The top Royals Draft pick from every season

February 7th, 2024

The Royals’ all-time top picks in the MLB Draft range from World Series heroes to plenty who never made it to the highest level. There are franchise faces and those who you may have forgotten.

Going back to the first June Draft the Royals participated in (1969), here is every top pick by the Royals in MLB Draft history:

2023: Blake Mitchell, C, Sinton HS (Texas) (No. 8)
The Royals shocked the industry a bit by taking an unconventional pick this high up in the Draft -- a high school catcher. Teams typically shy away from that demographic in the first round, but the Royals are adamant that Mitchell is the real deal, regardless of his position. Mitchell, who played on the U.S. junior team while in high school, has tools on both sides of the ball. His strength, bat speed and patient approach should enable him to hit for power and average from the left side of the plate, and he’s agile enough behind the plate with room to grow. His double-plus arm strength is his calling card as a backstop, and the Royals are excited about the opportunity to mold him into a top catching prospect.

2022: Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech (No. 9)
Cross was one of the most well-rounded college bats of the 2022 Draft class, with a sweet left-handed swing and potential for an above-average hit tool and power tool. He displays plus speed on the bases, especially for his 6-foot-3 and 210-pound frame, and will get a chance to stick in center field with the Royals. If he can't play there, he profiles as a corner outfielder with the ability to play first base.

2021: Frank Mozzicato, LHP, East Catholic HS (Conn.) (No. 7)
Mozzicato wasn’t expected to go on Day 1 of the Draft, but the 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty who threw four straight no-hitters during his 2021 spring season kept rising on the Royals' board. He boasts high upside and projectability, as well as what the club considered the best curveball in the class.

2020: Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M (No. 4)
The 6-foot-4 left-hander became the highest pick in Aggies history when the Royals took him fourth overall in 2020. Lacy entered the Royals farm system in High-A and has the ability to move quickly if he harnesses his overpowering stuff.

2019: Bobby Witt Jr., SS, Colleyville Heritage (Texas) High School (No. 2)
Witt Jr. has the potential to be a generational talent. The son of Bobby Witt, who had a 16-year career as a big league pitcher, Witt Jr. has a high-end combination of power and speed at a premium position.

2018: Brady Singer, RHP, Florida (No. 18)
Singer made it to the Majors two years after he was the first of five consecutive college pitchers taken in the 2018 Draft. He’s been a staple of the Royals rotation since and still has a high ceiling to reach if he can continue to make adjustments at the Major League level.

2017: Nick Pratto, 1B, Huntington Beach (Calif.) High School (No. 14)
Pratto had a hard year in Class-A Advanced Wilmington in 2019, hitting just .191 with a .588 OPS. But he took advantage of a '20 with no Minor League season, made multiple adjustments to get back to the swing that drafted him in the first place and is once again primed to be the Royals’ first baseman of the future.

2016: No first-round pick

2015: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral (Ind.) High School (No. 21)
The Royals went for a power arm in the middle of their championship season, selecting Russell, who had a mid-90s fastball that could touch 97 mph. But few would ever get a chance to see it: After signing for $2,190,200, Russell made 11 starts in rookie ball, pitched in two games in the Arizona Summer League and then took a break from baseball to deal with personal issues. He returned in 2018, battled command issues and then underwent Tommy John surgery in May of '19.

2014: Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian University (No. 17)
Finnegan got the call to the Majors a mere three months after he was drafted, and he allowed just one run over seven innings with 10 strikeouts in the 2014 regular season. That year, Finnegan became the first player to pitch in the College World Series and the World Series in the same season. At the Trade Deadline in '15, the Royals needed a starter on their way to the World Series, so they traded Finnegan to Cincinnati for Johnny Cueto. He began to unravel then, posting a 4.32 ERA in four years with the Reds and is in their Minor League system in 2021.

2013: Hunter Dozier, INF, Stephen F. Austin State University (No. 8)
Dozier was a bit of a surprise top 10 pick in 2013, but the Royals have always showed belief in him as he’s shown a power bat and versatile fielding ability. He enjoyed a career year in '19 when he posted a .279/.348/.522 slash line along with 26 homers, 84 RBIs, 10 triples, and 75 runs scored in 139 games, and he was rewarded in '21 with a four-year contract extension.

2012: Kyle Zimmer, RHP, University of San Francisco (No. 5)
The Royals are finally seeing the Zimmer they thought they got with their first pick of the 2012 Draft. He struggled with injury after injury before finally making it to the Majors in '19 and sticking in the bullpen in ’20.

2011: Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner Edgerton (Kan.) High School (No. 5)
Starling is still trying to make his mark in the Majors. The hometown kid was the best athlete and perhaps most talented player in the 2011 Draft, and the Royals signed him for $7.5 million to lure him away from playing football at Nebraska. But nagging injuries and inconsistent hitting slowed his progress, and he debuted in '19 and played in 35 games in ’20. Ten years after he was drafted, he’s working on consistency in Triple-A.

2010: Christian Colón, SS, Cal State Fullerton (No. 4)
Colón was on the Royals’ Opening Day roster for three straight years from 2015-17 and was a member of the ’15 World Series championship. His two career hits in the postseason were both in the 12th inning of clinching games -- the deciding Game 5 of the '15 World Series and the '13 American League Wild Card Game. After the Royals placed Colón on waivers in '17, he played for four other Major League franchises before signing a deal to play for the Kansas City Monarchs (independent ball) in ’21.

2009: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats (No. 12)
Crow went to Washburn High School just outside of Topeka, Kansas, and pitched at the University of Missouri before being drafted in 2008 by the Nationals. But after he and Washington couldn’t agree on a signing bonus, Crow played in independent ball for a year while preparing for the '09 Draft, when the Royals took him No. 12 overall. Crow made it to the Majors in '11 as a reliever and was an All-Star, posting a 2.76 ERA in 57 games. He pitched for the Royals through '14, was traded to the Marlins that offseason and never made it back to the big leagues due to injury.

2008: Eric Hosmer, 1B, American Heritage (Fla.) High School (No. 3)
Hosmer and the Royals went right up to the deadline after he was drafted, but the infielder eventually signed for $6 million as one of the top prep prospects in the Draft. He would go on to be one of the core players in the Royals’ postseason pushes, and he won the 2015 World Series with Kansas City before signing with the Padres in '17.

2007: Mike Moustakas, INF, Chatsworth (Calif.) High School (No. 2)
Hosmer and Moustakas were the anchors of the Royals’ October magic in 2014-15. Moustakas had one of the greater careers in California high school history and was rewarded with a signing bonus of $4 million. He debuted in '11, was a key part of the Royals’ turnaround and won the '15 World Series championship before they traded him to Milwaukee in '18. He signed a four-year contract with the Reds in '19.

2006: Luke Hochevar, RHP, Fort Worth Cats (No. 1)
Hochevar was drafted by the Dodgers twice -- in the 39th round of the 2002 Draft out of high school in Colorado and again No. 40 overall out of Tennessee in '05. But the two sides didn’t come to an agreement in time to sign, so he prepared for the ’06 Draft by playing independent ball and was selected by the Royals. In August, he signed a four-year Major League contract with a $3.5 million signing bonus. Hochevar went back and forth between the rotation and bullpen with the Royals until finding consistency as a middle reliever in '13. He was the winning pitcher of Game 5 of the '15 World Series, became a free agent after ’16 and announced his retirement in ’18.

2005: Alex Gordon, 3B, Nebraska-Lincoln (No. 2)
The Royals drafted a future club Hall of Famer in 2005, when Gordon became the highest drafted Nebraska player in school history. He made the switch to left field and won eight Gold Glove Awards, was a three-time All-Star and won the '15 World Series with the Royals before announcing his retirement after the '20 season.

2004: Billy Butler, INF, Wolfson (Fla.) High School (No. 14)
Butler became one of the best Royals prospects after he was drafted out of high school in Jacksonville, Fla. After he debuted in 2007, he was a bright spot during some dark years in Royals history before helping them turn things around in his All-Star year in '12 and their postseason pushes in '13-14. He left for Oakland in ’14, but was released two years later, and his last year in the Majors was '16 with the Yankees.

2003: Chris Lubanski, OF, Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic (Pa.) High School (No. 5)
Lubanski never made it to the Majors despite his career getting off to a good start in rookie ball and the low level of the Minors. His bat was never consistent, though, and he rotated around the Minor Leagues and independent ball until 2011.

2002: Zack Greinke, RHP, Apopka (Fla.) High School (No. 6)
Seven years after he was drafted, Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award after leading the Majors with a 2.16 ERA. It had been a long road for the right-hander, who struggled from '04-06 and stepped away from baseball in ’06 after being diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. Greinke was traded to the Brewers in '10, a deal that netted the Royals Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar, as well as Jake Odorizzi.

2001: Colt Griffin, RHP, Marshall (Texas) High School (No. 9)
Griffin was known for his ridiculous fastball and high strikeout rate in high school, but it didn’t pan out in the Minors. His career ERA in the Minor Leagues was 4.79 ERA in 124 games (57 starts), and he walked 278 batters over that span while striking out 271. He struggled to stay healthy and retired from baseball in 2006 after shoulder surgery.

2000: Mike Stodolka, LHP, Centennial (Calif.) High School (No. 4)
Stodolka was a California high school star; he struck out 133 batters in 68 innings his senior season, and he was a solid hitter, too, clubbing 18 home runs that season. But that talent did not pan out in professional baseball. He spent nine seasons in the Royals' system, some pitching and some hitting, before retiring after 75 games in Triple-A in 2008.

1999: Kyle Snyder, RHP, North Carolina (No. 7)
Injuries hampered Synder’s bright career early on with the Royals, as he needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2004 season because of a torn labrum. He posted a 5.17 ERA in 2003 and a 6.75 ERA in ’05 before the Royals released him after one start -- two innings -- in ’06. He was picked up by the Red Sox and was part of their '07 World Series team, although he didn’t pitch in that postseason. Snyder’s last year in the Majors was '08.

1998: Jeff Austin, RHP, Stanford (No. 4)
Austin moved quickly through the Minors and debuted in 2001, but only spent two seasons in Kansas City's bullpen after being a starter throughout his collegiate career. His last year in the Majors was '03 with the Reds.

1997: Dan Reichert, RHP, University of the Pacific (No. 7)
Reichert made his debut with the Royals in 1999, starting eight games, but he would only spend four seasons with Kansas City -- posting a 5.53 ERA -- before his final year in the Majors in 2003 with Toronto. Reichert bounced around between the Minors and Independent Ball until '12.

1996: Dee Brown, OF, Marlboro Central (N.Y.) High School (No. 14)
Brown spent most of his career back and forth between the Major and Minor Leagues. He had a career .234 average in parts of seven seasons with the Royals, from 1998-2004, and he bounced around seven different franchises -- including the Royals again in '06 -- until spending the final two seasons of his career in Japan from '10-11.

1995: Juan Lebron, OF, Carmen Bozello Huyke (Puerto Rico) High School (No. 19)
Lebron never made it to the Majors, playing in the Royals' system until 1998 before bouncing around three other organizations -- the Mets, Mariners and Cardinals -- until 2002. He finished his career in '07 in Independent Ball.

1994: Matt Smith, LHP, Grants Pass (Ore.) High School (No. 16)
Smith’s pitching career did not advance past rookie ball initially, and his hitting career as a first baseman didn’t advance past Double-A. He made a comeback on the pitching side in 1998, when he made three starts and six appearances for Class A Lansing, but that would be the last year in baseball for Smith.

1993: Jeff Granger, LHP, Texas A&M (No. 5)
Granger made his debut the year he was drafted and gave up three runs in one inning. In 1994, he allowed seven earned runs in two starts. He made it back to the Majors in ’96, allowing 12 earned runs in 15 games (16 1/3 innings), and his last season in the Majors was with Pittsburg in ’97, when he allowed 10 runs in nine games (five innings).

1992: Michael Tucker, SS, Longwood University (No. 10)
Tucker was instantly labeled a potential superstar after the Royals drafted him with a can’t-miss swing. After the Royals converted him to the outfield, he only spent two seasons with Kansas City before being traded to the Braves. Tucker put together a 12-year Major League career with seven teams -- including a second stint with the Royals from 2002-03.

1991: Joe Vitiello, OF, Alabama (No. 7)
Vitiello starred as an outfielder, first baseman and pitcher at Alabama for three years and was as athletic as they came, leading to his Top-10 Draft pick in 1991. He made his debut in '95, but bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues between then and '99, posting a career .235 average with 21 homers in five seasons with the Royals. Vitiello played for the Padres and Expos before his career ended after 2003.

1990: No first-round pick

1989: Brent Mayne, C, California State, Fullerton (No. 13)
Mayne played for the Royals in two separate stints in his 15-year Major League career, including his debut year in 1990. He finished eighth in Rookie of the Year Award voting in ’91 and played three more years in Kansas City. Mayne played for the Mets, A’s, Giants and Rockies before coming back to the Royals for two years in 2002-03 and finished his career with the D-backs and Dodgers in ’04.

1988: Hugh Walker, OF, Jacksonville (Fla.) High School (No. 18)
Walker never made it out of Triple-A, but he played in the Royals organization for seven seasons before finishing his career in Independent Ball through 1997.

1987: Kevin Appier, RHP, Antelope Valley College (No. 9)
One of the best first-round Draft picks in club history, Appier retired as the Royals’ all-time strikeout leader and made more Opening Day starts (seven) than any Kansas City pitcher before him. He won the ERA title in 1993 and played for the Royals for 13 years of his 16-year career.

1986: Tony Clements, SS, Don Antonio Lugo (Calif.) High School (No. 24)
Though he briefly made it to Triple-A, Clements never played at the Major League level. Speed was his top asset, but he never hit well enough throughout his career.

1985: Brian McRae, SS, Manatee (Fla.) High School (No. 17)
Son of Royals Hall of Famer Hal McRae, Brian played for the Royals from 1990-94. He hit .261/.331/.396 in his 10-year career for the Royals, Mets, Cubs, Rockies and Blue Jays.

1984: Scott Bankhead, RHP, North Carolina (No. 16)
Bankhead only played in Kansas City for one year, posting a 4.61 ERA in 24 games (17 starts) in 1986. He went on to play for the Mariners for five years, as well as the Reds, the Red Sox and the Yankees in a 10-year career before turning to coaching in North Carolina.

1983: Gary Thurman, OF, North Central (Ind.) High School (No. 21)
Known as one of the fastest men in the game at the time, Thurman stole 65 bases in his nine-year Major League career, including six years with Kansas City.

1982: John Morris, OF, Seton Hall (No. 10)
Morris became the third Seton Hall player to be drafted in the top 10, but he never played with the Royals; in 1985, he was traded to the Cardinals for Lonnie Smith, and he was a backup outfielder in St. Louis for five seasons before finishing his career with the Angels and Phillies.

1981: Dave Leeper, OF, Southern California (No. 23)
The Twins drafted Leeper out of high school in 1978, but he elected to go to USC instead, where he became a first-round Draft pick. But he would only play two seasons in the Majors, playing in just 19 games between 1984-85.

1980: Frank Wills, RHP, Tulane (No. 16)
Wills was a reliever for nine seasons, two of which with the Royals. Wills, who died in 2012 at age 53, posted a 4.65 ERA in 16 appearances (nine starts) in those two seasons with Kansas City.

1979: Atlee Hammaker, LHP, East Tennessee State (No. 21)
The tall left-hander only pitched one year for the Royals, in 1981, because he was traded in a package that brought Vida Blue and Bob Tufts to Kansas City. Hammaker would go on to be an All-Star for the Giants and win the ERA title in in 1983 with a 2.25 mark in 23 games started and 172 1/3 innings. He finished his 12-year Major League career with a 3.66 ERA in 249 games (152 starts).

1978: Buddy Biancalana, SS, Redwood (Calif.) High School (No. 25)
He had become a cult figure months before the 1985 World Series, when his lack of batting prowess was a subject of satire on “Late Night with David Letterman,” but after Biancalana scored four runs, drove in three and walked six times in the ’85 postseason, he was invited on the show and introduced as the “ultimate underdog.” Biancalana was known best for his slick fielding and played six years in the Majors -- five and a half with Kansas City, before being traded to Houston in ’87.

1977: Mike Jones, LHP, Sutherland (N.Y.) High School (No. 21)
The 6-foot-6 lefty spent all four years of his career with the Royals, posting a 4.43 ERA across 71 games (25 starts). He pitched in the 1981 AL Division Series and '84 AL Championship Series.

1976: Ben Grzybek, RHP, Hialeah (Fla.) High School (No. 18)
In a deep Draft full of future Hall of Famers (like Ozzie Smith), the Royals chose Grzybek, who never got past Double-A in their system. He pitched for five seasons, until 1980, before retiring from professional baseball.

1975: Clint Hurdle, OF, Merritt Island (Fla.) High School (No. 9)
When he was a rookie, many thought Hurdle would be among the greatest Royals of all time. He even had a Sports Illustrated cover in 1978. He was the starting right fielder for the first pennant-winning team in Royals history and at one point was batting cleanup behind George Brett, but Hurdle tapered off significantly in his later years and eventually retired from player after 10 seasons with four different teams to go on and have a successful managing career.

1974: Willie Wilson, OF, Summit (N.J.) High School (No. 15)
As he came up with Hurdle, Wilson turned into a two-time All-Star and won the 1982 batting title with a .332 mark. He set a club record with 83 stolen bases in '79 and in '80 he became the second player in MLB history with 100 hits from each side of the plate, while also winning his Gold Glove Award that year.

1973: Lew Olsen, RHP, San Ramon Valley (Calif.) High School (No. 9)
Olsen made it to Triple-A with the Royals but no further, as he would retire from professional baseball after six Minor League seasons.

1972: Jamie Quirk, SS, St. Paul (Calif.) High School (No. 18)
After riding the bench for most of 1976, the Royals traded Quirk in a blockbuster deal with the Brewers that brought catcher Darrell Porter and pitcher Jim Colborn to Kansas City. A year later, Milwaukee traded Quirk back to the Royals, when he also learned how to catch. Quirk had an 18-year career, including 11 with the Royals over three stints.

1971: Roy Branch, RHP, Beaumont (Mo.) High School (No. 5)
Seven years after he was drafted in the first round, the Mariners got Branch from the Royals, and he made his debut in 1979 in Seattle. He only started two games in the Majors.

1970: Rex Goodson, C, Pine Tree (Texas) High School (No. 8)
Goodson made it to Double-A, but his bat wouldn’t push him to the Majors. He played four seasons in the Royals organization, hitting .274.

1969: John Simmons Jr., SS, Childersburg (Ala.) High School (No. 23)
In their first non-expansion Draft, the Royals selected Simmons Jr., who did not sign.