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2003 Royals Draft Review

Sorry for the absence, life got busy and then I got crazy sick but thankfully am mended.

2003 sure does seem like a long time ago doesn't it?  There was "Mission Accomplished", the Dow was at 10,000 and the Allard Baird Royals were leading the AL Central for a good part of the Summer.  They also had one of the hottest pitching prospects in all of baseball tearing up the minors in Zack Greinke. The Royals held the 5th overall pick in the June Draft.  They also got a compensation pick (#30 overall) for losing Paul Byrd to free agency. 

1st Round (overall pick #5

Let me pat myself on the back and say that I was not a fan of drafting Chris Lubanski-of course the guy I was hoping for has been an even bigger disappointment.  The reports on Baseball America in the days before the draft indicated that the Royals wanted to take Ryan Harvey a big HS outfielder with huge power.  The Royals desperately needed power at the time and I thought this guy was it.  (it turns out power was the only thing Harvey had).  Signability was an issue and the Royals decided not to take him at the last minute and went with Chris Lubanski-a HS CF from Pennsylvania.  Lubanski was supposed to be a 5 tool talent-who might take a little time to develop because he was from a cold-weather state.  His family had built a batting cage in the basement of their home so Chris could work on his hitting in the winter.  He signed quickly and he got off to a promising start in the Arizona League, posting a 834 OPS in over 200 abs.

In 2004, he went to the Midwest league where he posted a 759 OPS.  He stole 16 bases and got caught 11 times-not great for a guy who was supposed to be a burner and the whispers about his CF defense had already started.  In 2005 he went to the High Desert and had an inflated 903 OPS with 38 walks and 131 Ks but was already being moved over to LF because his arm couldn't play in right and he couldn't cover enough ground in center.  2006 looked like it would be a pivotal year as he went to AA.  He posted an 844 OPS in AA that year and then and 851 OPS for the first half of 2007.  He was talking more walks but his speed was all but gone.  Promoted in the middle of 2007 to Omaha, he struggled with an 636 OPS in 168 abs and a 18/48 bb/k ratio.  Last year, back at Omaha he posted a 754 OPS with a 38/130 bb/k ratio.  He's had a decent spring but its hard to see Lubanski as anything more than a 4th outfielder.  He supposedly worked on his speed this offseaon-probably so he can play something beside LF and make himself more valuable coming off the bench.  He will turn 24 in a few weeks so he's still relatively young and there is always the chance he goes Mike Aviles on us-which would be great-but I'm not holding my breath. 

Here is how I would rate Lubanski against the 9 players taken after him:

  1. Nick Markakis-Orioles-pick #7
  2. John Danks-Rangers #9
  3. Lastings Milledge-Mets #12
  4. Ian Stewart-Rockies #10
  5. Paul Maholm-Pirates #8
  6. Aaron Hill-Blue Jays #13
  7. Michael Aubrey-Indians #11
  8. Ryan Wagner-Reds #14
  9. Chris Lubanski-Royals--#5
  10. Ryan Harvey-Cubs-#6

You can't win them all can you?  Everyone raked the Orioles over the coals for taking Markakis as a hitter--most folks thought he should be a pitcher.  The 2003 draft seems like it was pretty light on talent.

1st Round 30th Overall (for Paul Byrd)

The previous year was the famous "Moneyball" draft of the A's. By the summer of 03, Michael Lewis' book was being talked about in baseball circles.  Who knows if that had any influence at all but the Royals took a high OBP college player with this pick-Mitch Maier from the University of Toledo.  Mitch hit 448/525/691 his junior season as a catcher.  We moved him to third base and eventually the outfield-where he is a good defensive player.  Maier hit great in Arizona league in 03, struggled a little at Burlington in 04, raked in High Desert in 05, did OK at AA in 06, struggled in AAA in 07 and improved in AAA in 08.  Drafting Maier seemed like a good idea at the time and he's not a total flop but it shows what a crapshoot taking the supposedly safest route in the draft is.  He will probably go back to Omaha this year and could be useful as a fourth outfielder but if a teams has to play him every day in the big leagues that isn't a very good sign.

Supplemental 1st Round picks included: Matt Murton, Adam Miller, Adam Jones, Jarrod Saltamacchia

2nd Round

The Royals went back to the college realm for their 2nd round choice a stocky outfielder from Cal-Stat-San Bernadino-Shane Costa.  Costa is similar to Maier-Costa's bat is probably a little better and Maier's got the edge when it comes to the glove.  Costa is already 27 but I've always been curious what he could do with semi-regular playing time.

Other picks in this round: Tom Gorzelanny, Ryan Sweeney, Andre Ethier, Nate Schierholtz

3rd Round

As they did in 2002, the Royals used their 3rd round pick for a "who is that?" choice.  Robert McFall was a JUCO 1st baseman and Chandler-Glibert.  He wasn't on the radar for the top 5 rounds but the Royals liked his power even though the rest of his game was not real polished.   He has produced good power with a lot of Ks and not many walks.  In 2007, he looked like perhaps he had turned a corner, posting an 841 OPS in Wilmington. 

A year ago I was touting him as a sleeper prospect.  But at AA he posted an 783 OPS-decent but not great for a 24 year old corner outfielder. It seem unlikely he will ever contribute at the big league level. 

Other picks in this round: Chris Ray, Ryan Garko, Shaun Marcum, Sean Rodriguez

4th Round

In the 4th Round the Royals took a HS 3rd baseman from Puerto Rico, Miguel Vega.  There were actually rumblings that this kid might go in the 1st round.  He was known for huge power but being raw.  The Royals took him and I was convinced we had a steal.  We didn't.  His bb/k ratios for 06 and 07:12/122, 19/137.  He got 74 abs in Wilmington last year and then didn't play anymore-I'm guessing he got hurt.  We'll see if he's still around this year or not.

Other picks in this round: Jonathan Papelbon, Michael Bourn, Josh Anderson

Other picks of note:

5th-9th Rounds

In the 5th-9th Rounds the Royals took 5 college seniors.  Chris Goodman, Ryan Braun, Mike Aviles, Brandon Powell and John Gragg.  They offered each of these seniors a take it or leave it signing bonus of $1,000-which is well below what players in those round normally get.  These 5 guys were out of college eligibility so they couldn't go back to school and if they wanted to pursue baseball-they had to sign. 

For $5,000 the Royals got what looks to be a average/good SS in Mike Aviles and once upon a time closer prospect in Ryan Braun.  For the money, that's a good deal.   But I also can't help but wonder that those tactics helped either cement or reinforce the idea of the Royals being desperately and stupidly cheap and that David Glass was sitting on his pile of money while the Royals stunk.  Telling is the fact that this tactic was not used again by us and not by any other franchise that I know of (although the Royals were known for skimping in later rounds of the draft for the next few years). 

Back to Mike Aviles, the kid put up some crazy numbers in college.  He put up OPS numbers between 750-800 as he made his way up the system (the only exception being his initial taste of AAA in 2006-a 680 OPS).  Last year he went crazy in Omaha with a 1001 OPS and then came up here and for 419 at bats was one of the best shortstops in baseball. 

Other picks in this round: our own Brian Bannister, Kyle Kendrick, Reggie Willits, Brendan Ryan

10th Round Luis Cota

The Royals took a HS righty in the 10th Round-he went to JUCO and we followed him as a draft and follow.  Luis Cota's fastball spiked in the spring of 2004 and he was one of the top draft and follow prospects.  We could either sign him up until a few weeks before the draft or he would go back into the draft pool for 04.  We signed him for just over $1 million.  He had a decent 05 at Burlington but got lit up at High Desert in 06.  He missed 07 with injury and pitched 60 innings last year in the low minors.


The Royals wanted to improve their hitting depth in this draft.  The Royals first 5 picks were all hitters.  Other than that there is no theme that holds this draft together.  A Mix of HS and College player.  Cheap selections and an expensive draft and follow.  I'd give this draft a "C-".  A year ago, it might have gotten an "F". Your view of this draft depends on:

  1. if you think Mike Aviles will continue to be a good Major League player
  2. if you think Shane Costa, Mitch Maier, and even Chris Lubanski can be role players.

One thing I noticed from this draft: the Royals took a bunch of players from funky schools.  Lubanski from Pennsylvania-not exactly a baseball hotbed.  College players from: U. of Toledo, Cal. State Bernanadino, Georgia Institute of Technology.  The Royals seemed to want to take some good "stats" guys but from small schools where the stats were not as meaningful (caveat: the one guy who panned out was from Concordia College).