting the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M. They didn’t, but the Padres did in the 28th round of the first-year player draft Saturday.

“We thought about doing that ourselves,” Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg said. “I had that idea at winter meetings. We talked about doing it. We didn’t pull the plug.”

“Johnny Football,” perhaps the most popular player in college football over the past two years, was the overall No. 22 pick of the Cleveland Browns in last month’s NFL Draft, and football is his future. For the Royals, the future will include many left-handed pitchers.

Of the Royals’ 42 draft selections, 12 are southpaw hurlers. That includes top selection Brandon Finnegan of TCU, who pitched six innings and earned the victory Saturday in the Horned Frogs’ NCAA Tournament Super Regional game against Pepperdine. Royals assistant general manager-player personnel J.J. Picollo was in Fort Worth, Texas, and had to be pleased that Finnegan wasn’t over-extended, throwing 96 pitches.

On Saturday, the Royals added eight lefties to the haul, including Tulsa’s Cole Way in the 38th round.

Way didn’t play baseball at Tulsa. He handled the Golden Hurricanes’ kickoffs and held on placement duties. He also punted. The 6-8 Way played baseball in high school.

“He came to our predraft workout,” Goldberg said. “Threw the ball good, 86-89 (mph), for not having pitched in three or four years.”

The Royals selected a couple of organizational sons. In the 29th round they drafted third baseman Vance Vizcaino of Glendale, Ariz., Community College and the son of national cross checker Junior Vizcaino.

Infielder Diego Francisco, the Royals final pick, in the 40th round, is the son of assistant general manager for international operations, Rene Francisco.

Yost has faith

By batting average, the Royals’ top three hitters are Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar. In the batting order on Saturday against the Yankees, they were penciled in at fifth, seventh and ninth.

But Royals manager Ned Yost isn’t one to tinker much with the lineup, and those swinging the hottest bats are likely to keep those slots.

“Right now, if you break down our offense, Gordy, Cain and Esky are our hottest hitters,” Yost said. “When we get turned around and get on a run, you’ll find that Hoz, Billy, Gordy and Salvy will be our best hitters.”

That’s Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, Gordon and Salvador Perez.

Why the faith? History.

Entering Saturday, Hosmer was hitting .260 with one home run; Butler, .251 with one homer; Gordon, .289; and Perez, .260. All but Gordon are well below their career averages.

“They have track records now,” Yost said. “You stay patient, keep working, make sure they’re still playing with the same energy, passion and same intensity they always do. These guys are going to hit. They’ve done it before.”

Yost harkened back to last year when Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and others were scuffling through most of the season’s first half.

“Last year for us, it was after the All-Star break,” when things turned around, Yost said. “You’re hoping it comes earlier this year.

“You get people wondering why Gordy the way he’s been hitting you don’t move him to the three spot. You move him to the three spot and you’ve still got guys behind him that aren’t producing right now. What good does that do you?”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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