There is bound to be a letdown after winning two consecutive American League pennants and last year’s World Series. That is the situation facing the Kansas City Royals in 2016. They simply aren’t as good as they have been, and aren’t as good as the rest of their division this season. That is the cyclical nature of baseball.
Instead of holding onto false hope of a late-season playoff run, Kansas City should instead be looking toward next season, and that means evaluating its farm system to see what pieces are rising up the pipeline into the Majors. Prior to the 2016 season, the Royals were deemed to have a below-average farm system overall.
This wasn’t unexpected, nor was it the end of the world for fans or the club itself. That is what happens when a team builds to have success at the highest level and reaches that mark. The depth trickling down the organizational ladder dries up to aid the team in reaching the ultimate goal. Kansas City achieved that.
But now looking ahead, it will be up to that same bunch to dig themselves out of this hole because the minor leagues remain an area of weakness for the Royals. This is partially due to bad luck with injuries and off-field incidents.
Kyle Zimmer, the team’s number-one pitching prospect, has not been able to stay healthy. He is now 24 after he was selected fifth overall in the 2012 draft. But in his five seasons with the Royals, he has never started more than 22 games in a season, never appeared in more than 24 games and has only topped 100 innings once. At this point, the results are secondary to Zimmer simply getting reps and work. If he doesn’t manage to stay healthy, Kansas City may have to slide him into the bullpen and see if he can stay on the mound as a reliever instead. This will hurt his value, but is better than getting nothing out of him.
The Royals’ top position player and top prospect overall is Raul Mondesi Jr. Unlike Zimmer, Mondesi found his way to the bench because of a 50-game suspension levied by the league for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. He served his suspension and is now getting time with the big club where he is off to a nice start. He collected six hits in his first five games with Kansas City.
Mondesi doesn’t possess big-time upside or power like most team’s top prospects would. He has more career triples than home runs in the minor leagues. Instead, he is a base stealer and defender. He doesn’t even bring great contact skills with him to the big leagues. Players of his ilk will always have places in MLB because he is an asset in a number of areas, but he certainly won’t be leading any offensive onslaught against top-tier pitching.
Mondesi isn’t alone in lacking elite hit skills atop the KC farm system. Bubba Starling, a former top-five draft pick, has fallen out of favor for that very reason. He hasn’t been able to hit at any level of the minor leagues. He could be a speedy fielder a la Mondesi but possesses even less upside at this point.
Deeper in their system, the Royals have some nice arms. Most are at least three years away. The closest to aiding the big club is Miguel Almonte. He had a cup of coffee in the Majors as a reliever last year and could see the same thing in 2016, though he remains a starter in the lower levels.
This isn’t a great batch of prospects to build around, but the Royals know that. They still have young enough talent at the big-league level to compete next season, and the likes of Hunter Dozier and others could make strides to improve the top of the farm as well. The future isn’t clear, but a World Series title helps alleviate that immediate worry.
On August 1, 2016, Danny Duffy broke a nearly seven year old franchise record by striking out 16 in Tampa Bay to help the Royals defeat the Rays 3-0. In the second inning, Duffy struck out the side by fanning Steven Souza, Jr., Desmond Jennings ... Read more