The Kansas City Royals have seen a major influx of talent over the last couple of years as the organization's top prospects have made their major league debuts.
Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Sal Perez and most of the bullpen have all graduated to the big leagues, depleting the Royals' minor league system, which was once considered the strongest in all of baseball.
Injuries and a handful of players hitting the developmental wall have also played parts in the regression. However, there is still a group of young talent that has Royals fans anticipating its arrival in Kansas City.
The 2012 season was supposed to be one of hope as the Royals looked to begin their ascent back up the MLB hierarchy. But a sophomore slump, dreadful starting pitching, a surplus of base-running blunders, a nauseating number of sacrifice bunts and a guy nicknamed Frenchy masquerading as a professional baseball player already have fans looking forward to 2013.
The thrill surrounding the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City has worn off. The only thing that the Royals can do to keep the fans' interest is to move forward with a few better-late-than-never promotions.
Outfielder Wil Myers and starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi have been the Royals' top prospects all season long. But Myers is being blocked by general manager Dayton Moore's odd allegiance to right fielder Jeff Francoeur, and even as bad as the Royals rotation has been, Odorizzi still hasn't gotten the call.
Look for both to make their debuts sometime this season.
The Royals hope that former top prospect Mike Montgomery can right the ship soon. A late-season push could earn him a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, improving his odds of his making an appearance in Kansas City sometime in early 2013.
Kyle Zimmer was the Royals' first-round pick in June and, barring one bad outing, has been very impressive.
With a limited pitching resume thus far, Zimmer's personal development will obviously dictate how quickly he moves through the Royals organization. He should begin the 2013 season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and could eventually land in Kansas City later in the season.
Yordano Ventura is another interesting pitcher in the Royals system. His recent promotion to Double-A was warranted, and if things progress naturally, fans could begin to witness his electric stuff sometime in mid-to-late 2013.
The recent promotion of shortstop Christian Colon (first-round pick in the 2010 draft) to Omaha could indicate that he will be given every opportunity to earn a spot with the Royals during spring training. Even if he doesn't break camp, look for Colon to make his debut before the All-Star break next season.
Royals fans must be patient with the rest of the positional prospects, namely outfielder Bubba Starling.
With no glaring holes on the major league roster, players like Starling, Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Bonifacio will be brought along slowly. The Royals may not see a significant promotion from this younger group until 2015 or later, especially if things finally start to come together next season.
If the Royals can capitalize on this particular youth movement, they may have just enough left in their farm system to sustain a long run of success.
While depth is key, the goal is to develop enough of the young talent into major league-quality players. This secondary wave should help bridge the gap as they make their way through the organization.