Zimmer aims to continue Royals’ run of first round success

The Royals took Kyle Zimmer with their first pick in the 2012 draft, and though the team isn’t exactly in the hunt for a pennant, they have been winners on draft day the past several years.

Zimmer, a 6’4” right-hander from the University of San Francisco, is expected to move quickly to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, if he doesn’t start his career there. In desperate need of advanced pitching prospects, the Royals found themselves in a fortunate position when the first three choices in the draft were position players.

The Royals have chosen pitchers with their first pick twice in the past decade. They have to hope Zimmer develops into an anchor of their rotation. Thus far Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow have not.

The Royals’ current lineup is peppered with choices from the past decade of drafts. And while we’d like for Hochevar to pitch like a number one pick, and we’d like for Alex Gordon to live up to his draft-day expectations, there is no argument that the Royals have built an up-and-coming unit through the draft.

That’s 14 members of the 2012 Royals who were drafted and developed by the team. That’s what a small-market team that’s not dipping into the free-agent market has to do.

Compare the Royals’ 14 to the New York Yankees’ 6 – Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, DJ Mitchell, Phil Hughes, David Robertson and David Phelps. Without deep pockets, the Royals have to draft smarter and get better results from their picks.

Making the Grade:

No team gets it right every year, but the Royals have done quite well the past several drafts with their first round picks. With Zimmer left to sign, they hope that last year’s pick – Bubba Starling – and 2010’s selection – Christian Colon – can keep up the string of success.

Last year I gave the Royals a grade for each draft going back to 2002. See how each class is progressing.

Coulda done better:

If the Royals had owned a crystal ball the past decade, they probably would have gone this route:

  • 2002 – Prince Fielder and Nick Swisher might not have been any more loyal to KC than Zach Greinke proved to be. Maybe the Royals should have taken Jeff Francoeur back in 2002 when they had the chance.
  • 2003 – Mitch Maier made it. Chris Lubanski didn’t make it. But nobody else looks much better.
  • 2004 – Billy Butler. Keeper.
  • 2005 – Alex Gordon has his moments, but Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun or Troy Tulowitzki would all be better.
  • 2006 – Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw would all look better in Royal blue than Luke Hochevar.
  • 2007 – Two years ago, it looked like Jason Heyward would have been a better choice than Mike Moustakas. Now Moustakas looks like a keeper, but good catchers are tough to find. Still, KC would probably keep Moustakas over Matt Wieters and JP Arencibia.
  • 2008 – Eric Hosmer would probably still be the Royals’ choice, although Buster Posey and Jemile Weeks are solid starters elsewhere.
  • 2009 – Aaron Crow has done well enough, but Mike Trout is as coveted a prospect as you’ll find.
  • 2010, 2011 – I’ll give Colon and Starling a little more time before I subject them to this critique.

Feeling a draft:

Read other articles I’ve written in the past about the Royals in the draft.

Two curious washouts – Colt Griffin and Roscoe Crosby – set the team back in 2001

The Royals approach to the draft during the late 90s produced a whole lot of nothing

Why Bubba Starling means so much to Kansas City

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