Last season, after some huge trades, the Kansas City Royals entered the 2011 season with a fully loaded arsenal of prospects. Hands down, they had the best farm team in baseball.
Though some players have made their way into the majors, the Royals retain deep pockets of talent. Of all the teams previously covered, their future is the most risky. It is the most reliant on prospects, meaning things could turn out really well, or go down in flames.
I'm banking on the former.
C- Salvador Perez
1B- Eric Hosmer
2B- Johnny Giavotella
SS- Alcides Escobar
3B- Mike Moustakas
LF- Alex Gordon
CF- Lorenzo Cain
RF- Will Myers
DH- Billy Butler
1. Mike Montgomery
2. Aaron Crow
3. Danny Duffy
4. Jake Odorizzi
5. John Lamb
Closer- Joakim Soria
The first thing that sticks out to me is the lineup. Hands down, it is stacked. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have the upside to become the best 3-4 in baseball. But, things don't end there.
That whole offensive scheme is deep in talent and powerful bats. Already proving their worth are Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar. Butler and Gordon possess advanced hit tools. Escobar carries a weak bat, but his speed and golden glove makes up for that.
Then there are the unproven. Cain and Giavotella are potential 5-tool players. There's Salvador Perez who is one of the most underrated young catchers in the game.
Besides Myers, every player in that lineup has experience at the major league level. That means this offense could be in full swing mid-2012. Already, the pieces are falling into place for the Royals.
Less defined than the offense is the rotation.
Aaron Crow has dominated out of the bullpen for the Royals. However, this year he'll be making the transition to starting. This season will carry a lot of weight on his confidence.
Another young pitcher who's made it to the major league level is Danny Duffy. He made 20 starts last season for the Royals. Though they were disappointing starts, at 23 it's the experience that counts.
A huge setback for the Royals was John Lamb. It was announced last June that he would be having Tommy John surgery. T.J. surgery seems a staple of major league pitchers these days, so it shouldn't be that big a concern. But, it still means a lost year of development.
Another setback for the 2011 Royals seemed to be the performances of Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi. Both are high upside prospects with bright futures; however, 2011 saw both players struggle at their respective minor league levels.
Minor league players can't be expected to adapt at every level immediately, so these struggles aren't that shocking.
Despite 2011 setbacks, this group still carries high upside. They're no Tampa Bay Rays, but some of these guys have the potential to dominate.
The biggest thing going against the Royals is their inability to produce quality minor league pitchers. Besides Zach Greinke, most of their experiments have failed. How many more most join the ranks of Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar before the Royals get the formula right?
Despite the potential issues with the rotation, it's hard to disregard this young group's talent and upside. The potential of that offense is scary. In a weak hitting AL Central, that gives KC a huge leg up.
The biggest bump in the road is working out the pitching. They've got high upside pieces in the system, but making sure they develop to full potential is a tough step.
In the end, the Royals retain one of the deepest and most promising teams in all of baseball.