KC Royals Expansion Drafts: Some gains and losses

(Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons/Allsport
(Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons/Allsport /

Since the KC Royals became a franchise, they’ve been involved in four expansion drafts.

Whenever Major League Baseball adds teams, there is an expansion draft to redistribute experienced players from their current teams to the new clubs. Because the players left exposed to the draft are often young and unproven, have questionable playing histories, or are past their primes, the results are often a mixed bag on both ends of the picks. And it seems that for every All-Star Kansas City picked up in the draft, like catcher Ellie Rodríguez, the franchise loses an All-Star, like first baseman-outfielder Jeff Conine.

The Royals had their first shot at the expansion draft in1968 as they prepared for their inaugural 1969 season.

The KC Royals chose 30 players for their roster in the ’68 expansion draft.

Kansas City started its 1968 selections by grabbing pitcher Roger Nelson from the Baltimore Orioles. Nelson had logged parts of two seasons with the Chicago White Sox and the Orioles before the draft and became a solid contributor to the early Kansas City teams.

In five seasons, he posted an 18-22 record with a solid 3.08 ERA. In 1972, he had a stellar 11-6 season with a 2.08 ERA, 10 complete games and six shutouts. Following that season, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds with outfielder Richie Scheinblum for pitcher Wayne Simpson and future Royals Hall of Famer Hal McRae in one of the club’s’ best deals ever with the Reds.

The Royals took Rodríguez in the early rounds, and the pick paid off when he was named the team’s first representative in the All-Star game in 1969.

Perhaps the most interesting expansion pick for the Royals was a future Hall of Famer. With the 49th pick in the draft, Kansas City picked up knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had already logged 17 big league seasons and more than 900 appearances. Less than two months after the draft, KC traded Wilhelm to the California Angels for utility players Ed Kirkpatrick and Dennis Paepke.

Kansas City picked up 30 players in all in the draft, as did the new San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos and Seattle Pilots, who moved to Milwaukee and become the Brewers in 1970.

Seattle took a future All-Star from the Royals in the ’76 expansion draft.

In 1976, the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays secured American League franchises, and each picked 30 players from existing rosters for their 1977 teams.

The first player off the board was Kansas City outfielder Ruppert Jones, who had 54 plate appearances with the 1976 Royals. Jones went on to be the Mariners’ first All-Star in 1977 and was an All-Star again in 1982 with the Padres. From 1977-79 with Seattle, Jones hit 51 home runs, and had 200 RBIs and 68 stolen bases. He finished a 12-year MLB career with 147 homers.

The second Royal picked was pitcher Al Fitzmorris, who Kansas City had selected in the 1968 expansion draft from the Chicago White Sox and was one of the best hitting KC pitchers prior to the designated hitter. For their part, the Blue Jays immediately sent Fitzmorris to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Alan Ashby and first baseman Doug Howard.

Later in the ’76 draft, the Royals lost catcher Bob Stinson to the Mariners and second baseman Steve Staggs and pitcher Tom Bruno to Toronto. Future Kansas City pitcher Grant Jackson and outfielder Steve Braun were picked up by the Mariners.

Miami picked up Jeff Conine from KC Royals in the 1992 expansion draft.

The Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins made their choices in 1992 for their 1993 debuts.

The Marlins chose the Royals’ Jeff Conine with the 22nd pick. Conine logged two All-Star appearances over the next five years with the Marlins, becoming one of the early stars of that franchise. Prior to the 1998 season, Kansas City sent minor league pitcher Blaine Mull to Florida to bring back Conine. But after only one year in Kansas City, Conine was off again, this time going to the Orioles for pitcher Chris Fussel. Conine is now associate head coach of the Florida International University baseball program.

Later in that draft, the Marlins picked Royals pitcher Andrés Berumen and outfielder Kerwin Moore, neither of whom appeared in a single game for the Marlins.

Arizona and Tampa Bay took from the KC Royals in the 1997 expansion draft.

Following the 1997 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays took their turns in an expansion draft.

The first Royal off the board was outfielder Yamil Benítez, who went on to finish below the Mendoza Line at .199 with the 1998 Diamondbacks and was out of baseball after 2000.

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Arizona picked pitcher Héctor Carrasco following the 1-6, 5.45 ERA season he put up in 1997 for the Royals. The Diamondbacks put Carrasco on waivers prior to the 1998 season opener, and the Minnesota Twins picked him up.

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The expansion draft is a game of gains and losses and hits and misses, and the Royals have had their share in the four drafts they’ve experienced.