Oxford product Lovvorn drafted by Royals in sixth round, says he will sign minor-league contract
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Jun 06, 2012 | 7274 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In less than three weeks, Zach Lovvorn has gone from Oxford’s Game 3 starter in the Class 6A championship series to Kansas City Royals draftee.

He’s about to be a Kansas City Royals signee.

The senior pitcher told The Star on Tuesday that he will sign a minor-league contract on Thursday, then fly to Surprise, Ariz., to begin evaluation and mini-camp work.

The Samford signee will forego playing college baseball.

“I’m going,” he said.

He declined to specify his signing bonus demand but said the Royals agreed to meet it then upped the ante. This because they had to take him in the sixth round, or later than they had planned.

Earlier Tuesday, the Royals made Lovvorn the 193rd overall pick in the draft.

Tuesday marked Day 2 of the draft and covered rounds 2-15. The final 25 rounds will play out today.

Coming into the draft, Lovvorn was among four Oxford High standouts considered likely to be drafted. Oxford coach Wes Brooks said pitchers Tucker Simpson and Jackson Stephens and outfielder Mathew Goodson — all more touted than Lovvorn coming into the draft — could get the call today.

“I anticipate one, maybe two, getting their name called tomorrow,” Brooks said.

However, new rules governing draftee compensation make it more likely that Simpson, Stephens and Goodson will play college ball instead of signing a pro contract this year. Past the 10th round, all selections are subject to the $100,000 maximum.

Stephens and Goodson have signed with the University of Alabama and Simpson with Florida.

Signability is a major factor in draft decisions. Players often slide in the draft or don’t get drafted because they’ve expressed a preference toward college — either directly or by naming too high a price for foregoing college.

“All three guys, as far as ability, are top-10-round guys, and I think all three will play professional baseball one day,” Brooks said.

Lovvorn literally became a bigger blip on the draft radar this season.

Called a “late bloomer” by Brooks, the 6-foot-1 senior has grown about nine inches since eighth grade. He still has two inches to go to match his dad, former Jacksonville State pitcher Mike Lovvorn.

With added size came added strength. Zach Lovvorn’s top pitch speed jumped about 5 mph into the 90s this season.

Major League scouts who frequented Oxford games and intrasquad games this season for looks at Stephens, Simpson and Goodson began showing increasing interest in Lovvorn.

“Zach consistently stayed 89 to 92 (mph) all year long,” Brooks said. “He has a great changeup that a lot of guys like.”

Brooks said Kansas City wasn’t the only team to show interest.

Teams including St. Louis, Cincinnati, San Francisco, the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees kept a radar gun on him much of the season.,

Lovvorn said the increased attention from scouts was exciting but daunting.

“I probably filled out, I’d say, around 20 forms for each organization just in, like, a two-month period,” he said.

The load of his increasing draft status and concentrating on Oxford’s run to a 6A title prompted him and his family to hire Texas-based agent Kyle Dison about two months ago.

Lovvorn said the Royals showed him the most interest from the start.

“The Royals guy, he’s been on me the most,” he said. “He’s contacted me week by week and was really getting after me.”

After Oxford clinched its first state title in baseball and first in any sport as a 6A school on May 19, things happened quickly for Lovvorn. The Royals invited him and other prospects for a pre-draft workout at Kauffman Stadium on June 1.

After the workout, he attended the Royals’ 2-0 victory over the Oakland A’s that night then spent time talking with Royals brass after the game.

“The assistant GM and the scouting director come and talked to me, and we talked for a good hour and a half,” Lovvorn said. “We were the last ones to leave the stadium.

“We get back to the hotel, and we could tell that they really liked me, because they wouldn’t just stay and talk to me for an hour and a half for no reason at, like, 11:45 at night.”

He said he and the team “worked out a pretty good deal,” which included a guarantee on money but no guarantee on which round.

The Royals called him Monday night and informed him they would up the money but take him in a later round.

“Some guys were more concerned about the round they went in instead of the money,” he said. “So, they knew that they gave me a decent amount of money, I’m not the kind of guy to really worry about which round it is.”

Lovvorn finished his senior season with a 5-2 record, 2.2 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 55 innings. He said he’s “thankful” to be a Royal.

“They’re a great organization,” he said. “They really care about their players, and their player-development program is unbelievable.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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