The Kansas City Royals are on a pretty good run with their first round draft picks, dating back to 2002 and the selection of Zack Greinke. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar and Aaron Crow are all former first rounders who make up the core of the team’s rebuilding effort.
A study of first round selections by other big league teams reveals that no one has a crystal ball when it comes to the draft. But the Royals have avoided any major gaffes since their disastrous draft of 2001.
The team still hasn’t exactly achieved the success on the big league field that Dayton Moore envisions, but he’s done a good job following up the last few decent drafts of the Allard Baird era.
When you look back at the history of the Royals draft, however, the team has been anything but clutch. In fact it’s hard to look back at the top five selections of each year of their history and even find recognizable names. (See the history courtesy of the Baseball Cube here.
Forget Colt Griffin and Roscoe Crosby, who’s Juan LeBron? Who was Ben Grzybek? How did the Royals blow the number nine pick in 1973 on someone named Lew Olson?
Now Jarrod Dyson will tell you that decent players aren’t only found in the top five rounds. But just for fun, let’s construct an all-time team of picks from rounds 1-5 from Royals history. (Starter and backup are listed with round and year drafted):
Catcher: Mike MacFarlane (4th round, 1985) gets the nod over Brent Mayne (1st, 1989).
First Base: Because Eric Hosmer (1st 2008) has got barely a year under his belt, I’m going to go with the great Ken Harvey (5th, 1999) as the Royals’ starter. He was an all-star, after all, and his 27 career homers still lead Hosmer’s 26 (as of June 8).
Second Base: Uh oh. No real good choices here. Give it to Terry Shumpert (2nd, 1987) because he played parts of five seasons in KC. Too early to go with Johnny Giavotella (2nd, 2008).
Shortstop: Double uh oh. How can Buddy Biancalana (1st, 1978) be the best shortstop any team ever drafted? David Letterman is still waiting for Biancalana to top Pete Rose’s hit total. But he did start 311 games, including the World Series in 1985. Jamie Quirk (1st, 1972) was drafted as a shortstop, but he only played 22 big league games at the position.
Third base: Finally a position where KC actually hit it big. George Brett (2nd, 1971) was actually taken as a shortstop, but gets this spot. Mike Moustakas (1st, 2007) will be a good one, but will have trouble making the first team on this list.
Outfield: Lots of good choices here, so I’ll just name a 1-6 order.
1) Willie Wilson (1st, 1974) One of only a few KC first-rounders to actually become superstars.
2) Carlos Beltran (2nd, 1995) Would probably be the second greatest Royal of all time, had he stayed with the team.
3) Johnny Damon (1st, 1992) Similar story to Beltran.
4) Bo Jackson (4th, 1986) Aside from what he did on the field, he brought the attention of the world to KC.
5) (tie) I can’t pick between Brian McRae (1st, 1985) and David DeJesus (4th, 2000), but they each get the nod over Alex Gordon, who may eventually rank much higher on this list.
Designated Hitter: Billy Butler (1st, 2004) is the epitome of a DH. I’ll go with Tom Poquette as a backup, even though he only DH’d seven times. He showed some promise his first couple of seasons, and he made it into Terry Cashman’s Royals version of “Talkin’ Baseball” (if only because his name rhymes with Brett.)
Starting Pitcher (1-6):
1) Dennis Leonard (2nd, 1972) A career Royal and three-time 20 game winner.
2) Mark Gubicza (2nd, 1981) A two-time all star who pitched on the 1985 World Series team at just 23 years of age.
3) Kevin Appier (1st, 1987) Perhaps the best of all, but played for bad teams.
4) Zach Greinke (1st, 2002) Had just one great season in KC, but might be the best pitcher the Royals ever drafted.
5) Dave Cone (3rd, 1981) Same story as Greinke – just one great season in KC.
6) Rich Gale (5th, 1975) A winning record over four seasons gets him the nod over Luke Hochevar (1st, 2006).
Relief Pitcher: Mike MacDougal (1st, 1999) was actually a closer, so he edges out Aaron Crow (1st, 2009), who hopefully will have a much longer and more successful career in KC than MacDougal.