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|TOP 10 PROSPECTS|
|1. Raul A. Mondesi, ss|
|2. Kyle Zimmer, rhp|
|3. Bubba Starling, of|
|4. Miguel Almonte, rhp|
|5. Nolan Watson, rhp|
|6. Ashe Russell, rhp|
|7. Marten Gasparini, ss|
|8. Matt Strahm, lhp|
|9. Scott Blewett, rhp|
|10. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b/1b|
In the summer of 2011, Royals general manager Dayton Moore and scouting director Lonnie Goldberg were in a car riding back from a meeting with their most recent first-rounder Bubba Starling. As they drove away, Moore described to Goldberg his dream: one day he wanted to see kids walking down Kansas City, Mo., streets wearing Bubba Starling jersey T-shirts, Eric Hosmer jerseys and Royals caps.
He was dreaming of the day that the Royals would capture the city, the area and the region the way they had when Moore, born in Wichita, was a kid.
Mission accomplished. An estimated 800,000 attended the Royals' World Series victory parade in November. Now, manager Ned Yost has gone from giving a false name at Starbucks early in his Royals career to avoid scrutiny to receiving standing ovations the moment he walks into any Kansas City-area restaurant.
“As we're starting the parade, I look to my left and there is a row of kids . . . and they are wearing different Royals T-shirts," Goldberg said. “There's a (Lorenzo) Cain, a Hosmer, a Salvy (Perez) . . . That was really cool."
Kansas City hats have begun popping up all over the nation, and this next sentence might seem even crazier: the Royals have become the best team in baseball.
It's not just their World Series win. It's 95 wins in 2015. It's a trip to Game Seven of the 2014 World Series. It's a team that has averaged 90 wins per season since 2013, the most in the American League.
The Royals said they were going to build through player development. And though it took seven years from Moore's first full draft in 2007 until the club's first playoff appearance, that's exactly what they did, helped by a few trades and free-agent signings.
Now comes the hard part. The Royals know they have to plug the free-agent holes left by Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist and possibly Alex Gordon on the fly. They will be doing so with a thinner farm system that has been weakened by trades that sent away lefthanders Cody Reed, Sean Manaea and Brandon Finnegan, a trio that would rank Nos. 2 through 4 on this ranking.
The deals for Cueto and Zobrist thinned the system, so Kansas City's success in 2015 will cost the franchise a little going forward.
That's not to say that the Royals' window is yet closed. Even with the free agent losses, Kansas City brings back the core of the 2015 champs. Even if the Royals don't win 95 games again, they should be in the thick of the 2016 playoff hunt, especially if Moore and his front office again succeed in finding free-agent bargains.
Kansas City's window with this core will close after the 2017 season. At that point, center fielder Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, first baseman Hosmer and closer Wade Davis will reach free agency at the same time. But for now, the Royals and their fans are too busy enjoying the parade.