Top Ten Prospects: Kansas City Royals
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Will Kimmey
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
The Royals led the Indians 7-2 entering the top of the ninth inning Aug. 9 before an 11-run Cleveland rally helped by three errors sent Kansas City to a 13-7 loss, its 11th straight. The skid swelled to a club-record 19 games, the longest in the majors since 1988, before the Royals beat Barry Zito and the Athletics to snap the streak. The win inspired a celebration that included six bottles of champagne.
That marked the high point for a Kansas City team that lost 106 times in 2005, the most in baseball and the most in franchise history. That came on the heels of a 104-loss season and three years after a 100-loss campaign. It marked the fourth time in five years the team set or tied a franchise record for losses.
That time period corresponds directly with the tenure of Allard Baird as general manager, which began in June 2000. While Baird has played his part, the downward spiral began in 1993 when former Wal-Mart president and CEO David Glass bought the club and began running it like a discount store. The Royals have topped the .500 mark only once in his tenure, an 83-79 finish in 2003. Glass allowed Baird $22 million to spend on free agents this offseason, but retreads Paul Bako, Elmer Dessens, Scott Elarton, Mark Grudzielanek, Joe Mays, Doug Mientkiewicz and Reggie Sanders aren't going to reverse Kansas City's fortunes.
The Royals' frugality has forced Baird to trade all-star outfielders Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye since 2001, and the club failed to acquire a quality big leaguer in any of those deals. Expensive misses in the 2000 and 2001 drafts—Colt Griffin, anyone?—thinned the organization's minor league talent. Scouting director Deric Ladnier's last four first-round picks (Zack Greinke, Chris Lubanski, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon) look stronger, but the system offers little beyond that group.
Injuries and ineffectiveness in Kansas City have further depleted the system's depth by hastening the timetables for prospects rushed through the system to fill holes. Eleven Royals made their major league debuts in 2005 after a club-record 14 did so in 2004.
Despite the influx of youth, journeymen Emil Brown and Terrence Long commanded 1,000 at-bats in 2005 while players such as Justin Huber and Shane Costa never got regular playing time during their big league stints. Meanwhile, Greinke got pounded and promising young arms such as J.P. Howell and Leo Nunez were abused by major league hitters when they would have been better served with more time in the minors.
Bright spots were few, though David DeJesus cemented his status as a solid regular and Mike MacDougal started to regain the form that made him an all-star in 2003. Rookies Ambiorix Burgos and Andrew Sisco showed promise in the bullpen. John Buck and Mark Teahen, two pieces of the Beltran trade, hit well late in the year.
But all of those players are only complementary parts and not the star
players the Royals so desperately need. Double-A Wichita roster should
feature most of the organization's position-player prospects. Kansas
City will spend the 2006 draft trying to bolster underwhelming crop
of pitchers, starting with the No. 1 overall pick.
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