When MLB.com releases its list of Top 100 prospects every year, it serves as yet another sign that baseball is right around the corner. Pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks and before we know it, the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros will be battling it out on Opening Day.
With a number of names scattered about the list over the years, the Kansas City Royals are now starting to see the dividends of their young talent paying off in the major leagues—with left fielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Billy Butler anchoring the franchise.
This year, only outfielder Bubba Starling (26), Kyle Zimmer (34) and Yordano Ventura (59) appeared in the rankings.
While the results haven’t quite started showing up in the win-loss column, the Royals are still a very young team and expectations couldn’t be higher at this point.
If third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer, catcher Salvador Perez and shortstop Alcides Escobar can continue to progress in 2013, Kansas City is a viable candidate to make a similar leap forward as the Baltimore Orioles did just last season.
The emergence of homegrown talent is something that MLB organizations should lean on. The key, however, is maintaining a steady flow of young players that can step in if needed, or that could be used as trade chips to plug more pressing roster deficiencies.
With their offense in place, the Royals were forced to move valuable pieces this offseason to make upgrades where they lacked the most: starting pitching.
Trading away Wil Myers (No. 4 on the top prospect list), Jake Odorizzi (47) and Mike Montgomery, among others, could serve as a turning point within the organization. Depleting their minor league system, however, could also create long-term ramifications should Kansas City’s gamble not pay off.
While the additions of James Shields, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie (signed via free agency) give the Royals a much more formidable starting rotation than in years past, the window to succeed is still relatively small in Kansas City—putting pressure on everyone in and around the organization to right the ship sooner rather than later.
The type of offseason the Royals had is reminiscent of teams ready to take that next step, one that would involve a sustained and viable winning atmosphere and an anticipated postseason appearance.
With Kansas City’s lack of success recently, that sort of jump would certainly take center stage across the landscape of the sport.
Being revered in having the best young talent in a sport only goes so far; eventually, everything should come together to prove what the hype is all about.
The Royals made a statement this offseason by going outside of their comfort zone. How the proactive moves turn out will quickly establish the future of this franchise.
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