It’s Official: Royals Are #1

It’s official. The Royals truly have THE number one farm system, according to Baseball America. That announcement came Tuesday, the same day MLB.com named six Royals to the top 50 prospects in baseball.

Photo by Erika Lynn

Those honors and a buck will get you a cup of coffee. It’s all about how it translates on the big league level, and Royals fans don’t have to look too far to know that top prospects don’t always work out. As is often said, “Potential just means you ain’t done nothing yet.”

Dayton Moore knows this. He admitted it in the Kansas City Star on Tuesday, when the announcement was made:

“It’s one thing to build a farm system, but it’s a whole different deal to win a championship at the major league level,” Moore said. “There is a lot of work to be done. We have to transition these players in at the appropriate time.”

But let’s not rain on this parade just yet. The Royals have committed to building for the long term through their farm system, and for the most part they’ve stayed the course. They should be applauded for having a plan and making it work. They have stockpiled what Baseball America’s Jim Callis called “the deepest and most talented farm system in recent memory.”

The plan is, as is often stated, to have this group of players all arrive at the major leagues at about the same time, so that they can play together for several years. It’s what the Florida Marlins have done a couple of times, as have the Tampa Bay Rays and some other teams as well. It makes sense in “small markets” where few free agents dare to trod.

Baseball America likes the Royals farm system so much it would have rated it number one even without Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress, who would have figured into the equation. To be considered a “prospect,” a player needs simply to have recorded fewer than 130 total at bats or fewer than 40 innings pitched at the major league level, or logged 45 days on the 25-man roster of a big league club.

While Baseball America was announcing its top team honor, MLB.com, was releasing its own ranking of the Top 50 on Tuesday, of which the Royals possess six – tied for the most by any franchise in the eight years of annual rankings. Only one other team – Tampa Bay – landed as many as four on the list.

While in most cases major league players would resist gushing over prospects, Billy Butler recently acknowledged that the big league Royals are aware of what’s going on down on the farm.

“We have the number one minor league organization for a reason,” Butler said to fans at a caravan stop on Sunday. “There’s a lot of guys that are expected to do a lot of great things. And that means very soon here we’re going to be contending on a regular basis.”

And, according to MLB.com, those top prospects are:

#7 Mike Moustakas – most likely to be the first to reach Kansas City, “Moose” proved he can hit at triple A last summer. Unless he forces the Royals’ hand in spring training, he’ll probably start at Omaha to make sure he’s ready. The long-term issue will be his position. Can he handle defending the hot corner?

#8 Eric Hosmer – while his tape-measure home runs make the headlines, Hosmer was named the franchises’ top defensive player at the teams FanFest last Saturday. Will he start in Northwest Arkansas or at Omaha is the big question. He’s just 21.

#14 Mike Montgomery – he’s only thrown 245 innings in three years. The Royals have closely protected this commodity, but if he can stay healthy, he could make the big club sooner than later.

#16 Wil Myers – The number two-rated catcher by MLB.com may not stay at the position, regardless of how badly the Royals need help at the spot. He’s just learning to catch, and some feel he should move to the outfield and let his bat carry him quickly to the majors. He just turned 20.

#34 John Lamb – just a fifth-round selection in 2008, Lamb was named the franchises’ pitcher of the year. Lamb pitched just 7 games at Northwest Arkansas and may begin the season there.

#37 Jake Odorizzi – the only Royal on the list not to be drafted by the team, Odorizzi was Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect before coming over in the Greinke trade. Scouts rave over him, but he’s moved slowly thus far. Though he’ll be 21 in March, he’s never pitched above the single A level.

Ranking the prospects 1-10 by position, according to MLB.com, the Royals had:

#1 First Baseman (Hosmer)

#10 Second Baseman (Johnny Giavotella)

#1 Third Baseman (Moustakas)

#2 Catcher (Myers)

#2 Left Handed Pitcher (Montgomery)

#9 Left Handed Pitcher (Lamb)

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