Kansas City Royals: Royals Draft Flashback, Part 7 (1998-2002)

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(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /
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As I continue on with this series, I realize that in many ways, the trajectory between the Kansas City Royals past and present efforts in the MLB Amateur Draft is not unlike a movie.

The Kansas City Royals begin with a promising but inauspicious start, a stretch of success, then a long and gradual fallow period that questions your hope. I won’t give away the ending.

For now, however… hoo boy.

1998

For the second time in team history, the Royals had at least three first-round selections and consecutive picks at 30th and 31st overall. All three picks were pitchers. All three were misfires. Part of a long-line of overworked pitchers at Stanford, righty Jeff Austin was the epitome of a bust. After failing to cut it as an innings eater, he went to Cincinnati and earned a dubious place in the record books.

The back-to-back bonus babies didn’t fare much better. Matt Burch averaged nearly 6 K per 9 IP in two seasons with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, He then threw his arm out before running into control issues. Chris George bounced between Omaha and Kauffman from 2001 to 2004. He then hashed it out in Mexico and the minors until 2012. A fourth pitcher, Robbie Morrison, was selected in the second round. Morrison showed promise as a closer in the low minors, but got shelled in Double-A.

1999

The last draft of the 20th century wasn’t a total wash for Kansas City. With four more picks (two supplemental), ‘99 was a reprieve of sorts from the mediocrity and diminished expectations of the years immediately before and after.

Mike MacDougal eked out an All-Star season in 2003. Shoulder issues plagued him throughout this career, but he was a serviceable middle reliever for over a decade. Make all the turkey jokes you want, but Jimmy Gobble was the second-best of this quartet. Some early promise gave way to being a mediocre starter and an even worse reliever. Like MacDougal, Gobble peaked in 2003 and eventually got buried in the White Sox bullpen.

Mac and Gobble, however, were both picked after injury-prone big man Kyle Snyder. Chosen 7th overall, Snyder wasn’t the same after tearing his labrum in 2004 Spring Training. He later won a World Series ring in the Red Sox bullpen and is now the Rays’ pitching coach. Jay Gehrke, the fourth of these picks, was a reliever by trade and out of professional baseball by early 2002.

Perhaps the most egregious near-miss in Royals draft history occurred down in the 13th round. At 391st overall, KC selected outfielder Gregg Raymundo. “G.J.” demonstrated in Double-A the power and average that first impressed scouts, but did nothing in Triple-A. Nine picks later, the St. Louis Cardinals chose a raw but gifted infielder from Maple Woods Community College: Albert Pujols.

2000

The 21st century started with a whimper, not a bang. Perhaps the worst overall draft of the last two decades. Only three-of-forty first round picks have played in an All-Star Game (Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, and Adam Wainwright) and the best player overall was selected in the fourth round. The first ten picks were especially brutal, with a steep drop-off after A-Gon at first overall. Rocco Baldelli’s misfortunes aside, this a graveyard of all-time draft busts.

Mike Stodolka, chosen fourth, definitely ranks as one of those busts. A merciless two-way threat in high school, Stodolka could throw high heat on the mound and mash the ball as a first baseman/right fielder. The Royals opted to focus on his arm instead of his bat (at first, anyway) and proved inconsistent in Single-A Burlington and A-Advanced Wilmington.

After getting shelled in Wichita, the organization belatedly converted him back into an outfielder. Stodolka had three more nondescript, injury-shortened seasons before walking away from the game in 2008.

The best player the Royals chose in 2000? David Dejesus in the 4th round, just ahead of Yadier Molina.

2001

A quintessential Texas hurler, Colt Griffin was a high school stud. Like so many RHP bonus babies before him, Griffin couldn’t match his 100 MPH smoke with the strike zone. He was saddled by multiple shoulder issues and was out of baseball by 2006. Twenty-four pitchers were selected in the first round (including supplemental picks) and the best of the bunch of was arguably Gavin Floyd. Don’t blame the Royals for drinking the Kool-Aid.

The highest Royals pick to see major league action was Angel Sanchez in the 11th round. That’s ten consecutive minor league washouts drafted, followed by a career Triple-A guy that started eight games in the Royals’ middle infield in 2006. Taylor Tankersley was chosen in the 39th round but did not sign.

2002

In the darkness, we see light. Zack Greinke is not only the best first-round pick mentioned on this list but the sole player in this sorry bunch that will appear on a Hall of Fame ballot. It would have been lovely to see The Big Z pitch his entire MLB career in a Royals uni. As we all know, his trade to Milwaukee in 2011 planted the seeds of the 2014 and 2015 American League Championships.

The 2002 amateur draft was famously depicted in the book Moneyball, and after a rare (for its time) slam dunk first pick, the next most noteworthy Royals pick was… Kila Ka’aihue? Derp.

Final Thoughts

We are all aware of the “Dark Days” that the Royals were in. After looking through this, it’s no wonder the days were so dark. However, stick around for part 8. It’s not quite as bleak.

What do you think Royals fans? Do you remember these days? Let us know below!

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