Today I’m going to take a break from my depressing “Royals Busts” series to analyze and discuss a more recent topic—ESPN’s Keith Law’s farm system rankings.
The Royals are no longer the consensus No. 1 minor league system in baseball. According to Law, that honor now belongs to the San Diego Padres. The Royals, however, remained in his top five at No. 5, just behind the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays and St. Louis Cardinals.
In the interest of transparency, in my opinion Keith Law is the best there is in terms of ranking minor league talent in baseball. He is a former Toronto Blue Jays front office member and to the sheer joy and pleasure of baseball geeks everywhere, he turned down a similar position offered by the Houston Astros this past December. Baseball America—who actually has the Royals’ system ranked higher at No. 3—is very good and Baseball Prospectus also does good analysis, but for my money, Law is the best in the business.
Anyway, what does all this say in terms of the Royals? After graduating four infielders, a starter and almost an entire bullpen from the minors this past season, the Royals still have a top five farm system. Sink your teeth into that impressive factoid.
Dayton Moore has built a system that is not only front loaded, but an overall deep talent pool that doesn’t appear to be relenting anytime soon.
Many felt the Royals’ farm system would drop off because of top prospects like Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, Sal Perez and Mike Moustakas all being called up. And it did, but to fall only four spots with the amount of talent that found its way to Kauffman is quite an achievement.
This wasn’t always the case with loaded Royals farm systems in the past. The organization would usually have a few elite gems that created the cachet of being the best system, but the talent overall was lacking. It had no depth.
The Royals system last year featured nine players in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list. Which was a record since it had been doing the rankings. ESPN and Law, had six in the top 100, but had the other three featured in Baseball America’s list in the top 150.
You also have to take into consideration that LHP John Lamb, who was rated No. 41 by Law last season, is also not figured into this year’s ranking due to his Tommy John Surgery that he is still rehabbing from. But he most certainly figures into the organization’s future plans.
The article by Law is Insider, so if you don’t have a subscription to the magazine or an account with ESPN, you won’t be able to view or read his top 100 list or farm system rankings.
I will go ahead and give you the list of Royals who he has ranked in this year’s top 100 prospects.
Law’s ranks: OF Wil Myers as the Royals best prospect and No. 13 overall, OF Bubba Starling No. 15, 3B Cheslor Cuthbert No. 43, LHP Mike Montgomery No. 52, RHP Jake Odorizzi No. 71.
Myers and Starling are the gems of the organization, but you would figure in terms of this season that Montgomery and Odorizzi are the two that have a realistic chance of figuring into either the bullpen or the starting rotation at some point this season. Honestly, I value Odorizzi more than I do Montgomery for the simple reason that the organization as a whole, lacks elite righty starters.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a Luke Hochevar fan, but when he’s all you have in terms of right-handed starting pitchers, that’s a problem. Lefties are great to have, but you don’t want your starting rotation to tout four of them. You would prefer a mixture of three lefties and two righties. Odorizzi can be the long-term solution as a second right-handed starting pitcher that the rotation has lacked for the past two seasons. As I don’t see Roy Oswalt to the Royals ever surfacing.
2011 was deemed the best farm system in the history of farm systems. It is no more. Which for Royals fans, is a very good thing. But don’t be so naive as to short change the talent that still remains in the system.
I’m looking forward to focusing more on the Royals major league product for the years to come, but it is important not to forget what made that viewing experience much more palatable. Keep an eye on this years crop of youngsters in the minors, I have a feeling it my yield just as good as results as the group that preceded it.