The KC Royals have had some good players drafted from small schools. One of them is head and shoulders above the rest, though.
While most MLB rosters are made up of former high school and Division I baseball standouts, small school players are important, too. The KC Royals drafted one back in 1987, and he was a productive starting pitcher for years.
Kevin Appier of Antelope Valley College in California was selected ninth overall 33 years ago. By his sophomore season, he was 12-8 with a 2.76 ERA. That was the beginning of an impressive eight-year run with the Royals, as he won 102 games over that span. His average ERA of 3.22 was fantastic, and he went over 200 innings pitched in six of those seasons. He was a bright spot in what was an otherwise difficult era of Royals baseball to watch.
Our own Shawn Bauman attended Appier’s sort-of no-hitter on Opening Day in 1995. His recount of the day, and just how good the veteran right-handed pitcher was during that time, is fantastic. If you haven’t read that article yet, I urge you to check it out.
MLB.com recently did an article listing each team’s best small school draft pick. Not every star has to come from a top-ranked four-year university or Division I program, and the piece does a good job highlighting just how much under-the-radar talent has entered the league over the years. Appier got the nod for the Royals’ best player from a small school:
"“Taken with the No. 9 overall pick in the 1987 Draft out of Antelope Valley JC (Lancaster, Calif.), Appier finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1990 and third in the AL Cy Young race three years later, when he led the league in ERA (2.56). Though he was an All-Star just once, the right-hander had eight 200-plus inning campaigns and finished his 16-year career with a 3.74 ERA in 2,595 1/3 innings, recording 169 wins as a 54.5 WAR player.”"
Appier ranks second to only George Brett in all-time KC Royals WAR with 47.0. His impressive career was overshadowed by stints with other franchises and just how rough times were for the franchise when he was here. It’s very hard to argue against the case made for him being the organization’s best pick from a small school, though.
Would you have picked anyone other than Appier? Let us know in the comments below.