Yes, everyone knows the organization has quite possibly the best farm system in the history of baseball. And everyone knows in two or three years that should translate to a fine big-league team.
Everyone also knows that by all indications, the Royals are gonna suck in 2011.
Even I have espoused this view, and I’ve even gone so far as to say that I’d be disappointed if the Royals lost fewer than 100 games.
But here’s the thing – in the pit of my stomach, I have a strange feeling that the 2011 Kansas City Royals are going to be good.
And I’m not talking about compared-to-the-last-five-seasons good. I’m talking about competing-for-the-AL-Central-title good.
Keep in mind, I didn’t say I have a good feeling about it.
Not to play a game of what-if, but…
What if Billy Butler competes for a batting title this season?
What if Kila Ka’aihue, Jeff Franceour and Alex Gordon hit 25 home runs apiece and provide the middle-of-the-order threat the Royals have been lacking since… well, since the beginning of the team’s existence?
What if Alcides Escobar and Melky Cabrera reach their long-lost potential and solidify the front of the lineup, while shoring up the defense up the middle?
What if Jeff Francis wins 18 games, Bruce Chen wins 15 and Kyle Davies wins 12?
What if Luke Hochevar becomes an ace?
What if Mike Aviles truly breaks out this year, stays healthy and owns the leadoff spot?
And what if Mike Moustakas comes up at mid-season and plays like a rookie-of-the-year candidate?
All of these things could happen. Some of them probably will happen. If more than half of them do, there’s no reason the Royals can’t compete THIS SEASON.
Honestly, the Royals probably will live up to the hype this season and finish at or near the bottom of the AL Central. But I’ll be rooting for them to win every single game.
Of course, competing this season could be a bad thing. Let’s say by mid-season the Royals are hovering in second place, four games behind the Twins. The Nationals dangle a trade out there – “We’ll give you Jayson Werth! All you have to give up is Eric Hosmer, Mike Montgomery and Christian Colon.” That might help us win now. Might. And the Royals have a deep enough farm system to justify some moves down the road.
But selling out a bright future for a slim chance to win now would be disastrous to the long-term growth of this organization. Just look at what the Braves gave up in 2010 for Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth and a chance to win a division title. They lost in the playoffs, and their farm system is substantially weaker for it.
Even if the Royals are competitive this season, Dayton Moore must be careful to keep the farm system intact.
Matt Kelsey is a Royals writer and associate editor for I-70 Baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com.