Let's cut to the chase. If not for wasted high choices in the annual June draft, the Royals might be a contender today.
Here's a retrospective on the Royals' first- and second-round selections from 1987-94. It's really too early to comment on the 1995 and 1996 drafts:
First: Kevin Appier. One of game's best pitchers. Has never been a big winner, but when he's on, no one is better. KC hasn't drafted anyone this talented since.
Second: Terry Shumpert. Supposedly the successor to Frank White. Failed in Kansas City, failed in Boston and failed in short stint with Cubs this summer.
First: Hugh Walker. Never heard of him, have you? A left-handed hitting outfielder drafted out of a Chicago-area high school, Walker never hit in the minor leagues and didn't advance beyond Double-A.
Second: Bob Hamelin. Has some power, but is really an awful player.
First: Brett Mayne. Quintessential back-up catcher. Good field, no hit. Now buried behind Todd Hundley in New York.
Second: Rich Tunison. Who? This guy was a first baseman who is no longer in pro ball.
First: Surrendered for signing pitcher Mark Davis as a free agent. In retrospect, Royals would have been better off signing Ann B. Davis and staging a Brady Bunch Night at the ballpark.
Second: Surrendered for signing pitcher Storm Davis as a free agent. Storm Davis wasn't much, but he was better than Mark Davis.
First: Joe Vitiello. Looks like a catcher. Runs like a catcher. Essentially, he's Mike Macfarlane without a chest protector. Royals also took Jason Pruitt in the first round. He was a pitcher. Don't ask.
Second: Ryan Long. A third baseman-outfielder now in his second season in Double-A ball. Has shown occassional power but inconsistent contact.
First: Four selections. A bonanza, supposedly. You decide. First was Michael Tucker, an average outfielder who hasn't hit. Next was Jim Pittsley, who is still regarded as the best pitcher the Royals have drafted since Appier. Third was Sherard Clinkscales, an overweight pitcher who couldn't find the strike zone and is no longer in the game. Fourth was Johnny Damon, who hasn't had the year everyone expected, but he's still young and can still overcome Bob Boone's indefensible decision to turn him into a platoon player.
Second: Jon Lieber. Pitcher who has shown some flashes with Pittsburgh after the Royals traded him a couple of years ago for Stan Belinda. Just another example of how stupid it is to trade a young arm for an old one.
First: Jeff Granger. Former Texas A&M; quarterback has been a disappointment. They thought he'd be in the major-league rotation by now.
Second: Surrendered for signing David Cone as a free agent. Was losing this pick worth the 27 games Cone won in two seasons with the Royals? It seemed like it then, but it doesn't now.
First: Matt Smith. A left-handed-hitting first baseman lured away from Stanford with a fat bonus who has hit for neither power nor average in three minor-league seasons. Another bust?
Second: Jed Hansen. A second baseman who started fast at Wichita in the spring and was promoted to Omaha, where he was hitting .232 headed into the American Association playoffs. Has a chance to be another Shumpert.