The KC Royals haven’t been very successful in the MLB Draft over the years. There’s more than enough data to support that take.
The KC Royals’ recent draft record hasn’t been good. You already knew that, of course.
You are well aware that the Royals selected Bubba Starling ahead of Anthony Rendon, Francisco Lindor, and George Springer in 2011. You know Kansas City could have had Corey Seager instead of Kyle Zimmer in 2012. And you’re probably wondering what happened to 2015 first-round pick Ashe Russell.
But do you know exactly how bad the Royals’ drafts have been since Lonnie Goldberg took charge in 2011?
Using cumulative WAR as the measurement, only the Tampa Bay Rays have been worse at selecting major league talent. The Rays’ cumulative WAR for all of the players they’ve drafted starting in 2011 is 16.2. Kansas City’s is not much better at 16.8. In contrast, the Boston Red Sox win the category with a total of 103.9.
Twenty-six of the 30 MLB teams own a cumulative WAR of at least twice as much as the Royals’ total. Twelve teams at least triple the total, while the Red Sox, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and Oakland A’s drafted at least five times as much WAR during that time span.
To hammer home the point even more, 37 individual draft classes during that time span have accumulated more WAR at the major league level than the KC Royals’ past nine draft classes combined.
Mookie Betts, who the Royals had five stabs at selecting before the Red Sox took him 172nd overall in 2011, boasts a 41.8 career WAR through six seasons. The aforementioned Rendon, Lindor, Springer, and Seager also are among the several individual players drafted in 2011 or later to best all of the Royals’ classes.
To be fair, there are some flaws to this measurement. The totals are based on all of the MLB players a team drafted whether or not that player ended up signing with the team or whether or not he played a major league game with that team. For instance, the Blue Jays earned 19.4 worth of WAR for selecting pitcher Aaron Nola in the 22nd round out of high school in 2011. However, Nola passed on playing with the Blue Jays and was eventually selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft.
In the case of the Royals, more than half of their WAR since the 2011 draft comes from pitcher Sean Manaea. As you are surely well aware, none of Manaea’s 8.5 career WAR came in a Royals uniform as he was traded to the Oakland A’s in order to bring in infielder Ben Zobrist for Kansas City’s 2015 championship run.
So cumulative WAR from all of the players a team has drafted for the past nine years isn’t a perfect way to measure a team’s success rate. However, it does give us a pretty good indication whether or not a team is doing a good job of recognizing future major league talent.
It’s fair to say the Royals struggled mightily in that regard from 2011 through 2016 at least. During that time span, only 37 of their 253 draft picks have made it to the major leagues thus far. Even more concerning, only a handful of those players have demonstrated themselves to be much more than a replacement player at this point.
Manaea (8.5), Jakob Junis (4.2), Matt Strahm (3.9), Brandon Finnegan (2.2), Kevin McCarthy (1.9), Hunter Dozier (1.5), and Alec Mills (1.1) are the only players among those 37 draft picks with a career WAR of 1.0 or better.