LJWorld.com weblogs Broken Bat Single Kansas City Royals Blog
Royals 2011 Season Preview Part I
It’s been a long time since the Royals have been any good, a real long time. Some can point to 2003 when the team finished with a winning record, but that season was a fluke wrapped in a very hot start. You have to go back to the early 1990’s or even further to find a time when the Royals had a legitimate shot of winning a Division title. Draw the line wherever you want, but the point remains—it’s been a long time.
So when I start my preview of the 2011 Royals, I understand if you’re turned off when I use the word patience, but it’s the right word to use. This upcoming season isn’t one where the Royals are expected to contend for a title, but it will be another step towards that goal. Since Dayton Moore took over as General Manager in 2006, the process of building a contending team has seemed to take one step forward and then two steps back. The on-field performance of the Royals at the Major League level has consistently been terrible.
Some high-priced free agents were brought in to give the team a semblance of being Major League, all the while Moore and company have been attempting to re-build the franchise from the bottom up. He has consistently preached the message that the Royals had to be built from within. The organization needed to find and develop talent in their own Minor League system. Moore is fond of saying “building a team through free agency is a failed way of doing things.” Whether he learned that prior to taking the helm of the Royals or through the experience of his own failures in the free agency market is unclear, but unimportant. How he got to that ideology is less important than the fact that he got to it, because he’s absolutely correct. Building a team, even if a team has the ability to buy high-priced free agents is best done with a core of home-grown talent.
That “process” as it’s been dubbed by Moore and mocked by fans and pundits is finally beginning to bear fruit. Adding Minor League teams, being one of the biggest spenders in the draft and vastly expanding international scouting has begun to pay dividends. Pick any Minor League scouting service you want: Baseball America, ESPN or Baseball Prospectus. They all agree, the Royals not only have the best farm system of 2011 but one of the best farm systems assembled in recent memory.
The rightfully cynical fans will say “we’ve heard this all before” and “the Royals will just trade all of these players away” and they’d be at least partially right. However, the Royals have never had this kind of talent in the Minors, so this hasn’t been heard before. And the players are guaranteed to be on the team for 6 years before they can become free agents, let’s worry about that in 6 or 8 years. Besides, the Royals have had 4 players worth signing recently and every single one of them was given a contract extension: Billy Butler, Joakim Soria, Zack Grienke and David Dejesus. I completely understand the frustration, I know where it’s coming from but trust me, set it aside for now.
You’ve possibly heard of some of these young players who are so promising. Eric Hosmer, the big athletic first baseman. Mike Moustakas, the power hitting third baseman with a leadership mentality. Mike Montgomery, the fantastic left-handed starter. John Lamb, the other fantastic left-handed starter. Danny Duffy the third fantastic left-handed starter. Wil Myers, the catcher recently converted to the outfield. I could go on and on listing players who someday might turn into something great. It’s still all probabilities right now. There will be some busts, but there also might be some superstars. All we know now is that there isn’t a farm system in baseball with a better likelihood of creating a championship caliber baseball team than what the Royals have.
Back to 2011. While a couple of these high profile prospects will begin filtering onto the Major League roster at some point this year, they won’t all burst on the scene, start producing at a high level and win games immediately . It just doesn’t work like that. So in some ways 2011 is a season to endure, a penultimate season before the real fun begins. But it’s also a little more than that.
This season will be one of the most interesting Royal seasons in recent memory. It’s looking like they will have the youngest team in franchise history. The team will have a bunch of fresh faces competing to become part of the bright future. The days of random aging free agents being thrown in to the mix are gone. In the coming days, I’ll be previewing more of the team to help you get re-acquainted or introduced to the team.
I know the frustration of being a Royals fan. I also know the joy of watching a talented baseball team. It can be a lot to emotionally invest in a team only to be let down year after year. I pride myself on being critical, skeptical and realistic, but I believe it’s a great time to start following the Royals.
Nick Scott is a contributor to Royals Authority and is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast, you can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.