Maybe the Saberhagen example is a better illustration of the "diamond-in-the-rough" late-round selection that makes good, rather than the measured judgment given to early-round, can't-miss talents.
But then consider the Royals' other two Cy Young Award winners in David Cone and Zack Greinke. Cone was the Royals' third-round selection in June 1981 out of local Rockhurst High School in Kansas City. Greinke was Kansas City's first-round selection (sixth overall) in June 2002 out of Apopka High School in Apopka, Fla. Three Cy Young Award winners, three high school draftees -- case closed.
Well, not really. If you look instead at pitchers in the Royals Hall of Fame, then the college-over-high-school hypothesis looks confirmed more often than not. Steve Busby, Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff and Kevin Appier were all Royals Draft picks out of college. Larry Gura and Jeff Montgomery were not drafted by the Royals, but they were both college pitchers when drafted. Even Dan Quisenberry, who was an undrafted free agent, was a college pitcher when signed by the Royals. Mark Gubicza is the only other exception. Gubicza was the Royals' second-round selection in 1981 out of William Penn Charter High School in Philadelphia.
In 2011, Justin Verlander was the most dominant pitcher in the American League, and he was drafted by the Tigers out of Old Dominion University. In the National League, however, Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers won his first Cy Young Award, and he was drafted by Los Angeles out of Dallas' Highland Park High School.
For every high school bust, there is a college standout. For every college disappointment, there is a high school superstar. Nearly nothing about drafting pitchers will ever provide predictable or repeatable results. But what is predictable and repeatable is that pitching is the key prerequisite for winning baseball games.
Year in and year out, most organizations rest on the axiom, "There is safety in numbers," by taking as many good arms as they can find. In 2012, the Royals started in the first round with Kyle Zimmer from the University of San Francisco. Zimmer played for the Dons at San Francisco, and now the fans are excited to watch him earn his way through the Minor Leagues to don a Royals uniform here in Kansas City.
Congratulations to Kyle and his family.