It’s undisputed now that the Royals currently have one of the best farm systems of all time, even according to Baseball America, which gave the Royals its highest prospect rating ever.
What does that mean for 2011? Nothing, really, except for this: many of the players we’ve come to know in recent years will probably be squeezed out beginning as soon as mid-season 2011, when some of those great prospects become major league-ready.
Here’s a look at some of those current players on the bubble, and what they must do to secure a spot beyond the All-Star Break:
Kyle Davies, RHP
Why he’s on the bubble: Davies has been the very model of a modern major league mediocre pitcher. For the past two years, his mediocrity on the Royals has been overshadowed by that of Brian Bannister. But Banny’s gone, and it’s time for Davies to go hard or go home. The best thing that could be said about Davies last season was that he didn’t miss a start. And that’s good – but it’s not gonna be good enough for the Kansas City Royals of the future.
What he must do to hang around: Double-digit victories and an ERA under 4.50. Anything less, and I think he’s gone.
Chris Getz, 2B
Why he’s on the bubble:
Getz is much hailed for his glove. He is a terrific second baseman, and he would make a very nice defensive backup for any major league team. But he probably wouldn’t be a starter on any other team in the league. This is his best shot to prove himself.
What he must do to hang around: Hit, walk and run. Getz must prove he can be at least a serviceable bottom-of-the-order bat or, barring that, he must show he can get on base and make things happen on the basepaths. If not, the Royals won’t hesitate to cut him.
Kila Ka’aihue, 1B
Why he’s on the bubble: Two words: Eric Hosmer. The sensational prospect is knocking on the door, and as I’ve written before, Kila has one full season to prove he can be a major-league hitter. He not only has Hosmer to worry about, but also dark horse slugger Clint Robinson, who lit up AA pitching last season.
What he must do to hang around: Long balls. Ka’aihue was a major home-run threat in the minors, and he must provide that this season in Kansas City.
Melky Cabrera, CF
Why he’s on the bubble:
This one is surprising, even to me. Melky was one of Dayton Moore’s prized offseason free agent acquisitions, and he’s pretty much a lock to be the starting center fielder. The biggest reason Melky is on the bubble is another offseason acquisition, Lorenzo Cain, the hidden gem from the Zack Greinke trade. Young speedster Jarrod Dyson is also proving himself as a capable center fielder, and he is already making waves early in Spring Training.
What he must do to hang around: Melky may very well be the leadoff hitter come Opening Day. He has to prove he’s capable of kicking off what will become an impressive Royals lineup.
Alex Gordon, LF
Why he’s on the bubble: No-brainer – Alex has received chance after chance, and 2011 is his very last one. He’ll be the starting left fielder, but if he continues playing like Alex Gordon the major leaguer, he’ll be gone sooner rather than later.
What he must do to hang around: Play like Alex Gordon the college star.
Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan, RHPs
Why they’re on the bubble: O’Sullivan did not impress as a starter last season. Mazzaro is an unknown commodity and it seems like he has some promise, but with all the pitching prospects ready to break through, neither one of these guys will get a very long leash. At this point, both of them are here just to see if they can hold down the job.
What they must do to hang around: Prove that they can do more than hold down the job
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and the associate editor of I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.