Kansas City is embarking on the moment when they essentially find out what their excellent 2011 farm system would actually become worth. Is it good enough?
Going into 2010, the Royals top prospect was lefty pitcher Mike Montgomery and John Sickels gave him a B+ grade. He was ahead of Mike Moustakas. He was ahead of Wil Myers. He was ahead of Eric Hosmer. Montgomery posted a 1.88 ERA that season with 65 K and 15 BB in 62 innings, and though he did suffer from an elbow injury it didn't change Sickels grade of him: B+.
Going in 2011, Montgomery was rated by Sickels as the fifth best Royals prospect.
That's a pretty phenomenal drop for a lefty with a 1.88 ERA. Of course, he didn't "drop" as much as he got passed by and it just proved that Kansas City had a farm system of prospects that you will rarely ever see. (As long as you believe in what the experts have to say.) Montgomery fell behind Moustakas, Hosmer, and Myers, all of whom were given A grades by Sickels. Fellow lefties Danny Duffy and John Lamb, and righties Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, all got B+ grades. KC had one B+ or better graded prospect in 2010. They had eight of them in 2011.
It's almost like the Royals were going to become the grand experiment. Could a team, even if it was the Kansas City Royals, possibly avoid success with this many great prospects? If they could not, does it degrade the entire evaluation system? I mean, even if you can't predict everything, what's the point of grades if you can be wrong that many times with only one team? Even the Royals top pick in 2011, shortstop Christian Colon, was only ranked 11th going into that year. How could this possibly fail?
The Royals are entering their third season since that incredible farm system emerged. There aren't really that many players left from that class to graduate with Kansas City:
- Hosmer and Moustakas have been regulars for awhile.
- Duffy would be a regular if he stopped getting hurt. Ditto for Lamb, though he hasn't reached the majors yet. He has made 21 starts in the last three years.
- Jeffress turned into cash considerations from the Blue Jays.
You expect some of your top prospects to fail, because that's what they do. That's also the advantage of having eight B+ or better prospects, because statistically it seems very unlikely that all of them will fail. You also expect that a team will cash in some of those prospects for major league players, because that's what teams with a surplus of good prospects do. The only question remaining for the Royals:
Are they really going to funk up "the best farm system ever"?
The 2013 Royals Projected lineup (ZIPS projections):
- Alex Gordon, OF - .269/.352/.434, 17 HR, 67 RBI, 11 SB
- Alcides Escobar, SS - .271/.312/.366, 70 R, 28 SB
- Eric Hosmer, 1B - .273/.336/.435, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 15 SB
- Billy Butler, DH - .295/.362/.476, 23 HR, 92 RBI
- Salvador Perez, C -.286/.316/.422, 12 HR
- Mike Moustakas, 3B - .261/.310/.430, 20 HR, 81 RBI
- Jeff Francoeur, OF - .261/.305/.413, 16 HR, 66 RBI
- Lorenzo Cain, OF - .259/.311/.383, 9 HR, 15 SB
- Chris Getz, 2B - .259/.310/.316, 0 HR, 15 SB
- Johnny Giavotella, 2B - .266/.316/.368, 8 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB
- Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B - .226/.270/.327, 10 HR
- Jarrod Dyson, OF - .244/.301/.312, 35 SB
What should really stand out here is just how not littered-with-talent this lineup is, in the third year since the incredible farm system. Of course, that 2011 system was loaded with pitching talent and Myers has been traded for two pitchers as well. Moustakas and Hosmer are the two hitters that the Royals are hanging their hats on from that system. Giavotella received a grade B- from Sickels in 2011 and he hit .323/.404/.472 last year, his second in AAA.
Hosmer his .232/.304/.359 last year with 14 HR, a major disappointment, but he's only 22. When he was 21, he hit .293/.334/.465 with 19 HR. He's had ups and downs throughout his career, but he still managed to maintain decent plate discipline (95 K/56 BB) while hitting .232. He seems like an excellent candidate to bounce back and challenge for 30 homers.
In 238 career major league games, Moustakas is only managing a .696 OPS (90 OPS+) with poor OBP (.301) and less-than-desired power. He did hit 20 home runs last year, but it would be much better to see him raise that on-base percentage to above .320 for once. He will be 24, he's not too old, but the clock is ticking. After hitting .315/.375/.534 in April, Moose hit .231/.285/.394 over his last 129 games. He'll need to do more than hit "empty" home runs.
Maybe the best news for Moose and Hosmer is that they have Alex Gordon as a role model. Once considered the best prospect in baseball, Gordon hit .244/.328/.405 in his first 408 games and was considered a bust at age 26. Over the last two years, thanks to great defense and a .298/.372/.478 batting line with nearly 100 doubles, Gordon is considered one of the most valuable players in baseball. He's not really a fantasy star on most nights, but Gordon has been very reliable and he essentially sucked for four years. Moustakas and Hosmer have really only sucked for one. There's plenty of hope.
Then there's Butler, and Billy Butler is gonna do what you expect of him. Other than that, there is very little to expect from the rest of the lineup for fantasy baseball. If Hosmer and Moustakas have breakouts and possibly Giavotella takes over for Getz, then this could be one of the more exciting stories in baseball this year. If they don't, the Royals could be headed for another top five pick.
Maybe that top five pick will help make them the best system in baseball again, but will it matter?