Later today, the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft will being. The Royals have three first round selections in that draft, with picks 17, 28 and 40. While it is a bit harder to find impact players later in the draft, those prospects taken in the first round are generally expected to be solid contributors at the major league level. While disappointments can happen, those players are expected to be building blocks for a team’s future.
While every team has their hits and misses in the draft, this post will focus on the Royals hits in the draft. Based on WAR during their Royals tenure, here are the top three players that the Royals have drafted in the first round.
1. Kevin Appier: While Johnny Damon may have the highest career WAR of any player the Royals drafted in the first round at 56.0 in his career, only 17.3 of that came as a member of the Royals, knocking him down the list. In his place comes one of the top pitchers in Kansas City Royals history in Kevin Appier. Appier, over his career in Kansas City, posted a 115-92 record with a 3.49 ERA and a 1.250 WHiP, striking out over seven batters per nine innings. Those marks were good enough for Appier to be worth 47.3 WAR with the Royals, most amongst first round draft picks. Unfortunately, as great as Appier was for the Royals, he was unable to make the postseason in Kansas City. He did, however, manage to win a World Series as a part of the Los Angeles Angels run in 2002. The Royals pick in the 1987 MLB Amateur Draft, Appier is the Royals all-time leader in WAR and strikeouts, and has proven to be the best of the first round selections thus far.
2. Willie Wilson: Taken with the Royals first round pick, number 18 overall, in 1974, Willie Wilson was one of the Royals all time greats. A two time All-Star, Wilson won a Gold Glove award, was a Silver Slugger twice, and led the American League in triples five times. Known for his speed, Wilson stole 612 bases with the Royals, including a league leading 83 in 1979. Overall, Wilson produced a .289/.329/.382 batting line with 1968 hits. Wilson ranks in the top five in many Royals offensive categories all time, and is the in stolen bases.
3. Zack Greinke: Depending on how Alex Gordon performs this season, he could eclipse Grienke and end up in this spot next year, but for now, Zack Greinke holds down being the Royals third best first round pick. Selected with the sixth overall pick in 2002, Greinke was not a member of the Royals nearly as long as the other names on the list, but he packed a lot of value into his seven seasons. During his tenure with the Royals, Greinke only had a 60-67 record with a 3.82 ERA, but he also helped provide plenty of excitement for the Royals in 2009. That year, Greinke was an All-Star and won the Cy Young award with his 16-8 record and league leading 2.16 ERA. Greinke also provided value for the Royals after leaving, having been traded for a package that included Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain.
In this year’s draft, we can hope that the Royals are able to draft another Grienke, Wilson or Appier; another player who can be a true building block for the franchise. Perhaps, with any luck, one of the Royals first round draft picks this year will end up on this list in the future.