It would seem today is Royals Day at ESPN… No fewer than 5 articles are on the main baseball page. Here’s a quick roundup (with links) of what you’ll find on the internet today in praise of the Royals farm system.
Keith Law may hate our team (and yours and yours and yours and…) but he found it in his heart to rank the Royals as the top minor league organization in the game. (Subscription required for the link.) Money quote:
About a month or so after Dayton Moore took over as the Royals’ GM, he told me that he was alarmed to find how little pitching inventory he had in his new farm system and that addressing that vacuum would be a major priority for his front office. The phrase “Mission Accomplished” has acquired an ironic connotation of late, but if anyone could use the phrase earnestly to describe his own efforts, it would be Moore, as the Royals have arms coming out of their ears.
ESPN’s Stats and Info gang take a close look at Billy Butler, touching on his struggles against left-handed pitching last summer. That’s something that (we hope) should be an outlier, given he’s never had issues against southpaws before. That’s something I touched on this week on my Fantasy Focus piece about Butler at Baseball Prospectus. (Subscription required… Sorry) More info of interest from ESPN:
Butler increased his on-base percentage with two strikes from .285 to an outstanding .330 (MLB average was .266). His quality at-bat percentage in close- and late-game situations improved from 34 to 48 percent, while his quality at-bat percentage with runners in scoring position rose from 45 to 54 percent. That indicates that Butler’s drop-off in RBI production was more a result of fewer opportunities than poor performance.
Jerry Crasnick has a feature on Dayton Moore and how he and his scouts have spent the last five years preparing for this moment. The article mentions how the Royals have accomplished this without a plethora of high draft picks.
Success in Kansas City is a product of several factors. According to Baseball America, the Royals ranked fifth in overall spending on draft bonuses from 2008 through 2010, behind only Pittsburgh, Boston, Washington and Baltimore. With the support of the Glass family, the Royals’ owners, Moore and his scouting team have invested about $24.5 million in draft picks in that span.
This isn’t about the Royals per se, but it is noteworthy as it’s about how teams are building better farm systems. The quote of interest is what I’m calling “Phase 2” of The Process… reloading. (I think this article is an Insider one as well. Sorry about all the subscription links… But there’s still plenty of good stuff to read.)
Despite graduating several prospects to the big leagues over the past four years, the Rays continue to boast one of the better farm systems in baseball, and have depth at key positions, another major factor in building a great plantation. As players become expensive, the Rays trade them away for more young talent, just as they have with Garza and Bartlett this winter, and call upon another draftee to take over. For the Rays in 2011, Reid Brignac, who outplayed Bartlett last season, will take over at shortstop, Desmond Jennings is set to take over for Crawford in left, and Hellickson is likely to slide into the rotation spot held by Garza since the 2008 season.
“They’ll just plug in the next guy,” said an AL East scout. “That must be nice. We don’t all have that.”
And finally an article from Rob Neyer about his journey with the Royals and wondering if the talent in the minors will pull him back to the team he grew up with. I know Rob is a polarizing figure among many Royals fans because of what some may view as a lack of commitment to his team, but his experience isn’t that different among many Royals fans of our generation. We recall the good days and there have been many a night were I find myself wondering what I’m still doing caring about guys like Dan Reichart, Ken Harvey and Terrence Long. (OK… I never liked Terrence Long.) I suspect if Rob hadn’t left KC and gone “national” he might be a little more invested in this team. I hope he rediscovers his passion for the Royals. There’s always room on the bandwagon.
I suppose you might accuse me of being a fair-weather fan, but I was a fan through more than 20 years of foul weather. On the heels of that exciting-for-five-months 2003 campaign, the Royals lost 310 games in three seasons. The managers were lousy. The front office was a mess, celebrating ignorance. Ownership was meddling, occasionally reprehensible. I found myself drifting away, without even thinking about it. I stopped writing about the Royals for fun, because I found unattractive the negativity the Royals’ performance demanded.
Is my love for my Royals gone, or merely dormant? I don’t know. I will be checking the minor-league stats for all those prospects Dayton Moore has assembled. Maybe that means I’m already there.
If Rob follows this team again, he’ll rediscover the excitement of following a team with tons of upside. It will feel like 1976 all over again.