With all due respect to Timbuk 3, when these one-hit wonders wrote their hit song, I’m pretty sure they weren’t singing about my Kansas City Royals. But I am. I just got back from my first trip ever to Spring Training. It was part bucket list accomplishment and part wanting to see the kids who make up the future of the Royals. And after watching the Royals win both games, an 8-2 thumping of the Angels and a 5-4, come from behind beating of the Cubs, the future of my Kansas City Royals is looking bright.
Baseball America recently named the 2011 Royals the top minor league class in the 22 years they have been determining the team rankings. The Royals have 9 of the top 100 prospects in the minor leagues. And they are:
8. Eric Hosmer 1B
9. Mike Moustakas 3B
10. Wil Myers C/OF
18. John Lamb LHP
19. Mike Montgomery LHP
51. Christian Colon SS
68. Danny Duffy LHP
69. Jake Odorizzi RHP (picked up in the Greinke trade)
83. Chris Dwyer LHP
Let’s start with the guy who I hope is wearing Royal blue for years to come, Eric Hosmer. This 6’5” 21 year old first baseman, who was the 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft, is a beast. There’s no other way to describe him. Thanks to some laser eye surgery in 2009 he earned majorleaguebaseball.com’s #1 rating among first base prospects in 2010. He hit .354 for Wilmington in Advanced A ball in 2010 and was promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League, where he hit .313 with 13 home runs and 35 runs batted in 50 games and helped NW Arkansas make the postseason. And regardless of the level of play, big time players step up in big time games. And step up he did, with 6 home runs to lead them to the playoff championship.
Then he joined Royals 3B prospect Mike Moustakas in the starting lineup for Team USA in the Pan American qualifying tournament held in Puerto Rico. Team USA went 9-1, tied for third, with Eric leading the way with a .389 average and 7 RBIs.
But it was the game last Friday against the Cubs that really showed me that Hosmer will soon be a fixture in the Royals major league lineup. It was late in the game and the Royals were down 4-0 when the Cubs, John Gaub walked Alcides Escobar and the torrid hitting Mitch Maier (who would later win the game with an RBI single, his eighth consecutive hit in spring ball) and finally walked Mike Moustakas to bring up Hosmer. Eric worked the count to 3-2, fouling off 4 pitches. The last foul ball was on a nasty off-speed pitch that had Hosmer way out in front, but like all great hitters he was able to slap it foul and stay alive. Gaub wouldn’t fare as well on the next off speed pitch. Eric turned on the next one and hit a laser into the back of the Cubs’ bullpen in right field nearly 400 feet away to tie the game. Clutch hitters get clutch hits, and while this is only Spring Training, all eyes were on Hosmer and he delivered. It was as good an at bat as you’ll see in any level of baseball. He also showed why he was named the top defensive player in the Royals farm system last year, with a couple of nice plays, one on a line drive and another on a throw that he dug out of the dirt.
Another Royals prospect, Mike Moustakas, a 22 year old third baseman had a season in 2010 that has everyone in Kansas City excited. All he did was hit 36 home runs in the minors in 2010. Just look at the numbers Mike put up in one season. For AA Northwest Arkansas, he hit .347 with 21 homers and 76 RBIs in only 66 games before earning a promotion to the AAA club in Omaha where he picked right up where he left off with .295/15/48 in only 52 games. While Moustakas had an uneventful line in the game I saw in Surprise, you can just tell by looking at him and his approach to the game, his numbers will translate well in KC. It looks like Mike Aviles will start the season at 3B in Kansas City. But I don’t think it will be long before Moustakas could become the first of this vaunted list of prospects to make the major league roster.
The best pitcher of the 5 in this list of 9 Royals prospects could very well be left hander John Lamb. John was drafted in the 5th round in 2008. And in his second pro season John won the Paul Splittorff Award as the organization’s best pitcher in the minors. During 2 pro seasons he’s got 230 strikeouts with 66 walks in only 216 1/3 innings.
While he’s not mentioned in the “List of 9,” my sleeper prospect pick you might want to keep your eye on is pitcher Will Smith. He’s called a “21 year old 35 year old” by manager Ned Yost. This 6’5” hurler came to the Royals, under the radar, in the Alberto Callaspo for Sean O’Sullivan trade with the Angels last year. Will, a 7th round pick in the 2007 draft, was 8-2 in the rookie league and then 10-5 in A ball for the Angels’ Cedar Rapids club in 2009. Last year he pitched in Advanced A ball in Wilmington where he went 4-1 with a 2.80 ERA, with 51 strike outs and just 4 walks in 54 2/3 innings. He was then promoted to the AA NW Arkansas club for their championship playoff run where in 2 playoff starts he went 1-0 with a 2.25 era. And so far this spring all he’s done is face 9 batters and retire 9 batters.
Opening day in Kansas City is only a couple weeks away. And I think this year’s Royals, having been predicted by many to lose 100 games this season, are going to surprise a lot of people. And after seeing what I saw in Arizona, a bright future is close…closer than it has been in years. Like Timbuk3 said in their song…”The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” And here in Kansas City it might just be time to go out and get some new sunglasses…finally.