The Northwest Arkansas Naturals have won the Double-A Texas League championship, powered by a whole slew of exciting young prospects. And that’s terrific, but of course it’s completely meaningless to the Kansas City Royals.
That’s right – minor league titles are meaningless, unless you happen to be a fan of that particular team and not the franchise as a whole. The minor leagues exist purely, solely for the purpose of supporting the major league team.
And, based on that criterion, the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system has been a complete and utter failure over the past two decades.
Just because the Texas League title is meaningless doesn’t mean there’s not value in it. Those may sound like conflicting ideals, but let me explain.
The Naturals team is a simply collection of individual players. It’s not a team in the true sense. And that’s really true of all minor league organizations. Just look at the transaction logs for each minor league team and you’ll see that it’s a constant revolving door, with players being shipped in, shipped out, shipped up and shipped down on a daily basis. At the major league level, players stay together for a much longer time and are able to form a team. And we’ve seen over and over and over again that the best teams are not necessarily made up of the best players.
But it sure as heck helps. And it bodes well for the Royals that the Double-A team this year was made up of superb individual players.
And the star offensive players on the Naturals this year are much different than any players we’ve seen on the big league team in recent years. Northwest Arkansas’ lineup was composed of headlining sluggers, including the likes of Mike Moustakas (who was shipped to AAA halfway through the season and excelled there, too), Eric Hosmer (who was promoted from Single A halfway through the year and became a playoff hero for the Naturals) and Clint Robinson, who was arguably the best of the bunch this year.
For crying out loud – Clint Robinson won the Texas League Triple Crown award, leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs.
All of those guys could be contributing at the major league level soon – perhaps even as soon as next season for Moustakas.
Another benefit: it gives these young players a sense of what it means to play for something, even if what they’re playing for is only a meaningless title. Perhaps in a few years, some of them will be in Kansas City, playing for a much more meaningful purpose: a World Series.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the content editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.