Jun 2, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) and third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) celebrate after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0 at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Did Dayton Moore Really Waste a #1 Farm System?

It’s fair to say that this year’s Royals prospect class is among the best we’ve seen.

- J.J. Cooper, Managing Editor – Baseball America

Couple of days ago I was wondering if the system was the best I’ve seen since doing what I do. It certainly is now.

- Kevin Goldstein, then Baseball Prospectus minor league scout

The Royals have one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in recent memory.

- Jim Callis – Baseball America


In 2011, Dayton Moore had positioned the Kansas City Royals on the cusp of greatness by constructing baseball’s most envied farm system out of the decayed and dilapidated ruins left by years of apathy and neglect. We Royals fans finally got to read something positive about our team by people who knew. We gorged ourselves on hope and praise after starving through a 25-year diet of failure and despair. The team we all dreamed for was coming soon.

The prospects arrived, one-by-one, in the following months and years, until the culmination of Dayton Moore’s efforts took the field at Kauffman Stadium. The best farm system in baseball has arrived.

And they’re losing.

Rampant speculation has been swirling around the city, on talk radio, and in print about how things could have slid as far as they have–from World Series expectations to inexcusable team-wide slumps. More often than not, the accusations fall at Dayton Moore’s feet. It looks like he might have blown the team’s best shot at a championship in 30 years.

Now, before we dive into the unavoidable ugliness that usually accompanies a post about the Royals’ front office, let’s acknowledge that some hope yet lingers. From 2001 until 2011, when Baseball America crowned the Royals organization’s farm system “the best in baseball,” every team to have their system so named reached the playoffs within the following four years. Those organizations made moves to fill in the holes around the young talent as prospects grew up, filled out, got better, and contributed at the major league level. The Royals are in year three, so Dayton Moore has some time left to take advantage of former top prospects before someone starts drafting an obituary for this front office.

Dayton Moore wasted any chance the Royals had of making the playoffs in 2012 by filling out a roster with legitimately terrible players. He signed Jeff Francoeur to a two-year contract extension against the recommendation of basically everyone not employed by him. He opted not to replace Chris Getz at second base, the worst everyday player in the majors. He traded for Jonathan Sanchez, a has-been with a dead arm. So far in the twenty-first century, teams average about 85 wins in the year after their farm system is named #1 in baseball. The Royals won 72.

By comparison, the Cubs had the #1 ranked system in 2002 and they won the division the next year. In the middle of 2003, they flipped prospect Bobby Hill for veterans Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton. Homegrown center fielder Corey Patterson hit well for a good defender and, after being promoted in 2001, their young arms Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior provided excellent rotation support for their home grown ace, Kerry Wood. The Cubs dumped two b-list prospects on the Diamondbacks to receive a good defensive catcher, Damian Miller.

Teams with the best farm systems tend to peak just two years after their farms receive the illustrious label. From 2001-2012, teams won an average of 89.3 games in the season two years removed from their farm’s #1 status. That would have been the 2013 season for the Royals. Wins trend downwards in the years to follow.  The Royals topped out at 86.

Worse still, teams that pushed all their chips to the middle of the table in later seasons still had resources left over from their #1 farm system. The 2001 White Sox system helped contribute to a World Series victory in 2005. Not only did former prospects Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland both receive Cy Young votes, and Bobby Jenks and Neil Cotts turn into good relievers, the Sox flipped a young Miguel Olivo and Mike Morse for Freddy Garcia in mid-2004, who threw 228 innings for them in 2005.

When the Indians won 96 games in 2007, four years after Baseball America ranked their farm #1, they had home-grown impact talent all over the lineup. They had Ryan Garko, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta. They had C.C. Sabathia and Roberto Hernandez in the rotation. They plugged what few holes they had with the money saved on their homegrown talent.

The Royals, on the other hand, have already traded away precious prospect capital in Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to temporarily acquire James Shields. Mike Montgomery busted. Chris Dwyer busted. Danny Duffy and John Lamb lost a year to Tommy John surgery rehab. While some of the up-and-coming prospects look promising, the current collection of struggling 2011 farm alumni are in danger of becoming an overall bust at the major league level.

Another team who came dangerously close to wasting the best farm in baseball was the Milwaukee Brewers, who had the best system in 2004. Like the Royals, they scuffled  around the .500 mark for a few years. They finally earned a wild card berth with 90 wins in 2008. This is where we hope the Royals will end up this year or next. From their respective #1 systems, the Royals will try to make the playoffs with Eric Hosmer (83 OPS+), Salvador Perez (97), and Mike Moustakas (44) while the Brewers did it with Ryan Braun (146 OPS+), Corey Hart (100), Prince Fielder (166), Rickie Weeks (125), and J.J. Hardy (75). The difference in offense is staggering.

Baseball is a results-based industry and other teams have set the bar. Teams with #1 ranked systems make the playoffs in the few following years. Dayton Moore is on the clock and things are not trending well for his organization. An optimist might point out that the Royals still have a top ten system, but if Moore can’t make the playoffs using the dividends raked from the best farm system that scouts had ever seen, we should probably not expect much from a lesser system. Dayton Moore hasn’t “wasted” a number one farm system. Not really…not yet.

Next Royals Game View full schedule »
Friday, Aug 2222 Aug7:05at Texas RangersBuy Tickets

Tags: Dayton Moore Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas

  • jimfetterolf

    Two points, 2012 is probably an outlier simply because of the injuries to the two best arms, the catcher, the pitcher, and the second baseman. Turned out Sanchez was also hurt and still is.

    Second, for all the sturm and drang about The Trade, Royals clearly won it last year, are winning it strongly this year, and Myers still can’t hit breaking stuff and Odorizzi has a hard time getting through five innings. Last I looked Wade Davis has more fW by himself than Jake and the DL’ed Will with his .220-something BA.

  • moretrouble

    With all due respect, I completely disagree with the author’s assertion. The KC roster is loaded with players from their system. How can the author argue the system has failed when Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura, Salvador Perez, Greg Holland and Eric Hosmer are on the roster? How about Gordon, Butler, Herrera, Crow, etc.?

    The author specifically mentions Jonathan Sanchez as a failure — but neglects to mention that Dayton Moore turned him around for Jeremy Guthrie, who has done a great job in the rotation.

    The author avoids talking about the Zack Greinke (who they were going to lose anyway) trade for a starting SS and CFer, both of whom play great.

    The author does mention the Myers trade and that surprises me. Does he honestly think KC is better off with Odorizzi (5.31 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) and Will Myers (.227 BA and .666 OPS) — rather than Shields, Davis and the guys they are playing in RF … Aoki and Cain?

    The KC organization has done a great job of development — and if the author’s judgement rests on making the playoffs, I would remind him the year isn’t over yet.

    • jimfetterolf

      What mo’ said. If Myers was in KC this year the blogs would be screaming for him to be demoted while demanding Moore’s head as the Royals sat at about Tampa’s level after winning 75 games last year.

    • Ryan Caltrider

      Why would the author mention Greinke? He wasn’t part of the farm system that was ranked #1.

      Also, it’s probably true that the Royals are better off this year with Davis and Shields as opposed to Odorizzi and Myers. However, that’s shortsighted thinking though because Shields will be gone after this year and Davis will be overpaid as a setup man while Tampa will still have Odorizzi, Myers, Montgomery, and Leonard (who, by the way, is having a nice season in High A ball this year). Also, Myers and Odorizzi are costing about $18 million less than Shields and Davis. If KC still had Myers and Odorizzi they could spend that money elsewhere and the return for that money, along with Odorizzi and Myers, may net them more production than Shields and Davis.

      And just because the roster is loaded with players from their system does not mean they were a success. It just means they have no better options at this point. You would expect the #1 farm system to eventually produce a winner and so far that has not happened. But there is still time so I wouldn’t say they have completely failed yet but I don’t have as much hope as I once had.

      You say the KC organization has done a great job with development as if that’s a statement of fact. That is a highly debatable assertion at best. In my estimation they have largely failed at developing starting pitching and have a little more success, but not much, in developing hitters. The one thing they do develop are relievers and that has more to do with the failure to develop them into starters probably.

      Finally, you are correct that this year isn’t over yet. But I have a hard time seeing a playoff team as this team is currently constructed (no matter how much I squint to try to see one).

      • jimfetterolf

        Davis’ production will be cheap while Jake and Wil both have the same problems as in Omaha, which is why they were traded. If Odorizzi and Myers were in KC with the years they are having, they’ld be in Omaha and David Lough would still be in RF and Will Smith would be the 5th starter. Trading Lough and Smith were much bigger mistakes than trading Jake and Wil.

        • kibo

          And that last sentence has to single-handedly be the silliest post you have ever written, and that is no small feet. Bravo, sir, bravo.

          • jimfetterolf

            Neither Jake nor Wil are doing much while Tampa swirls the drain. By all means get both for your fantasy team but I’ld rather have Lough than Aoki and Smith than Odorizzi. Opinions might vary.

          • Ryan Caltrider

            You would seriously like to have Lough over Aoki? Wow! I might give you Smith over Odorizzi although if Odorizzi was in the ‘pen as Smith is, he may put up similar numbers.

          • jimfetterolf

            If we had Lough we’ld still have Smith and have good defense in RF. I didn’t like Smith for Aoki at the time but everyone was going nuts over Nori’s OBP, which seems to have deserted him. That was the only reason to get Aoki, who is slower, weaker glove and arm, less power, and only for one year. And Lough did a nice job for us at bat last year. Nothing else, Lough hits lefties, so could platoon with Dyson.

            As for Jake, knock on him at Omaha was too many pitches. In the bigs he can’t even average five innings per start.

          • Ryan Caltrider

            Lough does NOT hit lefties…at all!! I agree with the platoon idea with Dyson, but it should be Aoki platooning with Dyson. Unlike your assertion that Lough hits lefties (which is wrong), Aoki actually DOES hit lefties (and quite well). David Lough doesn’t even play against lefties for the most part this season, that is how much Baltimore thinks he can hit lefties. A platoon of Aoki and Dyson gets you a pretty good hitting combination, and with Dyson you get the defense, too. I agree that Aoki’s defense leaves much to be desired.

          • cardsfanatik

            You are SO SHORTSIGHTED that you should seriously just quit posting. Your post above about trading Lough and Smith were bigger mistakes than trading Jake and Wil just make you look like a brain-dead moron. Really, noone on here has to do it for you, you just did it yourself. I and most all others here, realize that we could have finished 3rd in the division WITH Wil and Jake last year, and could be the team with a sub .500 record WITH the same two this year, and STILL have more future hope than having Shields and Davis here right now. Your argument is purely stupid. Wil Myers is not going to forever hit .230ish, and Shields is pitching his last season in a Royal’s uni, while Davis will be a 8 million dollar set up man!!!!! Get a fucking clue. You can’t be as stupid as your acting on this page.

          • The Plaindealer

            He’s an idiot.

        • Ryan Caltrider

          Yeah, I’d LOVE to have Lough and his .525 OPS and 46 OPS+ playing in RF right about now. I love haw you knock Myers in his second year for lack of production while continuing to tout Lough as a good player. As down of a year as Myers has had for what is expected of him, he’s still a much better player than Lough and should be going forward.

          Also, Davis’ production won’t be cheap. A team with the budget that the Royals have should not be spending $7 million dollars on a setup man, no matter how good he is. If they can trade Holland away for a good return and move Davis to closer, then $7 million doesn’t sound as bad.

          • jimfetterolf

            You seem to think the 9th inning is somehow more important than the 8th. Others disagree.

            As for Lough, what we would have is Smith and Lough instead of Aoki. I would prefer that. Lough may not be good hitting, he has been. He matched Myers’ fW last year and beat him rW.

      • moretrouble

        A couple of points … first, prospects rankings are beauty contests. They don’t mean anything. Second, why are you concerned with money … it’s not your money. Third, the idea that relief pitchers are somehow inferior to starters is flawed. Mariano Rivera didn’t “fail” at anything … neither did Goose Gossage, Dan Quisenberry or even Greg Holland.

        You may have a hard time “seeing” a playoff team, but opposing managers don’t. Quoting John Gibbons (Blue Jays manager), “They (KC) have a legitimate shot at winning the division.”

        • kibo

          First The whole point of the post was that farm systems ranked no. 1 are not beauty contest but result in playoff teams. Except in KC.
          Second Greg Holland was a starter in the minors and failed. They don’t convert good starters into relievers for no reason.
          Third, really you are quoting Gibbons? opposing managers say nice things about there opponents all the time that they really don’t mean.

          • moretrouble

            First — yes, that’s a quote from John Gibbons taken from press accounts. It’s odd that you favor the opinion of fans and journalists over the opinions of people in the industry.

            Second — teams put pitchers in roles where they function best … judgements are made on a variety of factors. Relief pitchers occupy roles, just like starters do. Or, 2Bmen, or OFers. It’s not little league where everyone wants to play shortstop.

            Third — name one team that has made the playoffs ENTIRELY composed of their own draft choices. You can’t because there aren’t any.

            Fourth — prospect rankings are OPINIONS made by people who HAVE NOT watched the players for whom they are issuing opinions … and honestly, many of them are journalists. Those rankings issued by the press are for FANS, not people in the industry. And, apparently, you believe them, LOL.

            Fifth — the only ranking that’s relevant to playoff teams is number of WINS. Other than that … there’s nothing, except a loose association between team salary levels and playoff appearances.

          • kibo

            Okay so I’m going to try not to expend too much more time or energy on these comments. But just briefly lets take your 5 points in order. I’ll go slow for you.

            1. Its funny how you say the John Gibbons quotes are valid because they came from the press and yet later on in your post you bash trusting rankings from the press. But on to point 1, I have no doubt that he made the statements. But again managers complement other teams all of the time and say things they don’t really mean, and the fact that you believe him is comical.

            2. Your original quote was that the “thinking relief pitchers are inferior to starting pitchers is flawed”. So 7 innings from one pitcher is not better than 1 inning from 1 guy? That is why relief pitchers get paid $25 million a year, oh wait they don’t that is what good starting pitchers make. Why? Because they are more valuable! Your quote above responding to my earlier point about Holland is: “Teams put pitchers in roles where they function the best”. Holland failed otherwise they wouldn’t have started him first and then moved him to relief. Lets also name Crow, Dwyer, Hochever, and on and on and on…

            3. nice use of caps by the way. No one in this thread including the main article said that any playoff team is made up “ENTIRELY” (your caps not mine) of draft choices. So there is no need to respond to this. But nice diversion tactic. kudos indeed

            4. Once again nice use of caps for emphasis. Now we get to the point about journalist where you no longer trust what they say, I can hear you flopping back and forth from here. Does that hurt? I digress. The article above primarily sites BA and Baseball Prospectus, both very respected baseball journal sources. Do I trust their evaluations, typically I do, do I understand they will be wrong a lot, of course, because evaluating talent is not an exact science. But its comical how in point four you decide to make fun of me for something that wasn’t even part of the discussion. Again, you must have been feeling stronger and gaining momentum.

            5. The first part of your sentence is absolutely correct. More-or-less you said “the only ranking that counts is in the standings”. I agree wholeheartedly. However the fact presented in the article was this, and I quote: “every team (from 01-11) to have their system so named (best farm system) reached the playoffs within the following four years”. The point was that Royals fans have a right to expect this to happen, because it is what had happened every year (notice the self-control not using caps) for 10 years. So it is more than a “loose association”.

            On with my day….

          • moretrouble

            Dang, man, do you have an anger issue? It’s not that important. People can agree to disagree without resorting to insult, LOL.

            I’d like to pull one of your sentences, if I may, “…Royals fans have a right to expect this (making the playoffs) to happen …” Check your ticket stub … the only “right” a ticket holder has is to attend a major league game. There is NO guarantee that your team will win.

            Regarding journalists, it’s easy for an analyst to say so-and-so is a better home run hitter because he hit 30 than the guy who hits 10. Those are stats and they are measurable. Regarding opinion … that’s a gray area … but, the best opinions come from industry professionals, not journalists.

            I could write an entire article on the differences between relief pitchers and starting pitchers … beginning with physiology and ending with strategy. I have a feeling you would reject it, so why bother, LOL.

            Regarding farm systems, ranking minor league players by media sources is pointless, except it provides entertainment for fans. The leap from Rookie and A Ball teams to AA means that rosters shrink from 5 or 6 teams to one AA team. Unless a player can beat the odds and advance to AA, they are usually cut. Then, of course, the largest leap is from AAA to the MLB, where the difference is so striking, that many AAA players are not successful at the top level. Truthfully, a team only has fewer than a dozen actual prospects in their system — those are the guys who have gotten big bonuses that are pro-rated over five years. Everyone else is considered filler … prospects have to have teams to play on, so MLB teams keep the dream alive for everyone else. But, you won’t find Baseball America printing that stuff … it’s in their best interest to glamorize the game because it excites fans. Welcome to the real world, kibo.

          • kibo

            you told me…Now I understand

        • Ryan Caltrider

          Oh boy, where do I start? First, have you ever heard an opposing manager say, “wow, that team we just played really sucks and has no shot at winning anything”? No, they blow smoke up your ass all the time.

          Second, relief pitchers are absolutely inferior to starters in their value. Starters are out there for 180-220 innings during the season while a reliever is only going to go 60-70 AT MOST!! That’s why you see things like scouting reports on players like Finnegan that say his ceiling is as a #2 or 3 starter while his floor is as a solid reliever. It is never the other way around.

          Finally, about the money. Forgetting the fact that, in a way, it is my money as I pay to go to games, for merchandise, etc. But even without that, I am concerned with money because the team has a limited budget and I’m concerned with how those funds are allocated to put the best possible team on the field.

          • moretrouble

            Regarding the money … every penny in that ball club belongs to David Glass. It’s a private, for profit business … you just buy what the Glass family sells you … and what exactly do you get … well, the right to attend a game, that’s it … nothing more.

            Sure, opposing managers either say something complimentary or nothing at all. But, when they do make a compliment … it means something. They are not required to say anything and when they do, people should listen because they give informed opinions.

            Regarding value, that’s a subject that should be separate from money. Who’s more valuable at game time — the 1bman who’s making 10 mil a year, or the guy standing next to him at 2B making the league minimum … come game time, everyone is valuable.

            Starting pitchers are a different kind of pitcher than a reliever. I could go into the physiology of it, or the strategy behind the qualities that make good relievers as opposed to starters, but once the contracts are signed and players are on the field, everyone is of equal value.

          • Ryan Caltrider

            You are definitely a Glass family member, no doubt in my mind.

    • Patrick Sullivan

      I don’t 100% agree, but I commend you for your optimism and willingness to fight back against the constant gloom and doom around this place. I love the Royals, and I love reading about them, but good God, this site is GRIM!!!

      • The Plaindealer

        Everyone on here loves the Royals, with or without rose-colored glasses.