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.

Everyday Starters
C: Lucas May
1B: Eric Hosmer
2B: Christian Colon
3B: Mike Moustakas
LF: Alex Gordon
CF: Derrick Robinson
RF: Wil Myers
DH: Billy Butler

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.

C: Manny Pina
CI: Kila Ka'aihue
MI: Mike Aviles
OF: Mitch Maier
UT: Ed Lucas

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?

ST1: Zack Greinke
ST2: John Lamb
ST3: Mike Montgomery
ST4: Chris Dwyer
ST5: Sean O'Sullivan

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.

CL: Joakim Soria
SU: Tim Collins
RH: Louis Coleman
LH: Danny Duffy
MR: Luke Hochevar
MR: Aaron Crow

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.  

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe

Nice article, I have been curious to see a more in-depth write-up of the job Moore has done with what was just recently an execrable farm system.

Just a curiosity...

How would you compare this three-some of pitchers (Lamb/Montgomery/Dwyer) at this stage of their careers to other famous trios of minor league prospects (John Danks/Edinson Volquez/Thomas Diamond or Paul Wilson/Jason Isringhausen/Bill Pulsipher)?

Assuming Jeff Bianchi heals up (and stays healthy in the future,) does he fit into this equation at all? At second perhaps, if Colon stays at short? Or is he another MI/Utility guy for the bench at best?
He could definitely end up in one of those bench roles, I just wanted to give out some Ed Lucas love.
For a hilarious counterpoint, let's see an article about the 2013 Astros.
Just a guess, but it will not involve too many players currently in their farm system. If ti does, the team will be historically bad.
"Now, starting pitcher for your Houston Astros.....GUSTAVO CHACIN!!!!"
Who, by the way, is leading all of MLB in OPS (not accounting for number of AB).

Maybe they have a chance after all.
My guess is that the 2013 Astros will include a lot of the 2010 Royals: Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Podsednik, Yuniesky Betancourt, Wilson Benemit, Chris Getz, etc.
That's the issue. It's funny, I was wondering about doing some other teams, but how many teams can you do this with? Even this is a crapshoot at best, and with other teams you'd be forced into even wilder guesswork with FA signings.
Not definitive, but I suppose when a SAD suffer makes public comments like this...

Yeah, I buy KG's argument that Greinke will be hesitant to sign with a NY team, or Boston or Philly or Chicago. But what about a big-market team with a more laid-back media (LA, assuming the Dodgers' divorce is finalized by 2013? The Rangers?) or one of the medium market teams that sometimes spends big, like Detroit or St. Louis. St. Louis, for instance, is known to be a very friendly and supportive environment, though perhaps the Cards will break the bank on Pujols and won't be able to afford Greinke.
I saw that as well. The choices for Greinke are not limited to KC or Yankee Stadium. Given that maybe it makes sense for Dayton to move him for a prospect package, maybe find that C or SS of the future. We know he has the Braves on speed dial. Something like Randall Delgado and Christian Bethancourt?
The Braves also make some sense as a permanent home for Greinke as a low-key media environment with a mid-size payroll. I know they've been paring back on costs recently, but by 2013, they'll have Lowe's, Chipper's, and Hudson's contracts off the books (assuming they don't pick up any of the options) which, depending on how much their other salaries excalate and what they do free-agent wise after the next two seasons should allow them afford Greinke.
Are we to assume that Hosmer and Moustakas each have at least a year of MLB experience by the start of the 2013 season?
At the very least, likely more.
I confess to being a little skeptical. To me, this proves how FAR AWAY the Royals really are to contending. There's Soria, Greinke, and Butler. That's it for pieces in hand. They've got a lot of very attractive birds in the bush, but you know what they say about those. If even half of those pan out that will be a feat. And when half those guys don't pan out and some more take 2-5 years to figure it out, it's not going to come together. I know the Rays pulled this massing of talent off, but there's even less big league talent here than there was there.
The Rays also had better management, pulling guys like Carlos Pena off the scrap heap and making smart trades to get guys like Zobrist and Garza.
Let's not rewrite history. Zobrist was traded for Aubrey Huff, who last I checked is having a really dang fine season for the Giants, and hasn't been arguably worse than Zobrist. Still a good trade for the Rays, but as far as it affects them in the short term, it only helped them financially.
Huff may be having a good season this year, but at the time he was traded he had a string of about 5 ~100 OPS+ seasons in a row, he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire.
Additionally, Zobrist is one of the more gifted defenders in the game, excelling at multiple difficult positions. Huff offers little value in the defensive department in general.
Huff would've been a FA at this point, so he wouldn't have been a Ray anyway. If he consistently played like he's doing now, he also would've cost too much for them.
and the Ray's had WAY more quality depth then the Royals system...
Trade Greinke to the Cubs and get Hak Ju Lee in return with Cashner and others. You know Hendry will do it and take Soriano or Fukudome for good measure.
It would take a hell of a lot more than Lee and Cashner to get Greinke...
A HELL OF A LOT more indeed. I don't think the Cubs are an ideal situation for Greinke, either.
Wow, Luke Hochevar? Do you think his salary would be a little high by then to be kept around and as a middle reliever?

"He's the best left-handed pitching prospect I've seen this year," said one scout...

Aroldis Chapman. Either he's not considered a prospect or this scout hasn't seen him.
Chapman's a "throwing" prospect, rather than a pitching prospect.
If all of the above lineup scenarios play out, and their shortstop position is still up in the air, why not give Mike Aviles a stab as their starter there (assuming he's still productive and on the roster)?
In your minor league update yesterday, you wrote Giavotella is "not the sexiest player in the system but has a major league future." Giavotella at 2B, Colon at SS. Then, you have money to spend on pitching.

I think you're selling Hochevar short as a starter. Hasn't performed as well as he should, sure, but his stuff is much better and varried than O'Sullivan's. He's getting better.
I agree that he [Hochevar] is improving, and his stuff IS better that O'Sullivan's - when it's on. But I am not sure that the Royals can ever really count on him being the pitcher that they thought they were getting when they drafted him. He has been pretty successful at reducing his OPS number, by over 100 points, which is a really good start. But he still seems to have difficulty managing himself when he puts runners on base - he seems to lose his focus. While he is giving up fewer 3-run HR, he is still adding nearly 200 points to his OPS with runners in scoring position.

An 18-30, 5.68 line in 3+ years is not a promising start. Maybe there's a Koufax there waiting to get out (I wish), and it's true that he has shown flashes of real dominance. But there have been a lot more instances where he has looked like he was the one being dominated. Let's hope he can turn that around.
I don't think Colon is a shortstop, thus I didn't do it.
I have a hard time believing that Kila Monster would be a bench player here, in fact, I find it laughable since I see him as probably the best position player on this potential roster in 2013 unless one of these guys starts getting on base like Kila has been his entire career so far. I live in Omaha and have seen him play a ton and I have no idea what the naysayers are talking about Kila is concerned. As far as I concerned, they are sniffing glue. He's a beast.

SS TBD? Yuniesky Betancourt FTW!
Wouldn't the Astros 2013 lineup be better than this?
I was hoping that Irving Falu (SS & 2B)would continue what looked like a genuine breakout year at Omaha when his BA was hanging around the .315-.324 range and leading the PCL in hits, but he went into a slump and ran off to play in the Caribbean-Central American games. Now he is back, but the average has been hanging around the low .270s.

Kevin, I also like Ed Lucas. When he played 3B for High Desert in 2006 he destroyed just about every team fielding record for a third baseman. Billy Butler started the 2005 season at 3B for High Desert and he was eventually moved to LF which didn't work out either.
Great article, Kevin. This is an awesome look into the future of a storied franchise that's really been in a downward spiral. I hope they are able to field a competitive team in the near future as you suggest. Would love to hear Rany's thoughts on this possible future...

As an aside, BP does a fantastic job of breaking down each team in the Annual, looking a few years back and a few years forward as a framework for understanding the upcoming season. However, this article offers a perspective that the majority of teams should be considering. What does each franchise have locked up now, and in the pipeline, to be competitive in the next three years? If you can manage it, I would love to see as KG article like this online for each franchise every October/November or in the annual in the spring. Thanks!

Storied franchise? More like horror stories.
Thanks for this article. Seeing something like this from a source like you confirms that the Royals have a special farm system right now, and the parallel to Tampa Bay is exciting. As a Royals fan, reading this is like eating candy. many of these guys will actually pan out? A few years ago Alex Gordon was a can't miss guy crushing everything in the minors, now he's a project. Will the real career paths of these players be anywhere near this simple?

Even if three or four of these players are stars and another handful are useful major leaguers in three years, that still leaves KC only on the verge of contention. True, even that will be a huge leap forward. But Dayton Moore will still need to find some established MLB talent that can actually contribute! Can he do it? I sure hope so.
Some prospects are disappointments, yes, but some borderline prospects are nice surprises, too.

Some teams such as the Orioles and Royals seem to have trouble converting top notch prospects into top notch Major Leaguers, while teams such as the Tigers and As find ways to make solid players out of questionable prospects. Hopefully for Royals and Orioles fans, new regimes will bring better results with their young players.
In Nick Cafardo's baseball notes column in the Boston Globe today, Greinke had this less than inspiring, though revealing, comment-
" response to a question about the Royals’ top prospects, “There’s no reason for me to get real excited about it, because the chances of more than one of them making a major impact by the time my contract is up is pretty slim.’’
Lucas May, future starting catcher? Ouch, don't tell Ned Colletti. His goal as Dodgers GM is to supply the league with future catchers (Navarro, Santana, May). That's the same number of active current active legitimate catchers in the Dodgers organization.
For what it's worth, Navarro was originally signed by the Yanks, then went to Arizona in the Randy Johnson deal before heading to the Dodgers.

Not sure if that works against what you're saying though...