Yesterday, Clark wrote an article about the next Big Three Royals pitching prospects in Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery. The potential to have a trio of top of the rotation starters is something that could put a team in contention, however adding three stud everyday players is how you win pennants. The Royals potentially do have that trio of everyday bats in the minors and they are: Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. The combination of these six players would make nearly every other team in the MLB drool with jealousy. With the minor league seasons now completed, lets take a look at what this trio did this year and look back breifly on their professional careers.
Moustakas was drafted in the 2007 June Amateur draft out of high school in California and was projected to be a hitter. He played shortstop in high school, but was immediately moved to third base upon beginning his professional baseball career. In 2007 he was sent to the short-season Pioneer League to play for the Idaho Falls Chukars. He played in 11 games and hit .293/.383/.439.
Coming into 2008 he was named the 18th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He was sent to the Singl A Midwest League to play for the Burlington Bees. Moustakas showed the power potential the Royals expected to see out of him when he blasted 22 homeruns. He hit .272/.337/.468 over 126 games. His batting average and on base percentage were not what people had hoped, however he was still only 19 years old and had some time to develop his patience at the plate.
Prior to the 2009 season, Moustakas was named the 13th best prospect by BA. He was promoted to the High-A Carolina League where he played for the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Wilmington plays in Frawley stadium, which is notorious for being a pitchers park. Hitting a ball out of the stadium is an extremely difficult task and not surprisingly Moustakas’ homerun total dipped to 16. Beyond that, he hit .250/.297/.421. He didn’t improve in any area statistically, which shouldn’t have come as a huge shocker as the 20 year old was getting his first taste of the elevated competition. However, it did generate a little bit of worry amongst Royals prospect watchers.
Moustakas’ rough 2009 hurt his BA prospect ranking prior to the 2010 season. He dropped all the way to #80 on the list. Fear started running amok in the Royals fan base about the potential for another first round bust. It surprised quite a few people, including myself, when it was announced that Moustakas would be playing at Double A Northwest Arkansas for the Naturals. The prevailing thought was that if he had trouble with High A ball, then Double A might destroy him and his confidence. Regardless, it was an extremely important year for Mike and all eyes would be on him, hoping to see a turnaround. Moustakas delivered in spades by hitting .347/.413/.687 with 21 homeruns in only 66 games for the Naturals before being promoted to AAA. Just as the Blue Rocks stadium is pitcher friendly, it seems that the Naturals stadium is hitter friendly and although Moustakas dominated on offense, there were whispers it was because of the stadium.
After proving he could not only hit AA pitching, but dominate it, the Royals promoted him to AAA Omaha. He got off to a slow start, but eventually hit .293/.314/.564 and hit 15 homeruns for the O-Royals in 52 games nearly propelling the team to a playoff spot in the Pacific Coast League. He was recognized as the Sporting News Hitter of the Year, and earned a spot on Team USA for the Pan Am Qualifying Tournament.
Moustakas has shown he can hit for power and average at high levels of the minors, but hitting AA and AAA pitching is nothing compared to hitting MLB pitchers. One of the chinks in his armor is his number of strikouts. In AA Moustakas had 26 walks to 42 strikeouts and in AAA had 8/25. You can get away with that in the minors, but doing it in the Major League is another story. Pitchers will find his weak spots and work them mercilessly. I’ve seen him on a couple of occasions and his defense at third is pretty good from what I hear. He probably needs to work on that facet of his game as well to become an everyday player at the Majors. I’d expect to see him in a Royals uniform sometime mid season in 2011.
Eric Hosmer was drafted in the first round of the 2008 June Amateur Draft out of high school in Florida. He was an extremely late sign and played just 3 games that year for Idaho Falls.
Prior to 2009 he was ranked the 24th best prospect by Baseball America and was sent to play for the Burlington Bees. He hit .241/.334/.361with 5 homeruns in 106 games for the low-A Bees. The Royals decided that they would promote him to Wilmington, possibly to boost his confidence or for a change of scenery. He played even worse for the Blue Rocks, hitting .206/.280/.299 with 1 homerun in 27 games. These numbers combined with the rough season that Moustakas had in 2009 were enough to really shake the confidence of the fan base. The team at the MLB level was flailing and the much heralded prospects were failing in epic fashion. We’d seen this before, and it wasn’t surprising.What most fans didn’t know though, was that Hosmer had a hand injury and needed eyesight correction. Both of those complications certainly could have caused the rough season that he had.
In the off season, Hosmer got his hand healthy and he got eye surgery. He also got completely dropped off of the BA prospect list and came into 2010 with expectations lowered just a tad. He was re-assigned to High-A Wilmington and the power sapping nature of Frawley Stadium. However, like he was reborn, Hosmer tore the roof of of the place. He hit .354/.429/.545 with 7 homeruns and 6 triples in 87 games for the Blue Rocks. He earned a trip to the Futures Game in Anaheim for the All-Star break, and subsequently earned a promotion to Northwest Arkansas. There, he continued his torrid hitting pace and hit .313/.365/.615 with 13 homeruns in 50 games. He helped replace the bat of Moustakas, who had been promoted to AAA, and helped lead the Naturals to the Texas League Championship.
Hosmer is a tall athletic young kid who is still only 20 years old. He has been playing first base since his arrival in the Royals organization. Personally, when I’ve seen him he almost looks too athletic to play first, but he is a very big guy. I was higher on Moustakas until I got a look at Hosmer at the futures game. His body type and plate discipline are what really impressed me. I believe he can grow into even more power and should be able to be a very good defensive first baseman. If you forced me to pick, I’d take Hosmer over Moustakas for my team. He will be joining Moustakas in the Pan Am Games this fall and he will be in the Arizona Fall League, I expect him to play a full season in AAA in 2011 with a call to the majors in mid 2012.
To catch or not to catch, that is the question. Wil Myers is the third of our trio of players and he is also the youngest. Continuing the theme, he was drafted out of High School in the 3rd round of the 2009 June Amateur Draft. The Royals offered the young catcher money well above the recommended slot bonus for a third round pick and Myers chose the professional route in lieu of a scholarship to North Carolina.
Myers got to work early in 2009 and played 22 games for Idaho Falls and hit .369/.427/.679 with 5 homeruns in 22 games. He was quickly promoted to the Burlington Royals of the Rookie level Appalachian League. He only played in 4 games and accumulated 2 hits in the brief stint.
The question going into 2010 for Wil Myers, was his spot on the field. He’d been a catcher in high school, but there was plenty of talk that his bat was too good to be behind the plate, and his defense there was not spectacular. He was sent to Burlington, Iowa to play for the Bees and was still behind the plate. He hit .289/.408/.500 with 10 homeruns in 68 games before being promoted to the Wilmington Blue Rocks. There, he hit.346/.453/.512 with 4 homeruns in 58 games. More importantly, he continued to catch and DH.
Opinions on his defense vary, but I haven’t heard anyone call him a great catcher just yet. Rumors of him moving positions will probably follow him all the way to the Major Leagues if he stays behind the plate. That isn’t uncommon for a great hitter, which Wil Myers certainly is. I don’t have a huge issue moving him, and I don’t have a huge issue with keeping him at catcher. What I would have an issue with is moving him to a defensive position once he gets to the MLB. The Royals continually try and put players in a new defensive position at the Major League level and it confounds me. They need to identify NOW whether they think Wil Myers is a catcher or not. If he isn’t get him used to an outfield spot today.
These three players, Moustakas, Hosmer and Myers make are the core of the Royals future position players. Combining them with Duffy, Lamb and Montgomery you have six players with elite potential. How they perform the next two to three years will tell you everything you need to know about the Royals chances to compete in the near future. Fans like to compare this crop of guys to past failures like Roscoe Crosby, Dan Reichert and Dee Brown. Sure, they have a chance to fail just like those guys, however this crop is significantly more talented than anything the Royals have seen in decades. The odds are good that not all six of them will become elite talents, but the good news is, when you have 6 players this good, not all of them HAVE to be, that is the difference.
Contact Nick Scott via email at brokenbatsingle at gmail dot com, via Twitter @brokenbatsingle or via Facebook . If you would like to receive his daily Royals system boxscores via email, just drop an email and request it. He will be sending out boxscores for both the Pan Am Games and the Arizona Fall League.