As the decade of the 2000s opened, the Kansas City Royals had never had a 100-loss season in their storied history. They lost 97 in their second season, which could be expected for an expansion team. They didn’t match that futility again until 1999 - 24 seasons! From that point on, it was Katy bar the door. They lost 97 games in 2001, then to prove that wasn’t a fluke, lost 100 in 2002. They pulled a rabbit out of their hat in 2003, turning in a surprising 83-79 record. Then the bottom fell out. They closed the decade with consecutive seasons of 104, 106, 100, 93, 87, and 97 losses. The table for all of this losing was set in the 1990s when the Royals brain trust of John Schuerholz, Art Stewart, Herk Robinson and Terry Wetzel totally wet the bed, turning in year after year of failed drafts along with a series of unbelievably bad trades.
A new decade brings a clean slate. The Florida Marlins held the #1 pick in the 2000 draft and selected first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who ended up having an excellent 43 WAR, 15-year career. The Royals held the 4th pick and after having choked on all of their college arms selected in the 1990’s, went with a high school pitcher from Corona, California named Mike Stodolka. Stodolka never made the majors, not even after converting to play first base. The Royals passed on Rocco Baldelli (#6), Chase Utley (#15) and Adam Wainwright (#29).
The Royals finally got it right in Round 4 when they selected David DeJesus with pick #104. The only other significant player they missed in the first three rounds was Grady Sizemore who went to Montreal in the third at #75. The Cardinals also scored in the 4th, nabbing future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina at #113. The Royals got pitcher Ryan Bukvich in round 11. One of the better mid-round selections was by the Cubs in the 8th when they selected high kicking Dontrelle “D-Train” Willis with pick #223. Edwin Encarnacion went in the 9th round to Texas. The best late-round pick was Big Game James Shields to Tampa in the 16th. The Royals selected 50 players of which seven made the majors. Four made their debuts with Kansas City. The Royals draft haul combined for 21.8 career WAR, which is misleading since DeJesus career WAR was 23.4. This draft was the last for Herk Robinson and Terry Wetzel.
Grade: C -
The 2001 draft had some elite talent at the top. The Twins held the #1 pick and selected hometown boy Joe Mauer. Mark Prior went #2 and Mark Teixeira went #5. The Royals, with a new GM in Allard Baird and a new scouting director in Deric Ladnier, had the 9th pick and selected Texas high school fireballer Colt Griffin. In a perfect world, they would have taken third baseman David Wright, who went to the Mets with pick 38. The 2000s weren’t starting any better than the 1990s for the Royals. They blew the first ten picks of the 2001 draft before finally finding a major leaguer in the 11th with Angel Sanchez. He played eight games for the 2006 Royals before being waived. The Royals had a big miss when Missouri State’s Ryan Howard went to the Phillies in the 5th round. Howard and his 382 career home runs would have solved the Royals first base problem for many years. The best player selected by Kansas City in 2001? Had to be pitcher Taylor Tankersley, who they didn’t sign.
In moving away from college pitchers, the Royals missed Dan Haren, Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Davies (kidding), and C.J. Wilson, college arms all. The best late-round pick was Jonny Gomes by the Rays in the 18th round. The 2001 draft for the Royals was horrible. It was one of the worst in franchise history, which is saying something. Four of their 50 choices made the majors and combined for negative 0.9 WAR.
The Pirates held the first pick in 2002 and selected Ball State pitcher Bryan Bullington. Baird and Company held the 6th pick and hit a grand slam when they selected Apopka, Florida high school pitcher Zach Greinke. Starting with the Greinke pick, an astounding 15 consecutive picks played in the majors. No complaints about the Greinke pick. He was the best of the first round and probably the best of the entire draft. Good job guys!
The remaining 49 players selected by the Royals were forgettable. Seven made the majors for a combined 69 WAR (and counting). Greinke, who’s on his way to Cooperstown, has been worth over 72 WAR. That tells you how stinky the rest of their draft was. After Greinke, the Royals missed some excellent players such as Jon Lester, Curtis Granderson, Josh Johnson, Pat Neshek and Howie Kendrick. They did nab fan favorite Kila Kaaihue in the 15th, so there’s that.
Tampa held the top pick in the 2003 draft and selected high school outfielder Delmon Young. Kansas City held the 5th pick and selected Pennsylvania high school outfielder Chris Lubanski, passing on Nick Markakis (#7), David Murphy (#17), and Chad Cordero (#20). With the 30th pick in the first round, they selected Mitch Maier, while taking a pass on Jarrod Saltalamacchia (#36) and Adam Jones (#37). I would love to read the Royals scouting reports on what made them think Mitch was a better selection than Adam Jones!
Early in the second round, they nabbed Cal-State Fullerton shortstop Shane Costa with pick #40. Local product Shawn Marcum, out of Missouri State, would have been a better choice. Marcum went to the Jays at pick #80. The Royals’ best selection was in Round 7, when they grabbed Mike Aviles. Good finds in the mid-rounds were Matt Kemp of Midwest City, OK to the Dodgers in Round 6 and Tyler Clippard to the Yankees in round 9. The biggest late-round miss by the Royals was for another local product, Ian Kinsler of the University of Missouri, who went to the Rangers in the 17th round on his way to a 14-year, 55 WAR career. Imagine Kinsler at second base for the Royals, saving us from all the Getz, Gio, Yuni, Elliot Johnson, Infante years. Almost brings a tear to my eye. Columbia is 126 miles from Kauffman Stadium. Did the Royals even scout Mizzou? The Royals selected 51 players in the 2003 draft with eight of them eventually playing pro ball. Those eight combined for 6.9 WAR, almost all of which was Aviles.
The San Diego Padres held the #1 pick in the 2004 draft, and showing why they’ve never won a World Series, they passed on Justin Verlander to select local kid Matt Bush. The Tigers, happy to accept that gift from San Diego, immediately jumped on Verlander with the second pick. You got to give it up for Verlander. He’s lived a life: Rookie of the year, seven-time All Star, two Cy Young awards, an MVP, a World Series title, 226 wins and counting. And if that wasn’t enough, he married Kate Upton. He’s baseball’s version of Tom Brady.
Kansas City held the 14th pick and selected Florida high school hitting savant Billy Butler. No complaints here. Country Breakfast could swing the bat. The Royals also held the #31 pick in the first round and selected University of Texas pitcher J.P. Howell. Gio Gonzalez (#38) or Huston Street (#40) would have been better selections. The second round had some good talent: Hunter Pence, Dustin Pedroia, Kurt Suzuki, and Jason Vargas all went off the board after the Royals took Billy Buckner at #55. Wade Davis went to Tampa late in the third round and Ben Zobrist went to Houston in the sixth round. Lorenzo Cain was the late-round steal, going to the Brewers in the 17th round. Even though the Royals missed on all of these guys, you have to give them credit for eventually picking them up when it mattered. The 2004 draft held a lot of decent players, but Verlander appears to be the only lock for Cooperstown. The Royals selected 52 players with six making the show. Those six have combined for 19.6 WAR, all of which falls to Butler and Howell.
With the losses piling up, the Royals moved to the #2 position in the 2005 draft. Arizona had the top pick and used it on Virginia high school star Justin Upton. This allowed the Royals to select the college player of the year, Alex Gordon, from the University of Nebraska. It was the right choice and Gordon’s career has shown that. There were several other good players selected after Gordon – Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitski, Cameron Maybin and Andrew McCutcheon, but ask any Royals fan, me included, and we’ll take Alex any day, thank you very much.
Kansas City also had pick #50 in the second round and landed on Jeff Bianchi, who had a short career. Their remaining 48 picks all washed out. The success rate of the 2005 draft, 2 out of 50, was one of the lowest in years, saved only by Gordon. Jeremy Hellickson was a nice pickup by the Rays in the 4th round. Lance Lynn went in the 6th and Michael Brantley in the 7th. Overall, the 2005 draft was light on top talent. No one from this class will get the call to Cooperstown and an argument can be made that the Royals got the best player in the entire draft.
For the first time in team history, the Royals had the #1 pick in the draft in 2006. There was plenty of top-flight pitching talent available and Kansas City selected pitcher Luke Hochevar from the University of Tennessee. This selection has been analyzed millions of times by the Royal faithful. Hochevar was a disappointment as a starter but did have some success late in his career as a late-inning set up man. In selecting Hochevar, the Royals passed on Evan Longoria, Andrew Miller, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, and University of Missouri pitcher Max Scherzer. Any one of those five would have been a better selection with Kershaw and Scherzer being capable of changing a franchise’s fortune.
The Royals also added Blake Wood in the third and most notably Jarrod Dyson with pick #1,475 in the 50th round. Seven of the fifty players they drafted made the majors and accumulated 23 WAR, with nearly all of that coming from their first and last selections. Pickings were slim after the first-round wave of talent but Justin Turner, a 7th round pick, eventually developed into a fine player. Same with Josh Reddick, who was picked in the 17th. There were four outstanding pitchers in this draft and scouting director Deric Ladnier missed on all of them.
Tampa held the first pick in 2007 and wisely used it on Vanderbilt pitcher David Price. The Royals held the second pick and selected California high school star Mike Moustakas. The only other pick that would have made sense would have been Madison Bumgarner, who went to San Francisco at #10, but most Royal fans were perfectly happy with Moose. The early part of the 2007 draft went very well for Kansas City. They picked up Danny Duffy in the third, Greg Holland in the 10th and David Lough in the 11th. Five of their fifty picks have played in the majors, accounting for almost 49 WAR, with Moustakas, Holland and Duffy earning the majority of that. Like any draft, there was some mid-round talent missed by all: Corey Kluber in the 4th, Jake Arrieta in the 5th, Anthony Rizzo in the 6th and Mitch Moreland in the 17th. With three major contributors, the 2007 draft was a win for the Royals.
The only advantage to losing is securing high draft picks and 2008 was no different for the Royals. Tampa once again held #1 and selected infielder Tim Beckham. The Royals, at #3, went with Florida high school first baseman Eric Hosmer. Buster Posey went at #5, Yonder Alonso at #7, and Gerrit Cole at #28, but the Royals got this right - Hosmer was the right guy for them. Late in the first, they selected pitcher Mike Montgomery and early in the second took Johnny Giovatella.
Kansas City also picked up John Lamb in the 5th and Blaine Hardy in the 22nd but gave up on Hardy before he developed. Seven of the fifty-one players they selected have made the majors, good for 27 WAR, with 17 of that coming from Hosmer. This draft produced a ton of players, but none in the mid to late rounds who cause you to lose any sleep second-guessing. Kolten Wong was a solid 16th round choice. Tanner Roark was a find in the 25th round and C.J. Cron was the lottery find of the 44th round.
Prior to the draft, MLB had a special Negro Leagues draft, where the surviving players of the Negro Leagues were drafted by major league teams. With the 7th pick, The Royals selected Ulysses Hollimon, a pitcher from the Birmingham Black Barons. Seven former members of the Kansas City Monarchs were selected.
In the last draft of the decade, the Washington Nationals held the #1 pick and selected pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The Royals held the #12 pick and used it on Aaron Crow of the University of Missouri. I’ve spent a lot of ink harping on the Royals’ inability to scout and draft local talent with misses on Pujols, Ryan Howard, Ian Kinsler, and Max Scherzer. They finally pick a local kid and…what can you say, Crow did have a couple of okay years. He threw 233 career innings. Not exactly stuff to write home about considering he was the 12th overall pick. Bottom line, they blew that one too.
The 2009 draft was of course the Mike Trout draft. Trout dropped to the Angels at pick #25. Many scouts passed on Trout since he played in a cold weather state with limited competition (New Jersey). Trout as you well know, was in the majors by 2011 and is at 75 WAR and counting. He’s arguably the best player of this generation and looks like he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection five years after he retires. The Royals didn’t have a second-round selection, but in the third picked up North Carolina high school star Wil Myers.
The Royals selected 49 players in this draft and nine have seen time in the majors. One of their misses was Luke Voit, who they selected in the 32nd round but did not sign. There was some good mid round talent in this draft: Dallas Keuchel (7th), Paul Goldschmidt and Brian Dozier (8th), Yan Gomes (10th), Matt Carpenter (13th), J.D. Martinez (20th) and Trevor Rosenthal (21st) have all made All-Star teams at various times. Royals picks in this draft have accumulated 22 WAR with half of that coming from Myers. Even though Myers never played an inning in Kauffman as a member of the Royals, he did bring value in the trade market with the return of James Shields and Wade Davis.
Next week: the 2010s