As great as the Kansas City Royals farm system is in its current state, what's even more amazing is how much better it could be. Of course, it's easy to look back in hindsight at any draft in any sport, but Kevin Goldstein, the minor league guru at Baseball Prospectus, says the Royals have two of the biggest early first-round blunders in any MLB draft of the last 10 years. Imagine if the Royals had even two more decent first-round choices as opposed to busts.
As Goldstein looks back at a decade of the Major League Baseball draft, he made a recent list of "the 10 worst single-digit draft picks in the last decade." The Baltimore Orioles are the worst by far, but the Royals are up next with two of 10 entries and the reminder of some names you'd rather forget might make you wonder what could have been.
The first name that Goldstein brings up is from a full decade ago, with right-hander Colt Griffin, the Royals ninth overall selection back in the 2011 draft. Goldstein writes:
In spring 2001, Griffin was the stuff of legend. He was a kid with a Roger Clemens body and a fastball that touched 100 mph who seemingly came out of nowhere, in a small town in northeast Texas. Despite his scouting report having little else on the positive side of the ledger, the velocity alone was enough to earn a $2.4 million bonus. He walked 87 batters, hit 16 more, and uncorked 29 wild pitches over less than 100 innings in his full-season debut. Things never got better, as his secondary offerings never developed, and he couldn't throw strikes with his fastball, even after dialing down the velocity. He hung ‘em up at age 22 with more walks (278) than strikeouts (271) in 373 1/3 career innings.
In addition to Griffin comes another Royal at the end of the list with outfield prospect Chris Lubanski, who came in as the fifth overall selection in 2005:
Still one of the more baffling picks in recent memory, Lubanski was the national player of the year at Kennedy-Kendrick High School in Pennsylvania, and a legitimate selection by the Royals at the time, but he quickly turned into a completely different player. As an amateur, he was a plus-plus runner with a bit of pop that reminded some of former 1992 Royals first-round pick Johnny Damon, but he underwent a quick, unexpected transformation: His speed was gone by age 21, turning him into a bulky corner outfielder without enough bat to get to the big leagues. Released by the Royals after the 2009 season, he hit .293 with 17 home runs for the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas last year, but couldn't find an offer for 2011 and is now with the Chico Outlaws in the independent North American League.
It's interesting to consider Goldstein's reflections when paralleled with another recent article at the Royals official web site -- one that seems to counter this notion of the Royals knack for drafting and developing first round picks. It's a testament to a new regime with Dayton Moore and his scouting staff -- one that not didn't see results on the immediate end but whose patience seems to be paying off and will into the next decade.