As an organization, the Kansas City Royals were riding high in the mid-1980s. Even though they only made the playoffs twice between 1982 and 1989, Kansas City was a perennial first-division presence.
The creation of supplemental first round picks in the early 1980s was a security blanket for weaker teams. That in itself did not affect the Kansas City Royals much. Regardless, did that “safe” feeling have any effect on their MLB amateur draft picks?
Gary Thurman was somewhat useful as a pinch-runner. His impressive 78.3% career stolen base percentage, however, has hampered by his inability to hit for power or average at the major league level. Otherwise, Thurman’s quadruple-A set of tools was better suited for coaching, and he seems to be doing well in DC.
In a nutshell, the 1983 MLB Draft produced some familiar names but wasn’t that impressive overall. Ironically, the one Hall of Fame caliber player in the group will likely never be inducted. Kevin Seitzer, the author of one of the most memorable rookie seasons in team history, landed in Kansas City in the 11th round. A notable near-miss was Tom Pagnozzi, an All-Star catcher that was picked three slots after third baseman Carey Ross.
Just before he found Olympic glory, starting pitcher Scott Bankhead went to the Royals in the first round. Serviceable but injury-prone, you could almost forgive KC for drafting him over Greg Maddux, who went to the Cubs at 31st overall. Drafting MLB short-timer Luis de los Santos over Tom Glavine and Al Leiter in the second round, however…ouch. Eleven future All-Stars were selected in the third round onward, none by Kansas City…double ouch.
Was it nepotism or instinct? Either way, the Royals’ choosing Brian McRae (son of Hal) in the first round gave fans very little to complain about. His average and speed carried some otherwise so-so Royals teams in the early 1990s. McRae was a workhorse who put up respectable stats in a 10-year Major League career.
McRae didn’t make it to The Show until 1990, but this draft is best remembered for having six of the first eight picks see Major League action with less than one year of (if any) pro experience. Eight years after Dan Marino and John Elway took a pass, future NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders was chosen by KC in the sixth round. Prime Time opted to go to Florida State, and the rest is hot-dogging history. The only other Royals pick of note was Mike Macfarlane in the fourth round.
If ‘85 was about immediate results, then ‘86 was about quantity and quality. An impressive 21 future All-Stars (but no Hall of Famers) were selected. The Royals picked Bo Jackson in the fourth round and Tom “Flash” Gordon in the sixth. The less said about the first-round pick Tony Clements, the better…because he did not sign. In fact, there is next to nothing about him on Baseball Reference.
Greg Hibbard, the Royals’ 16th round pick, saw his pitching career cut short by injuries. However, Hibbard has enjoyed a long and fruitful career as a minor league coach.
The number of supplemental picks increased from two to six in 1987, an amateur draft that featured the first #1 overall pick to enter Cooperstown, Ken Griffey Jr. The Royals chose wisely in the first round, picking future ace and grumpy-pants Kevin Appier at 9th overall. Terry Shumpert, chosen in the second round, bounced between Triple-A and the Majors for 18 seasons.
In the end, the Royals had 74 picks in the largest draft ever (70 rounds!). Beyond Appier and Shumpert, however, the only other Royals pick of note was Jeff Conine. Buried in the 58th round, the former UCLA standout clawed his way to Kauffman by late 1990.
So what do you think Royals fans? Did you have a favorite that was drafted during this time period? How great would it have been to see some of these superstars playing in Kansas City? Let us know below!
Next: the Royals’ picks from 1988 to 1992. This is where it starts to hurt.