Best 5 Draft picks in Royals history

February 15th, 2021

The Royals prides themselves on homegrown players. The organizations has relied on players developed within its own system during championship runs, with cornerstone players coming from Kansas City's selections in the MLB Draft.

Who are the best Royals homegrown Draft picks? Here are the Top 5, factoring in only players who were taken in the First-Year Player Draft (not the expansion Draft) and the value they accrued specifically for Kansas City.

1) George Brett, 3B/1B
Drafted in the second round of the 1971 Draft

When the Royals drafted an 18-year-old shortstop out of El Segundo High School (Calif.) in 1971, general manager Lou Gorman said of the heavily scouted player, “He has real good hands, pretty good speed and should develop into a fine hitter with power.”

Fine was certainly an understatement.

The 18-year-old shortstop turned into a Hall of Fame third baseman in Brett, who debuted in 1973 for the Royals and played his first full season in ’74, finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting.

Brett spent his entire 21-year career with the Royals, during which he was a 13-time All-Star, won the 1980 AL Most Valuable Player Award and took home a Gold Glove Award in '85. He also became the first player in Major League history to win batting titles in three decades ('76, ’80 and ’90). Brett retired following the '93 season, finishing with 3,154 hits, 317 home runs, 665 doubles, 137 triples and 201 stolen bases. He accumulated 88.6 career bWAR, almost twice as much as any other player in Royals history.

2. Kevin Appier, RHP
Drafted ninth overall in the 1987 MLB Draft

The Royals' all-time strikeout leader with 1,458, Appier accumulated 47.0 bWAR in his 13 years with Kansas City (46.5 of which came from 1990-97). He was drafted out of Antelope Valley College in Lancaster, Calif., and three years later -- as a 22-year-old rookie -- he threw 185 2/3 innings with a 2.76 ERA, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

From 1992-93, Appier threw a combined 447 innings with a 2.52 ERA, while allowing only 18 home runs. The Royals didn’t give him much run support, and Appier’s records in those seasons were 15-8 and 18-8, respectively. In ’93, Appier led the AL with a 2.56 ERA but finished third in Cy Young Award voting. He was elected to his lone All-Star Game in '95.

With an unconventional delivery that hid the ball until the last moment, Appier posted a 3.49 ERA over parts of 13 seasons with the Royals, including six outings from 2003-04 when he returned for a second stint to finish out his career.

3) Bret Saberhagen, RHP
Drafted in the 19th round of the 1982 MLB Draft

Not only was the most important pitcher in Royals history drafted in the 19th round, he was drafted with higher projections at shortstop than at pitcher. But that changed shortly after the Draft, when Saberhagen delivered a no-hitter for Grover Cleveland High School in the California state championship game at Dodger Stadium.

In 1984, Saberhagen cracked the Opening Day roster and posted a 3.48 ERA over 38 appearances, including 18 starts. He followed that up by going 20-6 with a 2.87 ERA en route to winning the '85 AL Cy Young Award and leading Kansas City to a title. Saberhagen, just 21 years old at the time, was named the World Series MVP after throwing a shutout in Game 7. He added another Cy Young Award in '89, finishing 23-6 with an MLB-leading 2.16 ERA while leading all players with 12 complete games. Saberhagen posted a 3.21 ERA in eight seasons with Kansas City and accumulated 40.7 bWAR.

4) Willie Wilson, OF
Drafted 18th overall in the 1974 MLB Draft

The Royals took Wilson out of Summit High School in New Jersey in 1974, and he debuted two years later. But his first full season wasn’t until 1978, and he started to really take off in '79. The outfielder led the AL in triples five times. Wilson finished with a franchise-record 612 stolen bases and ranks third in club history with 1,060 runs scored. He also holds the all-time Royals record with 13 career inside-the-park home runs.

Wilson accumulated 42.4 bWAR in his 15 seasons with the Royals, finishing as high as fourth in AL MVP voting (1980) with one Gold Glove Award, two Silver Slugger Awards and two All-Star selections. He compiled 8.5 bWAR in '80, making him one of two players in Royals history -- along with Brett -- to have an 8.0 WAR season.

5) Mark Gubicza, RHP
Drafted in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft

Gubicza, a two-time All-Star, made all but two of his 384 Major League appearances for the Royals, accumulating 38.0 bWAR in 13 seasons with the club. He anchored Kansas City's pitching staff for more than a decade after being drafted out of William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. Gubicza didn’t develop as quickly as Saberhagen did -- and the former didn’t pitch in the 1985 World Series -- but by '88, Gubicza was every bit the pitcher Saberhagen was. Gubicza won 20 games for the first time in '88, throwing 270 innings with a 2.70 ERA en route to finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting. He also struck out 14 batters in an Aug. 27, 1988, game against the Twins, setting a single-game franchise record that has since been broken.

The right-hander, who posted a 3.91 ERA during his time in Kansas City, ranks second in club history with 2,218 2/3 innings pitched. He also ranks second in strikeouts (1,366) and third in wins (132).

Honorable mention

Mike Sweeney
Sweeney posted a .313/.383/.521 batting line (good for a 130 OPS+) from 1999-2005, making five All-Star Games in the process. He accumulated 23.3 bWAR in 13 seasons in Kansas City after being drafted in the 10th round of the 1991 MLB Draft.

Paul Splittorff
Splittorff is the Royals' all-time leader in wins (166) and innings (2,554 2/3), while ranking third in games (429), fifth in strikeouts (1,057) and second in shutouts (17). After being drafted in the 25th round of the 1968 MLB Draft, the left-hander accumulated 22.9 bWAR in 15 seasons, all with the Royals.