The 2011 amateur draft process finally came to an end with Monday night’s signing deadline and the Royals ended up assembling a really promising group.   Remember the names:

  • Bubba Starling
  • Cam Gallagher
  • Bryan Brickhouse
  • Kyle Smith
  • Patrick Leonard
  • Jack Lopez
  • Jake Junis

All guys who the Royals signed for more than Bud Selig’s archaic and irrelevant slot values.  In the case of Lopez and Junis, the bonuses were dramatically over slot value as Dayton Moore and crew took flyers in the later rounds on players thought to be unsignable.   For all his faults at the major league level, you simply cannot criticize Moore’s ability to find and sign talent for the minor league system.

We all have heard plenty about Starling, but in Gallagher and Lopez the Royals signed a catcher and shortstop with outstanding potential and who, by most accounts, will stick at those valuable defensive positions.  Leonard brings power potential, while Brickhouse, Smith and Junis can all be projected as middle to top of the rotation starting pitchers.  (Pine Tar Press has a nice scouting report on the latter three, by the way)

Add to the above group two big bonus Latin American signees in outfielder Elier Hernandez and shortstop Aldeberto Mondesi and the summer of 2011 looks like an outstanding contribution to an already fine farm system:   part of the ‘next wave’ of prospects.   Remember the nine players mentioned above.

Okay, now forget about them.

This group is not ‘the next wave’, they are actually part of the wave after the wave after the next wave.   Remember that Bubba Starling could spend a full season at every minor league level and still be just 24 when he hits the big leagues.   Elier Hernandez could take seven years to work his way up to the majors and break in as a 23 year old rookie.

Even under the most optimistic of projections, Alex Gordon will be 31 years old when the first of this class makes his major league debut.   Eris Hosmer will be in his fifth season (hopefully costing the Royals a small fortune because he just won the MVP) and, quite frankly, it is unlikely that Ned Yost or any of the current crop of coaches will ever have a chance to write the name ‘Starling’ or ‘Hernandez’ on a lineup card.  That last sentence is not a prediction of doom and gloom, just a reflection of the career path of virtually every major league manager and coach, by the way.

Depending on how you want to classify ‘waves’ of prospects, you can make this group part of just about any wave you want.  The truth is that a year like this, when the Royals have ten rookies playing key roles on their major league roster, really should not happen again.   Successful organizations don’t just throw an entire AAA team onto their major league roster every couple of years.  Instead, they ease them in over a period of time.

In Kansas City’s case, this year was a perfect year to push a bunch of players through their rookie years at once.   There was little to lose and, honestly, not a whole lot standing in their way at the major league level.  By getting Greg Holland, Louis Coleman, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Danny Duffy, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez acclimated all in one year, the Royals quite possibly accelerated the entire organization’s  timetable by nearly a full season.

Come 2012, the Royals can add the likes of a Lorenzo Cain (who really is not a rookie), David Lough, Mike Montgomery, Brandon Sisk and Kelvin Herrera to their core group of players as needed.     That group would then be followed by a procession of Wil Myers, Christian Colon (trying to be optimistic), Chris Dwyer, Will Smith and Kevin Chapman.     Not long after, we could start looking for the likes of John Lamb, Noel Arguelles, Jason Adam, Cheslor Cuthbert, Brett Eibner and Michael Antonio and then, THEN, we get to the nine guys that started off that column.

Of course, we know that not all of these players will make it and, in fact, most of them won’t.   We also know that some names that I have not mentioned will make it.   The good news is that they don’t all have to make it.

In virtually any other season between 2004 and 2010, Lorenzo Cain and probably even David Lough would have been playing major league baseball for a good two months by now.   That they are still in Omaha is not an indication of Dayton Moore’s stubbornness, but it simply a by-product of the fact that Kansas City currently fields a legitimate major league outfield trio.   Right there is a real sign of progress for this organization.

Now, this all sounds just perfect until Mike Moustakas hits .214 next season, Johnny Giavotella actually proves to be awful on defense and Alcides Escobar goes back to hitting .220/.230/.220 in 2012.   It all sounds just peachy until Mike Montgomery is sporting a plus five AAA earned run average next June and Danny Duffy is still struggling to make it to the fifth inning of most of his starts.

The Kansas City Royals are still remarkably fragile.   If the current major league lineup does not come through, the vaunted young bullpen regresses and Aaron Crow, Montgomery and Duffy flame out as starters, the team could well find itself playing 10 more rookies in 2013 and wondering who they can get with yet another top three draft pick.  

The Process is not a sure thing and there is a ton of work yet to do, but on this sunny day in August, it looks pretty good right now.   Let’s hope that this promising group of 2011 signees, when their time comes, are not being looked upon to finally lead the Royals into contention, but instead are being groomed to replace key players on a contending team without missing a beat.