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Congratulations, Dayton Moore. As general manager, you’ve led the Royals out of the wilderness.
|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Raul A. Mondesi, ss|
|2. Brandon Finnegan, lhp|
|3. Sean Manaea, lhp|
|4. Kyle Zimmer, rhp|
|5. Hunter Dozier, 3b|
|6. Miguel Almonte, rhp|
|7. Foster Griffin, lhp|
|8. Scott Blewett, rhp|
|9. Jorge Bonifacio, of|
|10. Christian Colon, ss/2b|
Kansas City won 89 games in 2014, its most in the last quarter-century. The Royals made their first playoff appearance in 29 years. They became the first team to ever win their first eight playoff games in a single season, and they returned to the World Series for the first time since 1985.
In the process, they may have developed a new generation of Royals fans, who found out that the home team doesn’t always have to be hapless.
It was the season Royals fans have dreamed of for decades, but in many cases never thought was possible.
So now what will the Royals do for an encore?
Long before the Royals made the playoffs, Moore and his front office have talked about the need to follow up success with more success. Even before they had ever had any big league success, they were planning for the follow-up.
Kansas City has worked to ensure that the nucleus of the first wave can stay together for a while. Because so many young players arrived in a two-year span, the Royals can keep the majority of the American League pennant winners together for the short term, though rising arbitration salaries will likely force some cost-saving trades at some point.
Kansas City has all three members of its rally-killing relief combo—righthanders Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland—under contract through at least 2016. The same is true for four-fifths of the rotation, where only No. 1 starter James Shields, a free agent, is not likely to return for 2015.
Besides DH Billy Butler, whose $12.5 million team option the Royals declined, and right fielder Nori Aoki, the other seven members of the everyday lineup are under contract for at least the next year, with left fielder Alex Gordon the only one not under contract through 2017.
The Royals wouldn’t have made it to the World Series without help from a second wave of prospects. Kansas City used righthander Jake Odorizzi as part of its deal to acquire Shields and Davis, while righty Yordano Ventura’s speedy development provided the Royals with a much-needed starter behind Shields in 2014. Christian Colon, the 2010 first-round pick, filled in as a utility infielder.
But as the young major leaguers’ salaries begin to rise, the Royals will need a new group of prospects to arrive to provide inexpensive help over the next couple of years. They seem well equipped on the pitching side.
Between lefthanders Brandon Finnegan and Sean Manaea and righthanders Kyle Zimmer and Miguel Almonte, the Royals have four quality pitching prospects who all will spend time at Double-A (or higher) in 2015. Kansas City will need at least one of them to provide quality innings in 2015, and contributions by two or more in 2016 would provide much-needed rotation flexibility.
The Royals are not as deep in position prospects, and few of the club’s best minor league hitters produced in 2014.
The Royals will have to adjust to a new world where they are no longer a group of inept underdogs. It’s an adjustment that Kansas City has long dreamed of, and one the organization is looking to prove is not just a one-season fluke.