Take Your Pick: Royals Draft Flashback, Part 2 (1973-1977)

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Photo Credit: Fanatics
Photo Credit: Fanatics /
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It was during these amateur drafts that we start to see the nucleus of the Royals’ playoff teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The lower rounds of the MLB draft still served mostly to pad minor league rosters. It gave a lot of also-rans and never-weres a few reps, but the early rounds generated some Royal gems.

NOTE: I neglected to mention in part one that Frank White, one of the top five Royals ever, was signed as an undrafted free agent in the otherwise epic fail year of 1970.

1973

The Royals were a non-entity in the 1973 amateur draft, which featured two Hall of Famers (Robin Yount and Dave Winfield) in the first five picks. Lew Olsen, chosen ninth overall, showed early promise as a righty SP before rotator cuff issues derailed him at AAA Omaha. Third round pick Ruppert Jones became an All-Star, but with the Mariners and Padres. Jones went six picks ahead of the other Hall of Famer in the draft, Eddie Murray. After Jones, only three Royals picks (catcher Mike Colbern, RHP Sandy Wihtol, and SS Chuck Baker) saw morsels of Major League action.

1974

The Royals’ 1974 draft revolved around two men with the same name, born in the same state. Willie Wilson, selected 18th overall, and William Wilson, chosen in the 22nd round. The pride of Summit, NJ Big Willie blitzed through the minors before making the show in ‘76, then becoming the Royals’ everyday left fielder by mid-1978. The other Willie, a raw LHP from Montclair, didn’t make it out of the Rookie League.

The rest of the Royals’ 1974 draft haul was an interesting hodgepodge. Pat “Tommy” Curran, first drafted in 1972, resurfaced in the 4th round (90th overall). Kevin Lahey, a short-time innings-eater in the low minors, went in the 7th round. Lahey was four spots ahead of future MLB skipper Ron Roenicke. Ed Sempsrott, the Royals’ 8th round pick, was chosen immediately before Denny Walling. Sempsrott eventually found a higher calling. An Illinois-born pitcher named Scott Sanderson spurned the Royals after going in the 11th round. Sanderson was re-drafted by Montreal in 1977, then went on to be a respectable SP with Les Expos, Cubs, and Yankees.

1975

The 1975 amateur draft was one of the weakest ever, by many accounts. No All-Stars came out of the first round there was only one Hall of Famer, Andre Dawson, in the entire draft. (The Cubs picked Lee Smith in the second round, but that’s an argument for another time.) Dawson went in the 11th round, one spot behind the Royals’ pick, Triple-A outfielder Danny Garcia.

At ninth overall, Clint Hurdle spent five years on the Royals’ big league bench before becoming a respected manager. Elsewhere on the list, Double-A outfielder Kevin Gillen went three spots ahead of Keith Moreland (7th round) and unsigned catcher James Murphy was one ahead of Mike Boddicker (8th round). Ron Hassey, no stranger to history, was selected by KC in the 22nd round. Hassey opted to stay in school, then went to Cleveland in the ‘76 draft.

1976

The pattern of near-misses continued into 1976. The Royals swung and missed in a deep draft with four future Hall of Famers and 18 total All-Stars. Hurler Ben Grzybek, the Royals’ first selection, couldn’t get past Double-A Jacksonville. He also went one spot ahead of Mike Scioscia.  First overall pick Floyd Bannister eventually pitched for KC, but only two Royals picks saw Major League daylight. Jim Gaudet (one hit in 14 plate appearances) went in the sixth round. Ken Phelps, a 15th rounder, bounced around the majors for a decade but did most of his damage in a Mariners uni. Some guy named Darrell Vosejpka was sandwiched in the seventh round between Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Wade Boggs.

1977

The 1977 draft plays like a “who’s who” of 1980s Major League regulars. Again, the Royals totally muffed it. KC, an AL West powerhouse at this point, perhaps didn’t emphasize the amateur draft. First-round pick Mike Jones made some spot starts in the majors, but Dave Henderson was still on the board. In the second round, the Royals passed on Sanderson for lefty SP Mike Morley (5-4, 4.13 ERA in parts of two years in Omaha). In the fifth round, the team selected slow-throwing single-A pitcher William Miller over Tim Raines. Geoffrey Nash (15th round) was a Rookie League washout. The guy selected four slots behind him went on to see MLB and NBA action: Danny Ainge.

This concludes the summary of the 1973-1977 MLB Draft. I hope you all enjoyed reading a bit about Royals history. Drop some comments below if you have any tidbits to add!

Next time: an analysis of Royals MLB Draft history from 1978 to 1982.

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