We were asked by David Schoenfield, the new blogmeister at ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog to identify an X-Factor for the upcoming season. I submitted this sentence:
“Can the Royals prospects take another step forward and will they succeed when they begin their migration to the Royals in 2011.”
Right now, prospects are the hot word in regards to the Royals. Everyone has heard how good they are and has seen the rankings. It seems even casual fans can name five Royals prospects. I just got back from Surprise, where I spent nearly every minute possible watching the Minor League teams play games on the back fields. I’ve just come from a place where I was immersed in prospects four hours a day for three days. In some ways it’s the pinnacle of my baseball season. So when asked to come up with an X-Factor, how on earth was I going to go with anything other than the prospects?
The sentence above has more than a few questions in it. Let’s start with the very first part:
“Can the Royals prospects take another step forward”
With all of the attention and all of the praise that’s been heaped upon the Royals farm system in the last year, it’s easy to just assume that everything will be peachy from here on out. We forget that in 2009, the Royals top prospects were mired in poor seasons and it looked as if things were not going to go well in the future. It’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that 2010 was a fluke and that every major prospect just had a good season and won’t ever repeat it. Therefore, it’s important for the franchise that a lot of the big names succeed at their new levels and continue their domination. There’s a lot resting on these kids.
Now for the rest of the sentence
“..and will they succeed when they begin their migration to the Royals in 2011.”
The key word here is “when.” I’ve had a first hand look at a number of the Royals prospects in the upper-minors and I think that if you threw them all up to the Majors today, you could have an improved baseball team, especially the pitching staff. If, and this is a big if, the Royals are competing somewhere near the All-Star break, they will have the ability to improve their pitching staff immensely and cheaply by promoting some young arms. I think it’s very likely that Duffy, Montgomery, Lamb or Dwyer will be ready to contribute by then, it’s possible they’re ready now.
On top of that, in order to be competing at the All-Star break, it will take some prospects or recently known-as-prospects to get there. Kila Ka’aihue, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas will all get a chance to make their mark in 2011. There really isn’t a conceivable way for the Royals to be competitive this year without contributions from prospects. That’s why it’s unquestionably the X-Factor with this team, however for once it’s an X-Factor which could actually come to fruition.