Since 1990 Baseball America has put out a list of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball every year. Every year the Royals have had at least one player on that list. Just for a bit of perspective, if everything were equal each team would have 3-4 prospects on that list every year - 100 prospects divided between 26, 28, and 30 teams depending on the year.
Our own Shaun Newkirk theorized that the Royals may not actually get a player on to that list in 2017 since Raul Mondesi spent the last half of the year with the big league club and Kyle Zimmer’s latest injury seems likely to have knocked him off the list, finally. So this seems like it might be an excellent time to see just how important Royals top 100 prospects have proven to be in the past.
Number 1 prospect: Steve Avery, LHP for Atlanta. Avery had an 11 year career as a serviceable starting pitcher, including one very good season in 1993 where he went 18-6 with a 2.94 ERA and pitched 223.1 innings.
Royals Prospects: 31 - 1B Bob Hamelin; 86 - RHP Kevin Appier
Even if you didn’t see him play, you’ve probably heard the stories about Bob "The Hammer" Hamelin. He didn’t actually debut until 1993, and didn’t exceed rookie limits until ‘94. But oh how good that 94 was; Hamelin slashed .282/.388/.599/.987 with 24 home runs in only 101 games, and won Rookie of the Year honors. The team had high hopes for him but he cratered in 1995, slashing .168/.278/.313/.591 - sub-Escobar numbers - in 72 games.
Bob never did play more than 110 games in a season, and never again lived up to that initial promise. The Royals released him late in spring training of ‘97, he signed with the Tigers and played his second best year, there. In ‘98 he signed a deal with the Brewers but couldn’t get his swing back, he was released by the Brewers following that season and never played major league ball again.
Hamelin now works a scout in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Kevin Appier had a much better career, and mostly for the Royals.. He’d actually made his debut in 1989, even starting 5 games. He came in third in ROY voting in 1990, in ‘93 he got third in Cy Young voting and 24th in MVP voting. He was an All-Star in 95. His best year was ‘93, he went 18-8 with a 2.56 ERA and 186 strikeout to only 183 hits in 238.2 innings.
Appier was traded to the Athletics at the 1999 deadline for three right-handed pitching prospects: Jeff D’Amico, Brad Rigby, and Blake Stein. None of these made a large impact in major league baseball, and only Rigby ever appeared in the majors for a team other than the Royals. Stein did set a Royals record for consecutive strikeouts, fanning 8 straight Brewers in what eventually turned out to be a 5-2 loss in 2001.
Appier was a free agent for the first time following the 2000 season and signed with the Mets, but was traded the following year to the Angels for Mo Vaughn. The Angels released Appier because he was pitching poorly - later it was discovered he had an undiagnosed injury - in July of 2003. He quickly signed with the Royals and attempted to make a comeback but managed only four starts before the year ended. He signed a new deal with the Royals but missed most of 2004. He retired and un-retired multiple times in 2005 before finally calling it quits for good.
Appier did win a world series ring with the 2002 Angels, though his playoff appearances, especially in the World series did not go well. He was inducted into the Royals hall of fame in 2011. I was unable to determine what Kevin is up to these days, though his son Garrett is a Division II shot put star with Pittsburg State and finished sixth in his Rio Olympics trial.
Other Notable Prospects:
10 - SS Jose Offerman, Dodgers - traded to the Royals following an All-Star season for pitcher Billy Brewer.
33 - 3B Dean Palmer, Rangers - Traded at the 1997 deadline to the Royals for outfielder Tom Goodwin.
Number 1 prospect: Todd Van Poppel, RHP for the Oakland Athletics. Todd never lived up to the hype, though he bounced around the big leagues for 12 different seasons. His best year was as a reliever for the Cubs in 2001. He had a 2.52 ERA and 90 strikeouts in only 75 innings.
Royals Prospects: 45 - 1B Jeff Conine; 67 - OF Kerwin Moore
Conine made his major league debut in 1990 but didn’t exceed his rookie limits until 1993, because he was blocked by Royals "all-time great", David Howard. Even then, he had his rookie year with the Florida Marlins because he was selected in the ‘92 expansion draft when the Royals again chose to protect Howard instead of Conine. Conine came in third in ROY voting in 93, and was selected as an All-Star in ‘94 and ‘95 while also receiving MVP votes those years. He even won the ASG MVP in ’95. David Howard, it should be noted, did none of those things.
Conine won a world series with the Marlins in ‘97 before being traded back to the Royals for minor leaguer Blaine Mull (who never did reach the big leagues) as part of the traditional Marlins celebratory fire sale. The Royals traded him to the Orioles at the start of the ‘99 season for LHP Chris Fussell. When he reached free agency that year, Conine chose to re-sign with the Orioles. In 2003 he was traded back to the Marlins at the waiver deadline for Don Levinski and Denny Bautista, the latter of whom would later be traded to the Royals for Jason Grimsley.
Conine won another world series with the Marlins on 2003, but this time stuck with them. He later signed back with the Orioles and was traded to the Phillies, Reds, and Mets. He signed a one-day contract with the Marlins in order to retire in 2008.
Conine works as a co-host for the Marlins and pre- and post-game shows when the Marlins are home, while also serving as a special assistant to the Marlins team president.
You can’t be blamed if you’ve never heard of Kerwin Moore. He was also selected from the Royals by the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft. Eventually he was traded to the Athletics for Kurt Abbott. He made his major league debut in 1996 for Oakland and played in 22 games, primarily as a defensive replacement, getting only 1 hit in 16 at bats, a double. He never saw the big leagues again.
Other notable prospects:
4 - SS Jose Offerman, Dodgers.
8 - OF Reggie Sanders, Reds - Had a very productive career, spent his last two - mostly unproductive - seasons with the Royals after signing as a Free Agent.
13 - OF Rondell White, Expos - Was a trade deadline acquisition by the Royals in 2003, the Royals sent prospects Chris Tierney and Brian Sanches.
14 - OF Raul Mondesi, Dodgers - Father of current Royals SS prospect, Raul Mondesi.
60 - 3B Dean Palmer, Rangers.
72 - 2B Chuck Knoblauch, Twins - Chuck was an excellent second baseman for the Twins for a long time, but developed the yips while playing with the Yankees. The Royals signed him as a free agent to play left field in 2002, his final season.
74 - OF Tom Goodwin, Dodgers - The Royals selected him off waivers from the Dodgers in 1994.
Number 1 Prospect: LHP Brien Taylor, Yankees - Never made it to the big leagues.
Royals Prospects: 59 - RHP Joel Johnston; 77 - OF Darren Burton
Joel Johnston is another unmemorable player. He made his major league debut in 1991, but didn’t exceed rookie limits until 1993. His best season was that first year, where he allowed only 1 run in 22.1 innings while striking out 21 as a reliever. Following 1992 where he appeared in only 5 big league games he was traded with Dennis Moeler for Jose Lind. He had a decent season in 1993, but still only got 3.1 innings in ‘94 and 4 innings in ‘95 before moving on. Johnston currently lives in Pennsylvania.
Darren Burton, on the other hand, never even reached the majors.
Other Notable Prospects:
11 - OF Reggie Sanders, Reds.
12 - OF Rondell White, Expos.
21 - OF Raul Mondesi, Dodgers.
22 - 1B David McCarty, Twins - McCarty was traded to the Royals by the Athletics during the 2000 Spring Training for cash. On a personal note, Dave hit a 2-run home run off Troy Percival in Anaheim during that 2000 season that tied a game in the ninth that the Royals eventually won in extra innings. It was the first time I ever begged a Royals hitter to hit a home run in my mind and succeeded. He’ll always be one of my favorites for that reason.
45 - Roberto Hernandez, White Sox - Acquired as part of a three team deal with the Devil Rays and Athletics in the 2001 pre-season. Royals gave up Johnny Damon and 2B prospect Mark Ellis to the A’s to acquire Angel Berroa, A. J. Hinch from the A’s and Hernandez from the Devil Rays.
So in the first three years of the list, the Royals had six top 100 prospects. One turned into a star and one turned into an above average major league ball player. Then there were four busts. 33% may not sound like a good average, but this is a tiny sample size and prospects fail all the time. Look at Brien Taylor, there. He was considered the best prospect in all of baseball in 1992 and he never even made it the big leagues.
This seems to be proving like a moderately fun walk down memory lane; I don't know about you but I had forgotten how much I actually knew about some of these guys. The list will continue next week.