Kansas City Royals scouts came to Indianapolis and saw no reason to look anywhere else. At least, it seemed that way.
During the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, the defending American League champions double-dipped on Indianapolis prep pitchers, selecting Cathedral’s Ashe Russell at No. 21 and Lawrence North’s Nolan Watson at No. 33 on Monday.
Robbie Miller understands the Royals’ enchantment with the young phenoms.
The Greenfield-Central baseball coach had the pleasure — or perhaps displeasure — of watching both players put their talents on display against his team this season.
Russell struck out nine Cougars for six scoreless innings in leading the Fighting Irish to a 9-0 win at the end of April.
“There must have something like 27 scouts at that game,” said Miller, whose team collected six hits against the 6-foot-4 Texas A&M University commit. “He was at another level. Anytime we got him into a little trouble, he’d dial it up a notch. He was hitting 96 (MPH) that day. He just overmatched us most of the time.”
Unlike with Russell, the Cougars did not have to endure stepping in the batter’s box against Watson. But the Vanderbilt University commit made his mark anyhow.
The Wildcat led his team to a 9-0 victory by going 2-for-3 with a blast that might have likely went into orbit.
“That ball might still be going,” Miller said with a laugh. “It wasn’t even a bad pitch. Doug (Berger) put it in a good spot, low and away, but he went down and got it. He absolutely annihilated it. That was probably the hardest hit ball we saw all year.”
While watching each Royals draftee play, Miller said, the primary characteristic he noticed in both is that they each play the game “the right way.”
Miller remembers Watson sprinting out to his position during the middle of every inning, and Russell pitching with bulldog mentality that stirred memories of another local ace and first-round pick.
“He actually reminds me of Kyle (Gibson) in that way,” said Miller, citing the former Greenfield-Central star and current Minnesota Twin. “When they let runners on, they don’t back down. They want the ball. They have that confidence you need to know they can get out of any jam.”
In 41 innings of work this season, Russell’s numbers were gaudy. He boasted a 1.02 ERA, while racking up 67 strikeouts and allowing just 21 hits.
Watson was similarly dominant at Lawrence North. He piled up 70 strikeouts in 45 inning and finished with a microscopic 0.63 ERA.
In the coming weeks, each will attempt to negotiate contracts with the Royals. Russell is said to be committed to pursing his major-league career, while rumors suggest Watson might be more difficult to sign. Some scouts believe he will elect to attend Vanderbilt instead.
After 10 rounds, five players from Indiana have been selected by major-league baseball teams during the first two days of the 40-round 2015 MLB draft. Here’s are the Hoosiers who have been drafted thus far:
Round/Pick;Name;Position;High School/College;MLB Team
1/21;Ashe Russell;RHP;Indianapolis Cathedral;Kansas City Royals
1/33;Nolan Waston;RHP;Lawrence North;Kansas City Royals
2/83;Jeff Degano;LHP;Indiana State University;New York Yankees
8/245;Cody Mobley;RHP;Mt. Vernon (Posey) High School; Seattle Mariners
9/269;Kevin Kaczmarski;OF;University of Evansville;New York Mets