The Royals made three selections Monday as the Major League Baseball draft began in Seacaucus, N.J. The club drafted high school first baseman Nick Pratto of Huntington Beach, Calif., with the 14th overall pick. They took high school catcher M.J. Melendez of Palmetto Bay, Fla., with the 52nd overall pick. They closed the night by drafting left-handed pitcher Evan Steele of Chipola Junior College in Florida with the 73rd overall pick.
Here is a closer look at Pratto, their first-round pick.
Rated as the 17th overall prospect in the draft by Baseball American, Pratto, 18, is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound first baseman who bats left-handed and also served as a dominating left-handed pitcher in high school. A former youth standout, Pratto famously recorded a walk-off single in the championship game of the 2011 Little League World Series, leading the United States over Japan. He was signed to play baseball at the University of Southern California.
“We’ve seen him quite a lot over the last couple years at different events,” Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg said. “He’s been on Team USA for two years. We’ve been able to see him quite a bit. And Rich Amaral, our scout that covers that area, has known Nick for over 10 years. He lives right there. So we felt really, really comfortable with him as a person and as a player. We know it’s plus defense; we think it’s plus bat, with a chance to have plus power.”
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Goldberg added: “We weren’t sure if he was going to get to us. There was a point, probably about 30 or 40 minutes before we got to select, we heard there were some teams fishing around on him. I don’t assume he would have lasted very much longer.
“Any time you can get a kid with that kind of bat, that kind of swing and that kind of defense at a position that we feel — it’s not an up-the-middle position, but it’s a premium position. And when you’ve had the opportunity to watch Eric Hosmer as much as we have … and see the value of first basemen, Nick has a lot of those same qualities.”