Kansas City Royals: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round
The Kansas City Royals have had a very strong 2013 season as the organization continues to build towards being competitive for the first time in…well a while. General Manager Dayton Moore has done a very good job at keeping the organization on track since he took over in 2006 and has taken advantage of some of Kansas’s horrendous seasons by applying a safe but logical drafting strategy each year in June. For Royals fans, they are just beginning to see the full effect of over 10 years of patience, very few other Major League teams can say they have drafted and developed as many above average players over the last decade. In celebration of that fact, let’s take a look at the Royals 1st round draft picks since 2003 and see where they stand now!
2013, Hunter Dozier, SS-Stephen F. Austin State (8th Overall), 22 Years Old
Dozier was drafted as a shortstop and is currently playing SS in Class A Lexington, but he’ll most likely make the move to third base before all is said and done. Not many kids who are 6’4″, 220 LBS will stay at SS. This kid is a flat out athlete having also played QB while in High School in Texas. Dozier slipped in under the radar a little this year with higher profile bats like Kris Bryant and Clint Frazier the main attractions early in the draft. Don’t let the weight fool you, Dozier is a pretty lean kid for his size and uses both to his advantage. The ball jumps off his bat, has a strong arm and decent reactions, projecting him as a proto-typical third baseman. In his 1st professional season, Dozier is batting .296 with 6 HR and 41 RBI and a .391 OBP with 30 of his 64 hits going for extra bases. He was only just recently promoted to Class A from his debut in the Rookie Pioneer league, but Dozier has a solid chance of opening the 2014 season in Double-A.
2012, Kyle Zimmer, RHP-University of San Francisco (5th Overall), 21 Years Old
The Top 4 picks in the 2012 Draft are familiar names to many baseball fans; Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, Mike Zunino, and Kevin Gausman, the last 2 have already made their major league debuts. Sliding into the 5th pick overall is Kyle Zimmer, who may only be known to Royals fans at this point. Zimmer is 6’3″ 215 LBS and projects to be a solid middle of the rotation arm. He doesn’t have the upside that Albert Amora does, who went 1 pick later but Zimmer represents a pick that looked to fill a need. A college arm that had the potential to move up quickly was, at the time, what the Royals needed most. Trading for James Shields months later helped fill that hole in the rotation a little bit faster, but I think most Royals fans want a do-over on that trade as it is given what Wil Myers is doing for the Rays. Zimmer has a 6-9 Record with a 4.32 ERA over 22 starts in the minors this season, not exactly numbers that scream excellence. Despite his average performance, Zimmer made his Double-A debut on July 20th and has made 3 more starts since that time, and is 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 27 K’s in just 18.2 innings pitched. Apparently Zimmer just needed a challenge.
2011, Bubba Starling, OF-Gardner Edgerton High School (5th overall), 21 Years Old
One of my favorite names in baseball, Bubba Starling was one of the most hyped players in the 2011 Draft. Billed as a no-doubt 5 tool superstar, Starling has all the raw tools to become a fantastic ballplayer, but hasn’t quite lit the world on fire since his debut. This is still only his first full professional season so it’s far too early to give up on a player with his skill set. A couple of players taken a few picks later in that same draft were Francisco Lindor (8th overall) Javier Baez (9th Overall), George Springer (11th Overall), and Jose Fernandez (14th Overall). Given how well those players are doing right now, it’s a little disappointing that he has posted a .235 AVG with 10 HR and 57 RBI over 400 AB’s. That being said, he’s also stolen 21 bases and been caught just 3 times. He is still showing all the raw tools he was drafted for, but it may take 2-3 more years before he rounds into form as a bit of late bloomer. (Note: Jose Fernandez might be the gem of the last several drafts, over Harper and Trout included)
2010, Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton (4th Overall), 24 Years Old
Colon was picked 1 spot behind Manny Machado, although at the time 2010 was basically just the Bryce Harper draft. Colon came in with some underwhelming reviews for a 4th overall draft pick, his individual tools didn’t stand out in any one place, but he was an all around solid prospect and maybe a bit more of a safe pick in the long term. So far, those reviews have held true. In 2012, things looked like they were coming together when he put together a .301 AVG with 6 HR and 36 RBI. The power was lacking, something that has changed this year with a full season with Triple-A Omaha with 12 HR and 53 RBI, but his average has suffered sitting at just .266 through 466 AB’s this year. Long term he projects as a decent middle infielder who could potentially hit 20 HR’s one day which would make this a pretty successful pick. The Royals passed over both Matt Harvey and Chris Sale who went 7th and 13th respectively.
2009, Aaron Crow, RHP,Forth Worth Cats (Missouri), (12th Overall)-26 Years Old
Aaron Crow had pretty high expectations when he was drafted in 2009, projected as a potential ace. He was drafted 9th overall in 2008 by the Nationals but decided not to sign, choosing to play independent league for the Fort Worth Cats. He actually dropped 3 spots in the draft the following season, but was still seen as a front-line starter. That goal never came to fruition though. In 2010, his last year as a starter, Crow had 29 starts posting a 5.66 ERA over 119.1 innings pitched. In 2011, Crow made his major league debut as a reliever, and has never made a start in the majors to this day. That was probably the right career move though, he posted a 2.76 ERA in his rookie season out of the pen, and has followed that up with ERA’s of 3.48 and 3.12 over 2012 and 2013. He still has the stuff to potentially become a closer some day if given the opportunity, but either way he has become a very dependable bullpen arm. Most of Major League Baseball passed over Mike Trout, when he was selected 25th overall in this same draft. (Side note, the Angels actually had the 24th pick as well, and selected Randal Grichuk before Trout).
2008, Eric Hosmer, 1B-American Heritage H.S, Plantation, Fla. (3rd Overall)-23 Years Old
My favorite player on this list, Eric Hosmer has carried the hype with him since the day he was drafted. Widely considered the top high school player in the 2008 draft at the time. Hosmer is a stud, he’s had an up and down career so far, but has always displayed the abilities it will take to reach the ceiling that is expected of him. A fantastic rookie season of 19 HR and 78 RBI with 11 SB and a .293 AVG only furthered the hype. Then…came the slump, a really long slump over almost a season and a half. He batted just .232 in 2012 posting 14 HR and 60 RBI, and then opened this season on a significantly worse power pace and the same awful average. Panic may have began to set in, but Hosmer has killed those doubts after a torrid last couple of months this summer. Over the last 30 days he has batted .336 with 5 HR, 12 XBH and 18 RBI. He’s back, and he’s a future MVP candidate in my opinion.
Side Note: I recently STOLE Hosmer in a trade with fellow BHC writer Brendan Panikkar in our Fantasy baseball league. Now I’m rubbing it in publically 🙂
2007, Mike Moustakas, 3B, Chatsworth H.S (California), (2nd Overall), 24 Years Old
Another hyped bat in the Royals System, Moustakas went 2nd overall right behind David Price, who realistically would have been the Royals dream pick given the teams current needs. The Royals didn’t complain too much though, originally drafted as a shortstop, it was clear to mostly everyone that he would eventually move to 3rd base which as we know he eventually did. Moustakas has had a decent start to his career given his age, this is his 3rd professional season and he still has time to bring his game together and be a late bloomer. He has shown the ability to hit for power and drive in runs, but the average has never been very good at this level. Best case scenario he can produce a .270-30 HR-100 RBI season some day, but I somehow see that level of production being limited to a season or two.
2006, Luke Hochevar, RHP-Wray, Colorado, (1st Overall), 29 Years Old
Royals fans may just skip over this part of the list, it’s too painful a memory. Evan Longoria went 3rd, Clayton Kershaw went 7th. Projected as a future ace, Hochevar just never came close to those expectations. He spent FIVE whole seasons as part of the Royals rotation, never posting an ERA below 4.68. He was pretty awful. This year, the Royals miraculously decided to go the Aaron Crow route and move Hochevar to the bullpen. Guess what? he has thrived there this season, posting a 1.94 ERA over 51 innings pitched. Even though Aaron Crow and Hochevar can be considered complete busts, it’s nice to see they still play an important role in the big club’s plans.
2005, Alex Gordon, 3B/OF, Nebraska, (2nd Overall), 29 Years Old
This was a pretty productive 1st round for Major League Baseball all-around. Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton and Jacoby Ellsbury all went in the 1st round. Gordon was taken 2nd, just behind Upton. Considering the caliber of the other players listed, Gordon could be considered a bust by some. I wouldn’t call him that though, maybe he has never reached the same heights as many of the other players have he has been a relatively consistent contributor over the last 3 seasons. He’s dipped a little this year batting just .264 with 13 HR and 63 RBI, a far cry from his breakout 2011 season where he hit 23 HR drove in 87 runs and batted .303 with 17 steals. All that being said, in the scheme of things I think the Royals would have liked to spend the extra cash it would have taken to draft some of the other high profile names. Budget has been a draft issue in the past for the team.
2004, Billy Butler, 1B/3B, Wolfson Highschool, (14th Overall), 27 Years Old
Country Breakfast himself! Billy Butler was a great pick for the Royals and has continued to be a reliable bat for the team for the last several years. Over 7 seasons Butler is batting .299 with 115 HR and 542 RBI. 2012 was a banner year for Butler, batting .313 with 29 HR and 107 RBI. He came back down to a earth a little this season though, batting .289 with 12 HR and 62 RBI. There’s not much to say about Butler other than well done Kansas City, well done.
2004-Matt Campbell, LHP, South Carolina, (29th Overall), 30 Years Old
Campbell hasn’t played professional baseball since 2007 when he was 24 years old and never played higher than Class A advanced Wilmington. Bust.
2003, Chris Lubanski, OF-Kennedy Kenrick Highschool (5th Overall), 28 Years Old
The curious Case of Chris Lubanski, a highly touted outfielder, Lubanski actually had a ridiculous 2005 season in the minors in advanced class-A. He hit .301 with 28 HR and 116 RBI in 126 games, that was his peak though. He posted semi-solid numbers throughout the next several seasons but never performed up to standard in AAA. In 2011, Lubanski fizzled out and left professional baseball for an independent league.
Analysis: The Royals have had a pretty solid last 10 years of 1st round picks when all is said and done. 2003 and 2004 didn’t go so well, but all of the players drafted between 2005 and 2009 are currently on the Royals major league roster and have had varying levels of success. Hunter Dozier, Christian Colon, and Kyle Zimmer should all be major league contributors in some form as well, even if they aren’t superstars.
BHC Pick of the Litter: Eric Hosmer
BHC Franchise Flop: Luke Hochevar