Kansas City Royals: Top 10 Prospects

1. Alex Gordon, 3b
2. Luke Hochevar, rhp
3. Billy Butler, of
4. Chris Lubanski, of
5. Tyler Lumsden, lhp
6. Erik Cordier, rhp
7. Mitch Maier, of
8. Justin Huber, of/1b
9. Billy Buckner, rhp
10. Brent Fisher, lhp
Best Hitter for Average Billy Butler
Best Power Hitter Alex Gordon
Best Strike-Zone Discipline Alex Gordon
Fastest Baserunner Derrick Robinson
Best Athlete Derrick Robinson
Best Fastball Erik Cordier
Best Curveball Luke Hochevar
Best Slider Carlos Rosa
Best Changeup Danny Christensen
Best Control Chris  Nicoll
Best Defensive Catcher Adam Donachie
Best Defensive Infielder Angel Sanchez
Best Infield Arm Angel Sanchez
Best Defensive Outfielder Mitch Maier
Best Outfield Arm Jose Duarte
Catcher John Buck
First Base Ryan Shealy
Second Base Esteban German
Third Base Alex Gordon
Shortstop Jeff Bianchi
Left Field Chris Lubanski
Center Field David DeJesus
Right Field Mark Teahen
Designated Hitter Billy Butler
No. 1 Starter Luke Hochevar
No. 2 Starter Zack Greinke
No. 3 Starter Tyler Lumsden
No. 4 Starter Erik Cordier
No. 5 Starter Billy Buckner
Closer Ambiorix Burgos
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Glendon Rusch, lhp Cubs
1998 Dee Brown, of Royals
1999 Carlos Beltran, of Mets
2000 Dee Brown, of Royals
2001 Chris George, lhp Marlins
2002 Angel Berroa, ss Royals
2003 Zack Greinke, rhp Royals
2004 Zack Greinke, rhp Royals
2005 Billy Butler, of Royals
2006 Alex Gordon, 3b Royals
Year Player, Position 2006
1997 Dan Reichert, rhp Nashua (Can-Am)
1998 Jeff Austin, rhp Out of baseball
1999 Kyle Snyder, rhp Red Sox
2000 Mike Stodolka, lhp Royals
2001 Colt Griffin, rhp Royals
2002 Zack Greinke, rhp Royals
2003 Chris Lubanski, of Royals
2004 Billy Butler, of Royals
2005 Alex Gordon, 3b Royals
2006 Luke Hochevar, rhp Royals
Alex Gordon, 2005 $4,000,000
Luke Hochevar, 2006 $3,500,000
Jeff Austin, 1998 $2,700,000
Mike Stodolka, 2000 $2,500,000
Zack Greinke, 2002 $2,475,000
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Kansas City Royals

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Royals could stake a claim to being baseball’s model franchise. Not coincidentally, their demise corresponded with John Schuerholz leaving his Kansas City general manager post to take the same job with the Braves for the 1991 season. Now the Royals hope some of that karma will come back their way.

Kansas City went to the Atlanta well in search of the cure for its problems, hiring assistant GM for baseball operations Dayton Moore to replace Allard Baird as general manager in May. Moore had been with the Braves since 1997 and was an integral part of the best player-development system of the past decade. Now the Royals are banking on Moore being able to turn the “Braves Way” into the new “Royals Way.”

In his first few months on the job, Moore wasn’t been subtle in his attempt to bring the Atlanta model with him to Kansas City. Among his first orders of business were bringing on J.J. Picollo as farm director and Rene Francisco as director of international scouting, after working closely with both while with the Braves.

With the addition of Francisco, who was responsible for signing the likes of Rafael Furcal, Andy Marte and Odalis Perez for Atlanta, the Royals plan to beef up their scouting operation in Latin America after it was limited by financial constraints in recent years. They’re set to open up a new academy in the Dominican Republic in 2007. While their budget for signings may not increase significantly, they’ll allocate more time to becoming a presence in the international market.

The other major change that comes from Atlanta’s model is the addition of a seventh minor league affiliate. With the new club in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, the Royals will join the Mets as the only organizations with seven U.S. affiliates. The Braves carried at least seven and sometimes eight from 1986-2001 before trimming costs.

“Adding another rookie league club is another opportunity for players to develop, especially pitchers,” Moore said. “We felt a strong need to build depth with pitching. If you have 20 pitching prospects, you might get four or five to the big leagues. Some get hurt, some get traded, some underachieve.”

Depth of pitching is still a weakness for Royals system, but they began to address that this season. Just before Moore took over, they selected Luke Hochevar with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Moore pulled off a series of trades that added promising young arms such as lefthander Tyler Lumsden and righthanders Blake Johnson, Julio Pimentel, Joselo Diaz and Daniel Cortes at the cost of Mike MacDougal, Matt Stairs and Elmer Dessens. Moore also grabbed slugger Ryan Shealy from the Rockies in a deal for Jeremy Affeldt and Denny Bautista, two more players who had no future in Kansas City.

As for position players, the Royals have arguably the best 1-2 prospect punch in third baseman Alex Gordon, Baseball America’s 2006 Minor League Player of the Year, and outfielder Billy Butler. Both have bats that will play anywhere and are almost major league-ready. The only question remaining is where they’ll play.

Gordon is a natural third baseman, but Mark Teahen developed into a solid everyday player in 2006, so one of them will have to move to the outfield. Long viewed as a DH waiting to happen, Butler will get the chance to establish himself as a playable right fielder.

With only one winning season in their last 14, having too many talented players at a position is a new problem for the Royals, one they’re not complaining about. With Moore on board and a vision for the future, there’s finally cause for hope in Kansas City.