First off, I owe you guys an apology. On our radio show this Monday, Jason Anderson and I started the show by promising to stay positive for the duration of the show…and then we spent the next hour ripping the team from every direction. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you. It’s just that the abyss has become so deep that I simply can’t find an angle that portrays the Royals in a positive fashion. Some people are so ugly that no trick of lighting can flatter them.
This is where we’re at: three months after the Royals were 18-11 – the front office has made sure that none of us will ever forget the 2009 Royals’ record after 29 games – they have the worst record in the American League, and the second-worst record in the major leagues. Call me an unrepentant optimist, but even the most hardened cynic could not have imagined in May – or even a month ago – that we’d be in the running for the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes. I never would have imagined that, come August, I’d be scoreboard watching the Nationals in the hopes that
Instead, if the season ended today the Royals would draft in the top 3 next year – meaning they were one of the three worst teams in baseball this year – for the fifth time in six seasons. They’d draft in the top 2 for the fourth time in six seasons. Three years after we thought we hit bottom, three years after Dayton Moore told us where the parade would be held, we’re once again forced to subsist on nothing but dreams of a Tuesday in June – and hoping that this time we strike gold with a Top-3 pick.
And on that note, and because I’m trying to find that something positive, it’s time to take a long look at the minor leagues. As horrible as the team that Dayton Moore has fashioned is, he wasn’t brought in simply to fix the major league roster – he was brought in to fix the organization. And one of the reasons I was so positive about his hiring for so long was that he seemed to determine to fix the organization the right way – by expending every possible resource towards building the farm system. Over the last three years the Royals have spent all kinds of resources on the minors, not just in terms of money – they spent a major-league record $11 million on their draft picks last season – but in terms of things like having a seventh minor league team, and opening a new academy in the Dominican (granted, something that was in the works before Dayton was hired).
The Royals dug themselves into the hole they’ve been in since 2004 by neglecting the farm system for 15 years. (From 1993 to 2001, the Royals had fifteen first-round picks – and Mike MacDougal has turned out to be the best of them. Mike Macdougal.) It was going to take years of successful drafting and development to reverse that trend, and if you told me in 2006 that the Royals would continue to suck for three or four years before the farm system burst forth with talent? That’s a trade I would have made – if the farm system burst forth.
So that’s ultimately the question: while we’ve all been watching the team in
Unfortunately, the most recent organization-wide assessment of the Royals’ farm system came from Baseball
Well, then. If that’s indeed the case – if the Royals have endured as much disappointment in the minor leagues as they have in the majors – then it’s time to turn out the lights. But is that a fair assessment? There’s only one way to find out.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to take a look at how the Royals’ top 30 prospects from before the season – as judged by Baseball America – have fared this year. For each player I will also assign a letter grade based on whether they appear to have a brighter future today than they did in March. I’ll go with a B- curve – a B- grade means the player has essentially the same outlook today as they did before the season. Keep in mind that the grade takes into account the player’s standing – a B- grade for your #1 prospect is a fine grade, because it means that he still projects as a #1 prospect. On the other hand, an A- grade for your #30 prospect means that he might have elevated his stock into the 11-20 range – he’s gone from a long-shot to make the majors to maybe projecting as a bench player, hardly something to get excited about.
Here we go. Each player’s age is as of
1) Mike Moustakas, 3B, 20. Right from the start, we’ve got a disappointment. Moustakas hit .272/.337/.468 last season and led the Midwest League in homers, the first teenager to do so in over a decade. Promoted to
In his defense, we would like to call Frawley Stadium to the stand. The Blue Rocks’ home ballpark is one of the best pitchers’ parks in the minor leagues, and when evaluating
I’ve said this many times before, but the ballpark effect for the Blue Rocks is so significant that hitters promoted from A-ball to Double-A typically hit better at the higher level. Just this season we have two terrific examples of this, in Jeff Bianchi (.300/.360/.427 in
My favorite example of this is Carlos Beltran, who in 1997, at age 20 – the same age as Moustakas right now – hit a puny .229/.311/.363 for the Blue Rocks. The following year, he returned to
So it’s way, way, way too early to write off Moustakas as a bust. My concern isn’t with who Moustakas is, it’s with who he’s not. He’s not Rick Porcello, who’s an above-average major-league starter at age 20. He’s not Matt Wieters, who’s enjoying a solid season as the Orioles’ rookie catcher after entering the season as the #1 prospect in baseball. He’s not Jason Heyward, who doesn’t turn 20 until next week and is hitting .422/.505/.722 since being promoted to Double-A last month – with Wieters now in the major leagues, Heyward has taken his spot as the #1 prospect in baseball. Porcello, Wieters, and Heyward were all selected in the top half of the first round in 2007; most observers considered Porcello the second-best player in the draft after David Price, and most considered Wieters third. The Royals decided they couldn’t afford either player – for all the money they’ve spent in the draft the last few years, they chose an awfully inopportune time to save money. And instead of considering Heyward, who BA dubbed the steal of the draft from the moment he dropped to #14 overall, the Royals took Moustakas.
(An underappreciated side effect of the Royals’ disdain for statistics is that they don’t seem to understand the critical importance of age and how it relates to draft picks. The team frequently drafts players who are old for their grade, whether high school senior or college junior. Case in point: Moustakas was born on
A year of development doesn’t mean much when comparing a 27-year-old to a 28-year-old – but when comparing a 17-year-old to an 18-year-old, it’s critical. It remains to be seen whether the Royals should have taken Vitters or not – after a monster start in low-A ball this year, Vitters has struggled since joining Moustakas in high-A ball. But Heyward, like a couple of other 17-year-old hitters drafted in the first round (Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez), has made a quantum leap in development from age 17 to age 19, and now sits at the doorstep of the major leagues. If the Braves make the playoffs, he could be their version of Andruw Jones, the preternatural rookie who makes a postseason impact before he’s legally eligible to partake in the champagne bath afterwards.
Oh, and Moustakas’ teammate at Chatsworth High, fellow first-rounder Matt Dominguez, was also born in August 1989. Dominguez just got promoted to Double-A as well.)
But getting back to Moustakas…he has been disappointing this year, certainly, but not critically so. It’s not hard at all to envision a scenario in which he goes to
2) Eric Hosmer, 1B, 19. The second of the Royals’
If it’s too early to write off Moustakas, it’s way too early to write off Hosmer…but as I said on draft day last year, if the point of drafting Hosmer is that in three years he’ll be one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, why not draft the college guy who will be one of the best hitters in the minors the day he signs? The Royals passed on Justin Smoak, who fell to the 11th overall pick, and Smoak is hitting .295/.407/.460 this year and is already in Triple-A.
At the beginning of the year, there was a lot of controversy over which prospect rated higher – BA had Moustakas #1, but BP had Hosmer #1. We’re going to have the same debate this off-season, for all the wrong reasons. Unless Hosmer starts to rake a little for the Blue Rocks this month, he’s had the slightly more disappointing season, and the relative rankings of these two players won’t change. Grade: D+.
3) Danny Cortes, RHP, 22. Yeah, because I really want to relive this again. Cortes was having a truly disappointing season – his walks were way up, his strikeouts down, despite repeating Double-A – before he was traded for Yuniesky Betancourt. (If Alexei Ramirez is the Cuban Missile, can Betancourt just be the Cuban Crisis?) Since the trade he has made four starts with the Mariners, and continues to walk guys (
4) Michael Montgomery, LHP, 20. Like so many other Royals prospect, he was old for his draft class – he actually turned 20 on July 1st, just a year after he was drafted – but unlike so many others, he’s developing nicely. In 12 starts for
5) Tim Melville, RHP, 19. The Royals signed Melville, a
Melville started the year in extended spring training, but debuted with
More to come…
Why aren't the dimensions of the Royals' minor league parks the same as Kauffman Stadium. Wouldn't that allow the big club to compare numbers from park to park (Burlington to Wilmington to N. Ark. to Omaha) better? If the field elevations are different, couldn't the fences be adjusted to allow for this?
Wieters .692 ops is a solid season? Its funny how our standards are so different for ourprospects as opposed to the grass in greener picks of other teams.Gordon had a .725 ops his rookie year and was widly considered a flop. Also you are completely ignoring the fact the Smoaks peformence has fallen off a cliff since his promotion to AAA where he's posting a .663 ops in the same league where Mitch Maier routinely puts up a .800+ OPS.
Smoak's performance has not fallen off a cliff. On today's mlb.com, there's an article on the Rangers' prospects.
About Smoak it said:
"It was a matter of time: Smoak hit .133/.243/.233 through his first 60 Triple-A at-bats, but in his 49 at-bats since then he's hit .327/.414/.490. At our Newberg Report event at Rangers Ballpark on Sunday, guest speaker Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus departed from the routine Mark Teixeira comp, suggesting Smoak could be a "switch-hitting Justin Morneau.""
Keith Law ripped me (on this comment section I believe) for saying the Royals were stupid to draft Hosmer instead of Smoak or Buster Posey. It's okay, I don't need an apology.
In a completely unrelated matter, have their been more players forgetting how many outs there are in an inning across MLB? Or is it the same? I'm wondering if the lapse in concentration is due to the banning of stimulants/amphetamines in the game.
The ban has to be affecting the game in some way, right?
Washington has been a .500 team since the all-star break. The Royals clearly need that #1 pick way more.
Uh, a lot of the Minor League parks have no ability to change the dimensions, at least not push them out at all, in order to match up with Kaufman. Now, if the Royals want to become the Red Sox and own a portion of their affiliates they help out with a new ballpark, kind of like in Greenville, SC of the SALLY league. it's Fenway to a T, except the Green Monster is 10-feet shorter.
Pretty cool, really.
The Smoak point is off. The Wieters/Gordon comp is spot on. Well done.
I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
The Smoak point was not off. Any way you divy it up his OPS in AAA is .663. Goldstein needs to stop looking at his pretty swing and look at some numbers. 1st off if Hosmer's 6hr's this season are concerning (while playing in pitchers parks in the ultimate pitchers leagues) as a 19 year old then I would think Smoak's mere 9hr's while playing in hitters parks in hitters leagues at age 22 would be down right alarming. Justin Smoak is 8 months younger than Billy Butler...Billy(.823 ops 14hr's in the freaking majors) Butler. Relax Hosmer will be the better player of the two. I gaurantee it, and if Im wrong well you can just blame me....Anonymous (yes thats my real name).
I don't know about other ballparks but here in Wichita when our double A team went from the Padres affiliate to the Royals the Royals made us jump through all kinds of hoops; as in pushing walls back, batting cages etc. So, at least in some cases they do have something to say about park dimensions. Then, of course they move to a newer nicer park in freaking Ar-Kansas and we're stuck with the Wingnuts! Thank God for the NBC tournament so we can still see "some" prospects.
"Porcello, Wieters, and Heyward were all selected in the top half of the first round in 2007; most observers considered Porcello the second-best player in the draft after David Price, and most considered Wieters third. The Royals decided they couldn’t afford either player – for all the money they’ve spent in the draft the last few years, they chose an awfully inopportune time to save money. And instead of considering Heyward, who BA dubbed the steal of the draft from the moment he dropped to #14 overall, the Royals took Moustakas."
I keep hearing how Glass has "changed" & is "spending more money" but then when you see statements like this, I think it puts things in perspective. Granted they spent money last year on the draft. One year out of 15 is fantastic. 14 years too late. Glass is an abomination. The man obviously has no testicular fortitude to take a risk and spend some money (even out of pocket) to build a winner. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the man won't try to find a GROUP of investors that could take some of the risk from this scumbag and at the same time inject some needed money into the system. Supposedly, he can't make a profit if he sold the team (which is worth in the $350MM range) so what's the point? Perennially crappy team & can't profit on a sale? Doesn't make sense. Most really successful businessmen (which Glass is) have a competitive & daring streak to them that would find their situation with the Royals intolerably embarrassing. Not Glass. He must have been simply in the right place at the right time & got lucky. He clearly is a coward and has no balls whatsoever.
As always Rany, thanks for the best information for serious baseball fans on the KC Royals. I’ve been blessed with a baseball fan of a wife for close to 30 years. In stating this, we both are stunned by the 09 Royals season.
About the time when the team began the descent into another pathetic historic season again we were making our plans to attend games.
We both came to the conclusion of postponing trips to the new K. It was of course due to the horrible product taking the field. *We are no longer watching the games at this time either.
Instead of MLB we took to the road and watched the AA Naturals in Tulsa and Springdale. The ballpark in Tulsa was worth the trip alone. Although the Nats were not successful, it was quite a time! There are a number of nice hotels and joints within eyesight of Arvest Ballpark. In our case the management of the new Holiday Inn gave us complimentary tickets to boot. (great seats)
In short, I would recommend a trip to a minor league game for any suffering Royal fan. Remember, pitchers report to Surprise in just a few short months. I think the team will win 85 next year.
I've heard about Hosmer and Moose and Melville and Montgomery for so long, that I keep forgetting that they are just 19,20,21, or 22 years old. Yes, the development is slow, and we haven't had a Ken Griffey-esque breakout star yet - but they are still young and learning.
Thanks for the great info, Rany. You're the best thing going right now.
Thanks. I love your insight.
I hope the Royals claimed Alex Rios
Henry Winkler just read the part about Moosetacos being 11 months "too old" and suddenly had the urge to go water skiing.
It seems like a lot of the criticism against Hosmer and Moose is that they have been passed up by this guy or that guy drafted behind them. I'm disappointed too that with such a high pick we didn't end up with the very best prospects possible, but I'm still hopeful they can become the core of our team in the future (we're being optimistic today).
I haven’t followed a lot of players in the minors, so I'm not really sure what the typical development cycle looks like. It’s only when someone flies through the minors that it gets much attention (e.g. Wieters or even Alex Gordon who were college players). What is the expected path for a high school player to get to the majors? Is it one season at each level? Is it the same for pitchers and position players?
I've never understood why the Royals apparently didn't even consider drafting Buster Posey. It's not as if they had a catcher either in the bigs or minors who would seriously have stood in his way.
Please comment on Scott Thormon at Omaha. Does he even belong to the Royals. The KC Star does not even list his name with the Omaha stats, but his stats are really good. Will we ever see him in KC? Is he a prospec? WHat gives with this situation.
I think we should stop calling it the Bryce Harper Sweepstakes. There is no way in Hell that a.) Glass puts up that kind of cash and b.) Boras allows Harper to take a dime from a team like the Royals.
Glass claims to be serious about building a winner, but he really isn't, and he will prove it by NOT drafting Harper when he is available to us. This will be the year we decide to go with a college bat, because we need the help immediately.
I saw the Blue Rocks last night.
Hosmer looked over matched
Moose looked fine, didn't do much
Clint Robinson crushed a double and had a line drive single
Giavotella looked very solid at the plate
Daniel Gutierrez was lights out
Michael Burgess (Nats) has insane power. Crushed a double to left center and hit a HR dead center - 400ft over a 20ft wall with ease.
Rany, I heard you with Jason last week and I turned it off after a few minutes. You're right and stand-up to apologize. This is no defense of the Royals, but trashing a lousy team is cheap and really not worth anybody's - yours included - time. Not funny, not clever, not insightful. (If only I could say you were also incorrect.) My real complaint is with Jason but since this was a departure for you and you recognized it - and I won't pick up a phone to call WHB - you get the complaint. Keep writing. Thanks. Tom
Thank you again Rany for your blog. It never ceases to exceed expectations. Other than occasionally giving a game a passing glance and casually following the statistical seasons of Butler, Callaspo, Bannister, Hochevar, and Grienke your blog is about the only thing I do to follow the Royals at this point. I just can't take following them closely any more... too frustrating.
Also, I don't know about you all but I am past rooting for a turnaround for the season and I have seen enough winning Septembers fools gold. I am now rooting for the Nationals to keep things going so we get the #1 overall pick. If we do get it, who, besides Harper or Strasburg if he doesnt sign, might be in the running for that pick?
We won't get the number one pick. And we won't lose 100 either. What pisses me off is I understand and back playing Anderson to see what we have for next year, but Maier? No reason to waste at bats on him. I was at that game today and when I saw the starting lineup with Maier, Anderson, and Bloomquist, I knew we where screwed. It reminded me of 03 when Pena trotted out the worst lineup with May on the mound. We were on that huge streak and I was wondering aloud, "Are we trying to lose this game?" Sunday day off is for pussies. We need to win every game left.
Watched the Blue Rocks on Friday night at Potomac. I took my kids and Moose was nice about giving them autographs. He even signed a collector ball on the sweet spot for my son. Hosmer was a different story. He signed for them, but made a point of not signing on the sweet spot, bit of an attitude. Moose struck out looking in the first and then fired his bat towards the dugout (the last time I saw them he got yanked in the first for not running out a popup), but the coach left him in the game. Moose didn't do much else in the game. Hosmer has a much better grasp of the strikezone than Moose. He walked twice and flashed his power on a opposite field laser that just went foul or it would have been a very impressive homerun. He struggled a bit with the pitch inside. Hopefully they both continue to develop and outgrow their respective attitude and self-control issues.
It just goes to show that you get what you pay for. The Royals invaribly have paid for it whenever they have gone on the cheap in the minors.
I know like eveyone else that this season has spiraled into nauseating oblivion but I've also been pondering the injuries and individual performances and have a question for our intrepid Rany. I looked back at your post for March 13 about depth and you wrote that injuries to Crisp, Guillen and Gorden would have only marginal impact since Teahen would step in and take their place in the lineup. Unfortunately, all three can't be replaced by one Mark Teahen(I know, Guillen just left the lineup but he's been walking wounded almost all season). You also said that Aviles was basically irreplaceable. So, is it any wonder that the teem stinks considering the injuries they have suffered? And that's not even considering Mesche or Cruz's baffling ineffectiveness. Comments oh swami? gladbag
Looking at the prospects is a good idea and this was a nice post.
However, I recoil a little at the tendency to MMQB the draft picks. Like you say this evaluation is about the here and now, not about how we could have had a better player (that still didn't go until the 14th pick) in a certain draft.
Anonymous at 12:54.... Mix in a dictionary. Mesche? teem? nauseating? Gorden?
****p.s. - you aren't really throwing this at the feet of injuries are you? this has been a poorly constructed team that we all tried to find a way to buy into in March. That is what we do as Royals fans. The quick started added fuel to the fire and created an environment that created belief. However...the wheels came off (again). We have a GM who doesn't respect the direction that baseball has taken and refuses to acknowledge that understanding baseball players is more than "meets the scouts eye". And..we have a manager that has definitely been given a defective squad...but..has absolutely butchered the games he has had an impact on.
And.....Dayton has shown a stubborn side that I didnt see as much of earlier and appears ready to go down in flames with Trey by his side.
Frustration is warranted and appreciated when eloquently presented. As Rany does....
For those complaining about our complaining....go to kcroyals.com and read some of their stories.
Rany, today (Tuesday) is my birthday. A great birthday present would be the second part of this wonderful series on prospects. Thank you. :)
Save the Royals! Hire Rany!
Yuni has hit really well of late and I've seen nothing but positives with the glove since he's been here. He's made some hightlight plays as well. Now maybe I'm using a "scout's eye" and not this sabermetrics you speak of, but he has looked really solid the past 10 games or so. Maybe he just had some new team jitters at first and the change of scenery actually did help. Yeah, I know, I know....small sample size. But still......
can't help but notice that Juan Cruz was DL'd with a shoulder injury. How long do you think he's had that one for? Since April, when his numbers were stellar until falling off of a cliff?
It appears that MiLB would agree with you, Rany, about Moustakas. They moved him from the number 11 overall prospect at the end of last year to number 29 just recently (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090731&content_id=6161780&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb). But Hosmer did not move much, from #29 last year to #30 now. So I think they would not agree with your assessment of Hosmer.
Please, Please write your response to Hillman's not fair to be judged on wins vs losses -
Tried to send an email, but no link...presumably you've seen that Nick Swartz is "retiring"?
Maybe they finally saw the light.
Maybe Teahan didn't hit for the power we wanted... but he was a way above average defensive player who hit for a decent average and didn't strike out alot. Jose Fields looks dangerously like Mike Jacobs to me, without the power potential. Getz looks like a lighter hitting version of Callaspo. Let me guess... were going to sit down a .300 avg guy for a .260 avg guy? Sounds like a typical Royals move to me.
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