Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Though 2009 first-rounder Aaron Crow fell flat, seemingly every other prospect in the system takes one massive leap forward.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Mike Moustakas, 3B
2. John Lamb, LHP
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Wil Myers, C
5. Mike Montgomery, LHP
Four-Star Prospects
6. Chris Dywer, LHP
7. Danny Duffy, LHP
8. Christian Colon, SS
Three-Star Prospects
9. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
10. Tim Collins, LHP
11. Robinson Yambati, RHP

Nine More:
12. Chelsor Cuthbert, 3B: The Nicaraguan showed impressive hitting and glove work in his pro debut.
13. Yordano Ventura, RHP: This undersized teenager has plus-plus velocity and impressive command.
14. Brett Eibner, OF: Eibner has above-average power, speed, and arm strength to go with questions about his bat.
15. Jason Adam, RHP: Signed with an over-slot ($800,000) bonus, this fifth-round pick has size, stuff, and projection.
16. Aaron Crow, RHP: He struggled in his debut; he has good stuff, but his command is a mess.
17. Louis Coleman, RHP: This long, angular reliever should be in the big leagues this year.
18. Derrick Robinson, OF: Robinson is a true burner and a better hitter than Jarrod Dyson.
19. Will Smith, LHP: Smith is a pure finesse pitcher with questions about how well his stuff will play at the upper levels.
20. Salvador Perez, C: This outstanding defender made nice progress with his bat; he could move up next year.

1. Mike Moustakas, 3B
: 9/11/88
Height/Weight: 5-11/230
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2010 Stats: .347/.413/687 at Double-A (66 G); .293/.314/.564 at Triple-A (52 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/speed

Year in Review: The second overall pick in 2007 was the biggest of many explosions in the Royals' system, tying for the minor-league lead with 36 home runs despite missing the first two weeks of the season with an oblique strain.
The Good: No player in the minors can match Moustakas' bat speed. He can easily allow balls to travel deep in the zone and then crush them with a swing that gets the barrel of the bat into the zone quickly while leaving it there for a long time. Beyond his plus-plus power due to strength and tremendous wrists, he's also an excellent pure hitter who had more extra-base hits (77) than strikeouts (67) in 484 at-bats. He's made improvements at third base, where his plus-plus arm is a true weapon.
The Bad: Moustakas is short, thick, and bow-legged, which had many teams tempted to try him as a catcher out of high school. He's a slow runner and his range at third base is greatly reduced by his lack of athleticism. He's such a good hitter that he rarely works the count.
Ephemera: While Chatsworth High has produced plenty of big-leaguers, including former Red Sox great Dwight Evans, it is also the alma mater of Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star third baseman and home-run title contender.
Fantasy Impact: He's a big, big fantasy star who does everything but steal bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: Wilson Betemit's surprising 2010 showing will likely block Moustakas, but only temporarily.
ETA: Mid-2011.

2. John Lamb, LHP
: 7/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2008, Laguna Hills HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 1.58 ERA (40.0-26-17-43) at Low-A (8 G); 1.45 ERA (74.2-59-15-90) at High-A (13 G); 5.45 ERA (33.0-37-13-26) at Double-A (7 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/curveball

Year in Review: The potential breakout candidate proved to be just that with a dominant showing at the two A levels before running out of gas in the Texas League.
The Good: One scout called Lamb “simply the best left-handed starting prospect in the minors.” He's an aggressive, athletic pitcher with three potential plus pitches, beginning with a 92-94 mph fastball that he effortlessly spots in all four quadrants of the strike zone. His changeup falls off the table and gives him a second swing-and-miss offering, while his curveball flashes plus at times. He throws all of his pitches for strikes in any count, and he knows how to set up opposing hitters.
The Bad: Lamb's curveball can flatten out, and his fastball is often a bit too straight for some. After pitching less than 70 innings in 2009, he was clearly tired toward the end of the year, but it's not a long-term concern.
Ephemera: With just 26 wins, Seth McClung is the surprising all-time leader among players selected 145th overall and the only pitcher in double digits.
Perfect World Projection: He's a front-line big-league starter.
Fantasy Impact: Significant.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lamb will begin the year as just another guy at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, expected to be one of the most prospect-laden rosters in recent memory. He also could be the first of the high-ceiling arms to reach the big leagues.
ETA: Late 2011.

3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
: 10/24/89
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, American Heritage HS (FL)
2010 Stats: .354/.429/.545 at High-A (87 G); .313/.365/.615 at Double-A (50 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Bat/speed

Year in Review: The minor leagues' biggest disappointment in 2009 turned everything around following off-season LASIK surgery, suddenly looking to be worth every bit of his $6 million bonus.
The Good: Hosmer has plus-plus raw power, but like Moustakas, he's more of a hitter with power than a pure slugger. He struck out just 66 times in 520 at-bats in 2010, and began to focus more on muscling up mistakes following a move to the Texas League, where he hit 13 home runs in 195 at-bats. He has a good feel for the strike zone and gets into hitter's counts. He's athletic for his size and a solid defender, although his plus arm is wasted a bit at first base. There is some talk of moving him to left field, where scouts think he could at least hold his own.
The Bad: Hosmer doesn't run well, but that's not part of his game and a non-issue, as while all of his value lies in his bat, it's a special one. Scouts noted a tendency to change his approach in pressure situations, either becoming too passive or aggressive at the plate.
Ephemera: A private, liberal arts school in Southeast Florida, American Heritage not only has won state baseball titles, but also features the top calculus team in the nation.
Perfect World Projection: He's a classic third-spot hitting first baseman with average and power.
Fantasy Impact: What's not to like?
Path to the Big Leagues: Hosmer will begin 2011 at Northwest Arkansas with the goal of being ready for the big leagues one year from now. Billy Butler is the incumbent first baseman and the team's best hitter (for now), but without a move to the outfield, all Hosmer does is slide Butler to his natural position of designated hitter.
ETA: 2012.

4. Wil Myers, C
: 12/10/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009, Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)
2010 Stats: .289/.408/.500 at Low-A (68 G); .346/.453/.512 at High-A (58 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/defense

Year in Review: Coming off a brief, yet impressive pro debut in 2009, Myers put up elite-level offensive numbers at both A-level affiliates.
The Good: While only 19, some think Myers has the most mature hitting approach in the organization, as he rarely swings at bad pitches while consistently hammering anything in the strike zone and projecting for average to average-plus power in the majors. He's a broad-shouldered athlete who can produce average times from first to third, and his arm rates as a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
The Bad: The phrase “not a catcher” comes up frequently when talking to scouts about Myers. He has poor footwork and receiving skills, and his bat is so ahead of the glove at this point that leaving him behind the plate could hinder his development while creating additional injury risks. He has the tools to be good in right field.
Ephemera: During his stint with Wilmington, Myers reached base two or more times in 62 percent of his 58 games.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an all-star level corner outfielder with good power, but with even better on-base skills.
Fantasy Impact: It's good, but even more in a league where OBP counts for something.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, Myers will stay behind the plate at Northwest Arkansas.
ETA: Mid-2012

5. Mike Montgomery, LHP
: 7/1/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2008, Hart HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 1.04 ERA (8.2-6-1-7) at Rookie (3 G); 1.09 ERA (24.2-14-4-33) at High-A (4 G); 3.47 ERA (59.2-56-26-48) at Double-A (13 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: This left-hander was in the midst of a breakout year before arm soreness slowed him down at midseason.
The Good: Montgomery is nearly the ideal package for a left-hander. He's exceptionally long-limbed but also highly coordinated, sitting at 92-94 mph with a fastball that can touch 96 and features heavy, late life. His 12-to-6 curveball is a true plus knee buckler, and he's made good progress in developing a changeup that projects as at least average.
The Bad: Because of a limited workload in 2009 and the arm troubles in 2010, Montgomery has yet to pitch more than 110 innings in a season, so while there are no red flags in his frame or mechanics, he's unproven as an innings eater. He had trouble commanding his secondary pitches during the second half of the season, but that was likely related to forearm tightness.
Ephemera: During his brief time at Wilmington in 2010, Montgomery struck out eight of the 15 left-handed batters he faced.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an All-Star left-handed starter.
Fantasy Impact: Montgomery isn't at an elite level in any one category as much as good across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Yet another future star at Northwest Arkansas in 2011, Montgomery could move as fast as Lamb if he stays healthy.
ETA: Late 2011.

6. Chris Dywer, LHP
: 4/10/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2009, Clemson
2010 Stats: 2.99 ERA (84.1-79-33-93) at High-A (15 G); 3.06 ERA (17.2-11-10-20) at Double-A (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: The fourth-round pick who signed for a $1.45 million bonus looked to be a sound investment by reaching Double-A in his full-season debut.
The Good: Dwyer attacks hitters with two plus power pitches staring with a fastball that parks at 93 mph and often touches 95. His power curveball is another true plus offering that he can break into the strike zone or use just as effectively as a chase pitch, and his changeup is at least average. He's the most soundly built of the left-handers in the Royals system with strong legs and a frame built for a heavy workload.
The Bad: Dwyer's mechanics are far from effortless, and he further complicates matters by overthrowing at times, leading to significant issues with throwing strikes. He still needs to hone his changeup, which he sometimes telegraphs by slowing his delivery.
Ephemera: Dwyer was a four-time all-conference quarterback at the Salisbury School in Connecticut and first-team All-New England as a senior, finishing his high school career with over 5,100 passing yards, 58 touchdowns, and 21 rushing scores.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good third starter and an occasional All-Star.
Fantasy Impact: He'll have strikeouts to be sure, but his walk rate could impact his ERA and WHIP.
Path to the Big Leagues: You'll never guess where he'll likely begin 2011. Yup, Northwest Arkansas, although he's a click behind Lamb and Montgomery in terms of development.
ETA: 2012.

7. Danny Duffy, LHP
: 12/21/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2007, Cabrillo HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 3.38 ERA (2.2-2-1-4) at Rookie (2 G); 1.50 ERA (6-4-0-6) at Short-season (2 G); 2.57 ERA (14-8-7-18) at High-A (3 G); 2.95 ERA (39.2-38-9-41) at Double-A (7 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/breaking ball

Year in Review: This 2007 third-round pick made news by retiring during spring training, but returned two months later and reached Double-A.
The Good: Duffy showed unprecedented velocity in 2010, sitting in the low 90s while spiking his fastball in selected starts that included one scout reporting a 98 mph reading. His curveball and changeup are average offerings, and he throws them with confidence. He has a clean, simple delivery that is easily repeatable and leads to above-average command and control.
The Bad: Following his return to baseball, Duffy nearly pitched across four levels in a single month, making his second complex league start on July 1 and his Texas League debut on August 2. The retirement created some understandable questions about his commitment, but the team doesn't see it as a concern.
Ephemera: The only player drafted out of Cabrillo High in Lompoc to reach the majors is Gary Hargis, a second-round pick in 1974 who played one game with the 1979 Pirates and did not get an at-bat.
Perfect World Projection: He's a good mid-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: It's good, but not in the same class with those ahead of him on this list.
Path to the Big Leagues: As good as Duffy was in 2010, now he needs to prove it for a full season. Hey, you think this Northwest Arkansas rotation is going to be any good?
ETA: 2012. 

8. Christian Colon, SS
First round, 2010, Cal State Fullerton
2010 Stats:
.278/.326/.380 at High-A (60 G)
Best/Worst Tool:

Year in Review: Colon was seen as one of the top college position players all spring, yet still a surprisingly safe pick, especially for the Royals, with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
The Good: One scout said it best about Colon by stating, “He's just a ballplayer.” He has a good understanding of the strike zone and an easy, simple swing that should produce for average with enough strength for gap power. He projects for plenty of doubles and double-digit power as well. He has fantastic instincts at shortstop, smooth actions, and an average arm. He earns high praise for his makeup and his ability to do little things like turning double plays, taking extra bases, and bunting.
The Bad: The biggest question surrounding Colon is his ability to stay on the left side of the infield. He's only a 35-40 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, and no matter how well he positions himself or how good a first step he gets, his range will always be substandard. As a second baseman, his value drops significantly.
Ephemera: During his high school career, Colon was an all-state player in Texas and Utah, and a two-time all-county player in California. His father's job in the pharmaceutical industry kept the family moving.
Perfect World Projection: He should have high batting averages and above-average power for a middle infielder.
Fantasy Impact: If he can prove his critics wrong and stay at shortstop, it increases significantly—just like his big-league value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Colon has the polish to be fast-tracked and will begin his first full season at (where else?) Northwest Arkansas.
ETA: Late 2012.

9. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
: 7/10/87
Height/Weight: 5-8/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2008, New Orleans
2010 Stats: .322/.395/460 at Double-A (134 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/defense

Year in Review: In a system filled with breakouts, this former second-round pick got overlooked despite a .374/.436/.571 line after the All-Star break.
The Good: More and more scouts are sold on Giavotella's pure hitting ability, with one saying, “He just squares everything up… velo, breaking balls… he hits everything.” He has a patient approach and a very short, quick swing with surprising strength that projects for 10-15 home runs annually. He's an average runner when he gets going and can occasionally steal a base.
The Bad: While Giavotella gets the most out of his tools, his size still offers little projection. He's made defensive improvements, but remains below average at second and is often guilty of embarrassing miscues on simple ground balls.
Ephemera: Giavotella was undrafted out of state champion Jesuit High School in Louisiana in 2005, the school that one year later produced the Orioles' seventh-best prospect, Ryan Adams.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday second baseman with good on-base numbers and tons of doubles.
Fantasy Impact: It's not as big as his real-world impact.
Path to the Big Leagues: Giavotella will begin the year kind of alone prospect-wise at Triple-A Omaha as his talented system mates slowly join him during the year.
ETA: Late 2011.

10. Tim Collins, LHP
: 8/21/89
Height/Weight: 5-7/155
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2007, Worcester Vocational HS (Undrafted)
2010 Stats: 2.51 ERA (43.0-27-16-72) at Double-A with Toronto (35 G); 1.12 ERA (8.0-4-3-13) at Double-A with Atlanta (6 G); 1.33 ERA (20.1-9-8-21) at Triple-A with Kansas City (15 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: The little engine that could played for three organizations in 2010, but kept dominating wherever he went.
The Good: Collins' fastball is still shocking to scouts. With arguably the fastest arm action in the minors, he somehow generates 90-93 mph fastballs out of the body of a bat boy and can touch 95. The pitch is made even more effective by a naturally deceptive delivery that hides the ball from hitters. His changeup is a true plus pitch with outstanding arm action and late run that makes him actually more effective versus right-handed hitters than lefties. His overhand curveball is at least average, and at times flashes plus.
The Bad: Collins' size does create some issues. Obviously, it takes considerable effort to generate plus velocity, so his command can waver. His pitches can all flatten out, and because he's starting so much lower than most pitchers, he's naturally a fly-ball pitcher.
Ephemera: Sure he's left-handed, but righties facing Collins in 2010 hit .140 with 66 strikeouts in 157 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He could be valuable as a seventh- or eighth- inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: It's unlikely that Collins will ever rack up saves, but he could be a great pickup for fans of Ron Shandler's LIMA strategy.
Path to the Big Leagues: Collins has a chance to make the big-league relief corps out of spring training, and even if he fails to impress, he'll be in the majors at some point during the year.
ETA: 2011.

11. Robinson Yambati, RHP
: 1/15/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 2.71 ERA (66.1-65-12-64) at Rookie (14 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: This teenage Dominican was the most impressive pitcher in his second year at the Arizona Summer League.
The Good: Yambati offers plenty to dream on. Long-armed and skinny, he has plenty of projection but can already touch the mid-90s with a naturally diving fastball while throwing strikes out of a cross-fire delivery. His slider and changeup are both inconsistent, but show promise, and he earns high marks for his mound poise.
The Bad: Yambati's secondary pitches are unrefined and he has trouble staying on top of them, often leaving both offerings lacking vertical movement. More than anything, he simply needs the repetition that comes from consistent work.
Ephemera: On July 8, Yambati surrendered eight runs to the AZL Brewers while failing to get out of the second inning. In his 13 other appearances, he had a 1.67 ERA.
Perfect World Projection: His ceiling is up there with the top arms in the system.
Fantasy Impact: He's so far from that ceiling that it's not worth discussing.
Path to the Big Leagues: Yambati is ready for a full-season assignment, although his inning count will be monitored closely with the Royals' new Low-A affiliate at Kane County.
ETA: 2014.

The Sleeper: While mechanically a mess at times while leading the minor leagues with 95 walks in just 121 innings for Low-A Burlington, Six-foot-seven righty Tyler Sample was also brilliant in selected outings, showing plus velocity and a very good breaking ball. The ceiling is still considerable, but he's a long, long way from reaching it.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Mike Moustakas, 3B
2. John Lamb, LHP
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Billy Butler, 1B
5. Wil Myers, C
6. Mike Montgomery, LHP
7. Chris Dywer, LHP
8. Danny Duffy, LHP
9. Christian Colon, SS
10. Vin Mazzaro, RHP

Butler at fourth is not an insult as much as it's praise for what's ahead of him. Butler should gain even more power over the coming years, but Moustakas and Hosmer have to potential to be one of the most dangerous 3-4 combinations in the game by the second half of the decade. Recently acquired in the David DeJesus deal, Mazzaro should be a solid fourth starter who can eat up innings.

Summary: With one winning season in the last 16 years, Royals fans finally have reason for optimism. This is not just the best minor-league system in baseball, it's the best by a wide margin. The more I wrote about these prospects, the more trouble I had figuring out any way for things to go wrong. Another winning record could occur as early as 2012, but more importantly, the team should return to annual playoff contention shortly thereafter.