No. 9) Al Cowens 1977
There are few bigger draft steals in Kansas City Royals history than Al Cowens. In the 1969 draft — the first in the expansion team’s history, the Royals selected the outfielder in the 75th round. Suffice it to say, he outperformed that distinction in his career.
In 1977, Cowens almost became one of the most unlikely league MVPs and picked up his only Gold Glove.
Granted, Cowens never turned into a perennial All-Star. In fact, he failed to play in even a single Midsummer Classic. But for a player drafted No. 1,028 overall, just playing in the big leagues is an incredible achievement. That’s not to say he didn’t have others. In 1977, Cowens almost became one of the most unlikely league MVPs and picked up his only Gold Glove.
It was Cowens’ fourth season in the majors, and the then-25-year-old played every game. He piled up 189 hits, including an incredible 69 extra-base hits — 32 doubles, 14 triples and 23 home runs for 318 total bases. Cowens hit to a line of .312/.361/.525 — all of which wound up being career-highs. To round out his stats, the right-handed hitting Cowens scored 98 runs and drove in 112.
Only Rod Carew‘s .388 batting average kept Cowens from winning AL MVP honors. Unfortunately, he came back down to earth in 1978 and eventually got traded to the Angels prior to the 1980 season. The Royals’ return included Willie Aikens, who put together a wonderful performance in the World Series that fall. Cowens also spent time with the Tigers and Mariners, but he never could replicate his remarkable 1977 campaign.