The KC Royals used their third first round pick in 1998 (31st overall) on a left-handed high school pitcher that actually made it to the big leagues. That lefty was Chris George, who made his big league debut on July 25, 2001.
The future looked bright, as he was a Futures Game selection in both 2000 and 2001 and brought home the USA’s last gold medal in baseball in 2000.
It has been a LONG road since for the friendly Texan.
2005 was George’s last season in the Royals minor league system and he never reached the Majors again. His last time in the big leagues was 2004 when he was 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA in ten games (seven starts). In the big leagues, he walked 95 and struck out 99 in 237.1 career innings.
That final season with the Royals was spent in Triple-A Omaha, where he went 8-8, but allowed 27 home runs and opponents hit .296 against him. Though he struck out 103, George also walked 51 in 147 innings (32 appearances, 20 of which were starts).
George signed with the Florida Marlins and spent 2006 and 2007 with Triple-A Albuquerque. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League once again, he only allowed six home runs in 2006, but opponents hit .311 against him. The next season, he allowed 21 home runs in 26 starts. In two seasons with the Isotopes, he walked 120 in 246.2 innings compared to 176 strikeouts.
2008 saw George back in the PCL, but this time with Colorado Springs. He only allowed one homer in 27 relief appearances, but he allowed 39 hits and walked 18. He was released in June and about a week later, he signed with Toronto. George was still in Triple-A, but a new league (the International League, which is more pitcher-friendly). There, opponents hit .319 against him in 22 appearances.
2009 saw more traveling for George. He was with three organizations, finally landing with Baltimore. The Orioles seemed like a good fit (he spent the next three seasons with Triple-A Norfolk).
George was a great veteran to have on the staff in Norfolk, which was full of youngsters. They all looked up to him and went to him for advice (which was readily given). In five starts at the end of 2009, he had just a 1.86 ERA and struck out 19 (compared to just three walks) in 29 innings.
2010 was his best season in Norfolk, a season I thought (as did his teammates) deserved a big league promotion. Unfortunately, none came. Despite a 4.20 ERA and a 5-7 record, opponents only hit .264 against him (his lowest average over his last eight seasons). He struck out 101, compared to 36 walks, in 124.1 innings.
In 2011, George had a winning record (7-5) with a similar ERA (4.27), but his walks rose (56) and his strikeouts went down (73) in a few more innings (130.2 innings). The start of 2012 was rough (11.25 ERA over just eight innings) and George’s career was over.
*Check out a Q&A George did with USA Baseball back in 2010 about his time in the Olympics.
Topics: Kansas City Royals