Working on the Minor League Update reminds me on a daily basis just how good the Royals farm system has become. Seemingly every night we get a pair of hits from Wil Myers, a home run from Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas (or both), 2010 first-round pick Christian Colon finding his swing, or some power lefty (pick from a plethora of them) shutting his opponent down. An e-mail from a scout last night led to a deeper thought, however, as he sketched a quick outline of a Royals roster of the future, leading me to put some real detailed thought into the process. What I came up with surprised even me. "This team could be really good," said the scout. "I realize that's weird, and like saying the Los Angeles Clippers are going to be good, where it just doesn't sound right, but that's a lot of talent."
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is a possible look at your 2013 Kansas City Royals.
To start, we've certainly had a pair of positional shifts here, with Myers from catcher to right field and Colon sliding over from short to second. Myers has made little progress defensively, and at some point, the gap between his offense and defense is going to become far too great to overcome. "He's very big, and the arm action is very long," explained one scout. "Last time I saw him catch there were balls bouncing back to the screen and he's just costing his team runs back there." At the same time, the 19-year-old is now hitting .316/.432/.499 between Low- and High-A this year, and the scout saw no reason he couldn't handle Double-A right now. "He's a man at the plate," said the scout. "He's 19 and not overwhelmed in the least, and the bat speed certainly isn't a problem. When I think of the best hitters I've seen this year, he's on the short list."
The fourth overall pick in this year's draft, Colon is staying at shortstop for now, and the Royals believe he can stay there long-term, but they're in the minority. He's a 40 runner (on the 20-to-80) scouting scale on a good day, and while his defensive fundamentals are outstanding, he just doesn't have big-league range. That said, he's going to hit, he's going to walk, he's going to hit some balls out of the yard, and he has leadership-level makeup. "My first thought when I saw him was, 'Is this really the No. 4 overall pick?'" said a scout who recently saw Colon play at High-A Wilmington, "but he's won me over."
Getting to those that haven't moved, Hosmer and Moustakas have the potential to be a monstrous corner pair, and the move of Myers to right opens up the catching job for May, acquired recently from the Dodgers in the Scott Podsednik deal. He's no great shakes, but he should hold the position down until someone better comes along. Robinson provides 80 speed and defense, while Butler moves from first base to his natural position of designated hitter.
What's missing here is a shortstop. Maybe Colon will stay there out of necessity alone, but if not, this is one of the few positions that will need to be filled from outside the organization. Still, this lineup is loaded with players who are young and cost-controlled, so spending a little bit of cash on a defensive stalwart to help the young pitching staff shouldn't be a reach.
Pina is a perfect no-hit/great-glove back-up catcher picked up from the Rangers last year, and while Kila Ka'aihue had his own "free" movement thanks to massive Triple-A numbers, it's hard to find him consistent at-bats in Kansas City. Aviles can start as necessary, and is a nice bench infielder, even on a good team, while Maier can play all three outfield positions and smack some line drives. The utility man is a bit of a reach, but there's no reason Lucas couldn't be another Willie Bloomquist. An eighth-round pick six years ago from Dartmouth, Lucas is a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, but he's had a breakout year at Triple-A Omaha, batting .335/.411/.553 while playing left field and every infield position but first base. A future star, or even starter? No way. A future 25th man on a roster? Why not?
Now, before you go filling up the comments section about how Greinke's contract ends after 2012 and like most superstars on small-market teams, he'll sign with a big-money winner, hear me out. Greinke doesn't like dealing with the media and doesn't like the spotlight, with social anxiety disorder that nearly ended his career before it really began. A young team with the potential to win in a small market could be far more appealing to Greinke than pitching in New York, where one home game at Yankee Stadium has more media than Greinke has to deal with in 81 home games in his existing home. Following Grienke is the best trio of left-handed pitchers in the minors, and it's not even close. Lamb has had one of the biggest pitching breakouts in the minors, as the recently-turned 20-year-old has gone from Low-A to Double-A with a 1.65 ERA in 22 starts. "He's the best left-handed pitching prospect I've seen this year," said one scout who saw him pitch twice at High-A Wilmington. "He's better than Montgomery, and he's better than Martin Perez." Montgomery is also on the short list for best southpaws around, but don't underestimate Dwyer, who throws harder than either of them and has also reached Double-A in his first full season and has 113 strikeouts in 102 innings. Acquired in the Alberto Callaspo deal, O'Sullivan is a perfect fifth starter as a consistent battler who goes six or seven innings and keeps the team in the ballgame.
Soria has affordable club options through 2014, and with this team he can finally get a good number of save opportunities. My affection for Collins is well known, so I'll be optimistic and let him pitch the eighth. Crow might also be an optimistic projection based on the 2009 first-round pick's major struggles this year, but his stuff is still good, and scouts still think he can figure things out. The key is simply (easier said than done) throwing more strikes with his fastball so he can utilize his slider and plus changeup. Duffy might be a starter in another organization, but with the impressive arms ahead of him on the depth chart, he gets moved to the pen, while Hochevar suffers a similar fate. A fifth-round pick last year out of LSU, Coleman has already reached Triple-A while giving up just 47 hits in 72 innings and touching 95 mph with his fastball. While not listed, a nice long shot might be righty Patrick Keating, a little-known 20th-round pick from 2009 who has a 1.89 ERA across two levels and 74 strikeouts in 58 innings thanks to an impressive sinker/slider combination.
Add this all up, and this is a good team with a shot at year-after-year contention in the American League Central. General manager Dayton Moore has taken a lot of flak, and with good reason, for his moves at the big-league level, but at his core, he's still a scout, and his skills in that area have built an organization that could be on the brink of returning to the kind of success the franchise hasn't seen since Ronald Reagan was in his first term.