Saturday, June 8, 2013
Royals' can't-miss prospects have missed
By Joe Werner
This was supposed to be the year for the Kansas City Royals, the climax of all those of futile seasons, subsequent high draft pick selections, and constant rebuilding. In a perfect world the images of James Shields, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie donning Kansas City uniforms would never exist.
After all, just two seasons prior to beginning the year with the four veteran right-handers in the rotation, general manager Dayton Moore and Co. had amassed what could have been the greatest farm system in baseball history. Prior to the start of the 2011 season Baseball America issued its top 100 prospects list, featuring nine members of the Royals organization, five of them among the game's top 19: Eric Hosmer (No. 8), Mike Moustakas (No. 9), Wil Myers (No. 10), John Lamb (No. 18), Mike Montgomery (No. 19), Christian Colon (No. 51), Danny Duffy (No. 68), Jake Odorizzi (No. 69) and Chris Dwyer (No. 83).
It was a deep, diverse collection of talent, offering a solid mix of potential middle-of-the-order bats and potential front-of-the-rotation arms. It was supposed to be, simply, the farm system that would thrust KC back into October.
And, yet, here the Royals are, in the midst of a horrifically poor stretch where they find themselves at the back of the AL Central. That leaves the question: What happened?
Eric Hosmer: The young first baseman looked as close to a can't-miss prospect as any player in the organization, showing above-average to elite walk rates, solid contact skills, no discernible platoon splits, and promising power -- or was it?
Look at Hosmer's isolated power numbers:
Year Level PA ISO
2009 A 327 0.129
2009 A+ 107 0.093
2010 A+ 375 0.191
2010 AA 211 0.303
2011 AAA 118 0.143
2011 MLB 563 0.172
2012 MLB 598 0.127
2013 MLB 215 0.066
Outside of half of one season in 2010, he never consistently showed above-average power. Instead, his two best stops in the minor leagues (according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+) were his stints in High-A in 2010 and Triple-A the next year, both of which he posted ridiculously high batting averages on balls in play (.382 and .500, respectively).
In all fairness, he projected to hit for more power, but hasn't. Hosmer is only 23 years old, so there's still some reason to hope.
Mike Moustakas: Heading into the 2010 season, the third baseman with the smooth left-handed stroke had been solid, but far from spectacular. He hit .272/.337/.468 as a 19-year-old in A-ball in 2008 and .250/.297/.421 in High-A the following season. But the former No. 2 overall pick broke out in Double-A in 2010, hitting an incredible .347/.413/.687 through 66 games. He was then promoted to Omaha where he hit .293/.314/.564.
Using Weighted Runs Created Plus -- a park and league adjusted offensive stat where 100 is league average and every point above or below it is equivalent to one percent better or worse than the league average -- and BABIP, Moustakas posted the following totals in the minor leagues:
Year Level PA wRC+ BABIP
2008 A 549 128 0.289
2009 A+ 530 95 0.275
2010 AA 298 194 0.342
2010 AAA 236 114 0.271
2011 AAA 250 105 0.314
His numbers with Northwest Arkansas certainly now appear to be the outlier, which is only supported by a unsustainable -- given his minor league track record -- .342 batting average on balls in play. But there were also two additional red flags: A history of below-average walk rates and an inability to hit left-handers consistently.
Fast forward a few years and, unsurprisingly, Moustakas owns a below-average walk rate and BABIP, and still hasn't learned to hit southpaws (he's hit .219/.274/.331 against them during his big league career).
John Lamb and Danny Duffy: Statistically speaking, there were no red flags for Lamb and Duffy. Each missed a lot of bats and showed solid control. The problem, however, is both serve as just another cautionary tale when it comes to highly touted hurlers nabbed out of high school. The duo succumbed to elbow woes and Tommy John surgery. And while they are making progress on the hill this season, they've yet to make any type of big league impact.
Christian Colon: The former fourth overall pick out of Cal State Fullerton in 2010 showed some offensive promise during his junior season: .358/.450/.631. But his bat -- namely his pop and walk rates -- has failed to develop in the pro ranks. Hi offensive production during his debut season in High-A certainly looked like a harbinger for things to come: He hit .278/.326/.376 and was 5 percent below the league-average, uninspiring production for a highly drafted college player in an age-appropriate level of competition.
Chris Dwyer: Kansas City found the 6-foot-3 left-hander in the fourth round out of Clemson in 2009. Dwyer tossed a combined 102 innings the following season, the overwhelming majority in High-A. And while his overall numbers look impressive -- 10.0 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 -- he was another polished collegiate player that spent a significant amount of time in an age-appropriate level of competition. His numbers have regressed mightily since then.
Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery: Flipped this offseason for James Shields and Wade Davis, Myers and Odorizzi look like the two most likely candidates of the entire group to find sustained big league success.
Myers, who hit .314/.387/.600 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, started off slowly this season but has managed to pick things up as of late (.276/.355/.491). He has the potential to swing and miss a lot at the big league level, but the power output and strong walk rates have been consistent.
Odorizzi misses some bats and shows average control. He won't be a star, but should become a solid No. 3 or4 starter.
Montgomery, on the other hand, is another failed top prospect. And while he flashed some promise at certain points during his career, the southpaw's production hjas failed to match the hype once he entered Double-A.
Given the high attrition rate for prospects, you could project that probably only one, maybe two, of the team's prospects from that season would actually reach their full potential, with another two becoming solid big league regulars. Instead, the seven that remain within the organization have all struggled or been injured. For now, Myers and Odorizzi look like group's best bets. Unfortunately for the hometown fans, they no longer have a chance do so for the Royals.
Joe Werner contributes to the Indians blog It's Pronounced "Lajaway," writes at ProspectDigest.com and can be followed on Twitter @ReleasePoints.