Kansas City Royals: Royals Draft Flashback, Part 5 (1988-1992)
We have been looking through the Kansas City Royals draft history since the inception of the franchise in 1969. Here is Part 5.
Major League Baseball was dramatically affected by the explosion of free agency and multi-million dollar contracts in the late 80s and early 90s. The new economics of the game, one that benefited large market teams in cities like Chicago and New York, but to the detriment of smaller markets like Kansas City and Milwaukee.
The early 1990s also saw the twilight of the Hall of Fame career of George Brett, reduced payrolls, and Ewing Kauffman’s passing giving way to David Glass. As for recruiting the next generation of Kansas City Royals via the MLB Draft, their luck proved to be more erratic than ever.
Hugh Walker, the Royals’ first-round pick, played exactly one game in Omaha. Walker fared a little better as a minor league coach, and later as a scout. Bob Hamelin, chosen in the second round, put together one productive season in Kansas City. Hamelin also won a somewhat undeserving AL Rookie of the Year. It was the pinnacle of a professional career hamstrung by injuries.
Unless you think it is amusing that the Royals drafted Kevin Seitzer’s baby brother, the third round onward was a wash for the Royals. The strange irony of the ‘88 amateur draft, however, was that the best player was chosen dead last, Mike Piazza. The Dodgers barely saw it coming, and the Royals certainly did not.
The ‘89 amateur draft was great in a stealthy sort of way. 23 of the 26 first-round picks saw MLB action, with one of the three outliers spending time in the NBA. In all, four Hall of Famers and 22 future All-Stars were culled out of the ‘89 crop.
The Royals chose catcher Brett Mayne at 13th overall. Mayne was neither an All-Star nor worthy of enshrinement, but he had a respectable 15-year major league career (mostly in Kansas City) and caught a no-hitter as a rookie. After Mayne, the Royals drafted three or four career Triple-A guys and… not much else.
For the first time since their first draft in 1968, the Royals had no first round pick. This was the year where the draft was expanded to a ridiculous 100 rounds and supplemental first-round picks went haywire. The Padres eventually received the Royals pick after the free agent signing of pitcher Mark Davis. That pick, southpaw Robbie Beckett, had two cups of tea with the Rockies in the mid-1990s.
The Royals did not have a second round pick either. Therefore, they sat out until the third round. That first pick, pitcher Shayne Rea, was a gopher ball machine that plateaued in Class-A Advanced. The rest of the Royals’ 1990 truncated draft haul was just as forgettable. Mid-90s utility guy Phil Hiatt (8th round) was the highest pick to make it to The Show.
Remember at the end of part 4, when I implied this is where it gets painful? The Royals’ first-round pick selections for much of the ‘90s plays out like a who’s who of busts, head-scratchers, and never-weres. The procession began with Joe Vitiello, a DH and utility first baseman that feasted on NCAA and Triple-A pitching, but hit a wall at Kauffman and elsewhere.
For the first time in team history, the Royals landed a supplemental pick after Steve Farr signed with the Yankees. That pick, righty Jason Pruitt, got shelled in the low minors and was out of organized ball by 1995.
That is not to say, however, that the Royals’ 91 draft was a wash. All-time Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney was chosen in the 10th round, and one round later Kansas City picked Joe Randa.
Oakland Raiders short-timer Rodney Williams (37th round, 964th overall) continued the unofficial tradition of Royals’ lower draft picks opting to play in the NFL.
The 25th MLB draft in team history ended up being a high water mark for the Royals’ drafting prowess in the ‘90s. After super-agent Scott Boras high-balled nine teams out of signing Michael Tucker. Who turned out to be a well-traveled outfielder landed in KC at 10th overall. (The Yankees were one of the nine teams that turned Boras down. I pretty sure they were happy with their pick. Here’s a hint: He wore #2)
On the other hand, if the Royals had to do it all over again, they would’ve chosen Boras’ other client, catcher Charles Johnson. Instead, they selected injury-prone righty Jim Pittsley at 17th overall.
In all, Kansas City had four picks (three supplemental) in the largest first round to date. Thank goodness Sherard Clinkscales (31st overall) built his reputation as an NCAA director of athletics. Rather than an embarrassingly bad single-A pitcher.
The best was yet to come at 35th overall. Johnny Damon’s bat and speed carried some mediocre Royals teams in the late ‘90s. In the later rounds, Paul Splittorff’s son Jamie was drafted in the 25th round but opted to Rock Chalk instead.
After looking back, the Royals did not have a lot of success during these drafts. Unfortunately, this is not even the worst of it. Please don’t read part 6 on a full stomach. It might hurt.
What do you think fans? Are you surprised by any of the results? Let us know below!