More Than a Process

Historical periods are more remembered for the events that stand out rather than the undercurrents that lead to those events.

You’ve heard of the Magna Carta, but may not be as familiar with the struggles between classes in feudal Europe that played a role in building to that event.

The Declaration of Independence (rightly) stands out, but not as many are as concerned with remembering the accounts of British intrusion on businesses and homes that bubbled up later until the Boston Tea Party and other notable dates.

It’s a way of simplifying things. Cut and dry.

Results typically don’t develop that easily.  It takes numerous small situations to reach a goal.

Baseball is no different.  Teams are known by their stars, not by their role players.  That’s just how it goes.  You pay attention to the big names, but the little moves still count.  In the context of the Royals, we’re all awaiting for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers, but we may be overlooking part of the Process that is already falling into place.

Already, we’ve seen the success of young relievers in the Royals bullpen.  Aaron Crow has been a solid performer in key situations and has yet to give up a run.  Tim Collins has made more appearances than any other Royals pitcher.  Louis Coleman was just brought up, and even though he’s struggled, Jeremy Jeffress, as part of the Zack Greinke trade, is penciled in as a significant part of the Royals bullpen in the future.

We’ve heard time and again about the Process.  Dayton Moore refers to it all the time and, in turn, many fans have sarcastically made the same reference when questioning a bad signing or performance.  While I think Moore is a overdoing it in his “Trust the Process” mantra, after developing the top minor league system in the majors – possibly the best in decades – it’s clear he has something figured out.

The question, then, is how does that fit into the team right now?

Along with the inclusion of the bullpen, we can look towards Omaha to watch Hosmer and Moustakas as they inch closer to the big leagues.

In the meantime, we can’t forget about Lorenzo Cain or Johnny Giavotella, potential replacements for a weak-hitting Chris Getz or soon-to-drop-off Melky Cabrera.  They may not have the same All-Star potential that Hosmer or Moustakas have, but just as Coleman and Collins and Crow are improvements over Jesse Chavez or John Bale or Dusty Hughes, so are the second-tier prospects over their current major league counterparts.

But baseball is still baseball.  Fans aren’t going to line up for Johnny Giavotella’s major league debut (well not most).  They will, however, clog the turnstiles when Moustakas finally makes it to Kansas City.

Some events are more significant than others. In 2011, we’re likely to see a few more call-ups besides Louis Coleman.  On their own, they’ll be eventful.  Together, though, they’ll be a wave.

So which one of those debuts will be the tipping point – that time when the Royals are doing more than just bringing up stars, but rather loading up in preparation for contention.

Moustakas is likely the first big name hitter to make it up.  Hosmer may beat him to the majors, but general opinion is that Moustakas, after a couple months in Triple A already from last season, is probably the first one up.  Hosmer shouldn’t be too far behind, especially if he keeps hitting like he has to start the year in Omaha.

As soon as those two make it up, they’ll be learning the nuances of hitting at the big league level, and while they may not hit right away, they should both be impact bats in the middle of the lineup.

But they aren’t the promotions that signal the shift from building up talent to producing on the field.

Danny Duffy, with more experience than his star prospect pitching counterparts, had an outside shot at a bullpen job during spring training and should be the first of the group of Duffy, Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer to make the bigs.  Hopefully, enough fans have been paying attention to turn out and see his first start.  He impressed in the Futures Game, so maybe word will get out.

As ready as Duffy is, if he’s the first pitcher to make the rotation, he’ll still be surrounded by the likes of Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan.  It’s just not a big enough push.

Here’s the sign, to me, that the Royals are gearing up to start competing: Mike Montgomery makes his first start.

No it’s not a big stretch to name Montgomery as the tipping point prospect, but as the (potential) fourth of four big name prospects to make the jump, fans will take notice.  It also opens the doors for the Royals to start bringing up other prospects, especially of the rookies have early success.

Following Duffy and Montgomery will be Lamb and Chris Dwyer.  Wil Myers will be on his way.  Christian Colon and Salvador Perez shouldn’t be in that wave, as well.  As they start to get their footing in the big leagues, we’ll look toward to players like Jason Adam and Yordano Ventura and a vast number of young players who hopefully continue their development to be on the cusp of The Show.

In 2013, if the Royals are starting to compete for the first legitimate time since the 1980’s, I think it’ll be that promotion of Montgomery that fits as the cornerstone event in the shift from the Royals being “owners of a great minor league system” to a “team full of budding stars.”

That’s as long as the Process works as it’s supposed to.

I could easily be wrong.  Maybe Duffy and Montgomery are called up within a small enough timeframe to be lumped together.  Likewise with Hosmer and Moustakas.  All four might make the move in the same month.  We may look back and remember the big event as a big spring training leading to Wil Myers making the club out on opening day.  Maybe it’ll be a role player tipping the scales as the last piece.

The fun part is, there are so many options to choose from that any one prospect could have enough impact on the team to be memorable.

What future event (or promotion) do you see as having the most impact on The Process?  Discuss in the comments below.  There’s no wrong answer! (Unless it includes “re-signing Melky Cabrera”)

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Danny Duffy Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals KC Mike Montgomery Mike Moustakas MLB Royals Tim Collins Wil Myers

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