There have been some good draft classes in KC Royals history, but the 1971 haul probably takes the cake as the club’s all-time best.
The MLB Draft hasn’t always been kind to the KC Royals. Even after it won the World Series (both times), the club went back to the drawing board and failed to have the sustained success that would’ve come with a few good draft classes in a row. One of the major knocks on current general manager Dayton Moore is that while he watched his late-2000s classes develop, he failed to maintain the high reputation of the farm system during the MLB team’s contention.
It’s extremely difficult to be a small-market team and build a contender without giving up key pieces from the minor league reserves. It’s nearly impossible unless executives hit on the majority of their draft selections. Moore’s 2018 and 2019 drafts have yielded positive results thus far, injecting hope into the fanbase and creating an expectation that the Royals will be playoff-bound in a few short years. Having good drafts remains a huge piece of the organization’s plans for a successful future — and it’s always been that way.
Looking back on the past and recognizing mistakes you made is necessary, but sometimes difficult. Patting yourself on the back for a job well done is also important, but is much easier to do. MLB.com recently hopped in the time machine to identify each franchise’s best draft class. For the KC Royals, 1971 was the pick. George Brett is the obvious claim to fame there, and rightfully so. He enjoyed one of the greatest careers in MLB history. Here’s who else stuck out in the article:
"“Reliever Mark Littell (12th round) had an excellent four-year run (1976-79) with the Royals and Cardinals, tallying 52 saves with a 2.70 ERA across 243 appearances. The organization added right-hander Steve Busby (16.1 career WAR) — a future two-time All-Star and 22-game winner — in the second round of the ’71 June Draft-Secondary Phase and got catcher John Wathan (5.0 WAR) with the fourth-overall pick in the January Draft-Regular Phase.”"
Players like Littell, Busby and Wathan are far lesser-known than Brett, but also were significant contributors to the team. Having the best player in franchise history — and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, at that — come from the 1971 draft will certainly sway things in favor of that class, though. Had guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas been drafted in the same year, perhaps we’d be looking at a more entertaining conversation.
Do you think there’s a better KC Royals draft haul than 1971? Could the 2018 class top it one day? Let us know in the comments below!