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Jonathan Mayo

Royals' bumper crop poised to back up buzz

Royals' bumper crop poised to back up buzz

Royals' bumper crop poised to back up buzz
The buzz has been hard to ignore. Now those causing it want to get out there and back it up.

The Kansas City Royals have largely been lauded as having the best farm system in baseball currently. Six Royals prospects landed on MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list and there are several more legitimate ones who aren't far outside of that group.

It is, by all accounts, a bumper crop few have seen before. Of course, skeptics won't be convinced until all this talent is performing and turning the club's fortunes around in the big leagues, and perhaps rightfully so. The Royals have seen too many sure things fail to pan out as hoped over the years.

"[Assistant general manager] J.J. Picollo and [general manager] Dayton Moore stress it to us," said Eric Hosmer, the No. 8 overall prospect on MLB.com's Top 50 and No. 2 on the Royals' Top 10. "Just because our Minor League system is ranked No. 1 doesn't mean you get a free playoff berth. Everyone has come into camp and is ready to go."

Many of them, including Hosmer, in all likelihood, will get going at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. The Naturals won the Texas League title in 2010, and much of the talent that made the playoff run will return, at least to start the season. The rotation goes five deep with legitimate prospects, while bats like Hosmer and Wil Myers will provide plenty of offensive firepower.

"Just looking at that staff, if you're a guy coming in to face us, pick your poison," said Hosmer, who many feel won't finish at that level, should he even start there. "We saw them do what they did last year in Double-A, everyone's had experience in that league. We just want to play our game and move up the ladder as fast as we can. If it's Northwest Arkansas where we go, it'll be a pretty good team. The fans there are great. Overall, it'll be a good year.

"I think everybody's excited. After putting up decent numbers in Double-A, seeing that guys move from Double-A to the big leagues, it clicked in our heads that we're knocking on the door and our time is almost here."

Royals' Top 10 Prospects

1. Mike Moustakas, 3B: He tied for the Minor League lead in home runs a year ago and that power is ready to hit the big leagues. He's got terrific bat speed and has the ability to hit it out to all fields. Some question his ability to stay at third, but he should get the chance to prove himself there in Kansas City at some point in 2011.

2. Eric Hosmer, 1B: Moustakas might get there first, but Hosmer won't be too far behind to man the other infield corner for a long time. He's got a great approach at the plate and he should hit for average and power, all while playing an above-average first base defensively. He'll be one of a host of Royals prospects beginning the year in Double-A.

3. Mike Montgomery, LHP: Size, stuff and a feel for pitching, all from the left side. Montgomery has a plus fastball and curve that isn't far behind, while his changeup is catching up in a hurry. He missed two months last year, but he should be good to go, starting on that Northwest Arkansas juggernaut and going from there. A visit to Kansas City before the year is out isn't unreasonable.

4. Wil Myers, OF: After beginning his career by hitting .324/.429/.533, the Royals realized that his bat might get to the big leagues faster as an outfielder. There were questions about his ability to catch and he's more than athletic enough to handle an outfield corner. He's got great plate discipline, and should grow into more power. Just 20, he'll join Hosmer in NW Arkansas.

WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?
Rank Player ETA
1. Mike Moustakas 2011
2. Eric Hosmer 2012
3. Mike Montgomery 2012
4. Wil Myers 2012
5. John Lamb 2012
6. Jake Odorizzi 2013
7. Danny Duffy 2012
8. Christian Colon 2012
9. Chris Dwyer 2012
10. Aaron Crow 2012

5. John Lamb, LHP: Taken in the fifth round of the 2008 Draft, Lamb reached Double-A last year just after turning 20. His pure stuff may not be quite as good as Montgomery's, but he's got plenty to work with -- a plus fastball and changeup as well as an effective curve and all of it plays up because of his outstanding command. He'll join Montgomery in that Double-A rotation and it could be a race to see who gets to Kansas City first.

6. Jake Odorizzi, RHP: Odorizzi will be making his debut in the Royals organization this April, coming over as a key to the Zack Greinke deal with the Brewers. One Midwest League scout thought he was the best arm he saw in that league in 2010. He has the chance to have four pitches that are average or better, especially as he refines his command. He'll move up to Class A Advanced Wilmington with some thinking he could eventually be a Greinke-like starter at the big league level.

7. Danny Duffy, LHP: That's right, another lefty. Duffy left baseball for a spell last year, but returned and pitched his way to Double-A, throwing well there. He's got a good feel for pitching and more than enough velocity, complementing his fastball with a pretty good changeup and a slow curve. He'll be a part of that NW Arkansas rotation, competing with Montgomery and Lamb to be the best southpaw on the staff.

8. Christian Colon, SS: The No. 4 overall pick last June signed in a hurry and got 60 games under his belt, giving him a nice head start into his first full season. He's got a great approach at the plate, which should allow him to hit for average and some power. He's got terrific instincts which allow him to maximize what tools he has. He doesn't have a ton of range, but might be able to stay at short because of those instincts. He'll be another among the mass of prospects in NW Arkansas.

9. Chris Dwyer, LHP: Southpaw No. 4 slated to be in that Double-A rotation at the start of the year, Dwyer has a good three-pitch mix to use to his advantage. His best pitch is his breaking ball and it can be a plus offering, while his fastball and changeup are nothing to sneeze at. The back injury that ended his season early in 2010 isn't expected to be a problem going forward.

10. Aaron Crow, RHP: Things did not go exactly according to plan for the 2009 first-round pick in his first full year. He had some serious command issues, but his pure stuff -- his fastball and slider in particular -- still grades out well. He's slipped on radars a bit, but the Royals still have plenty of hope. He'll be the lone right-hander in NW Arkansas's rotation to start the year.

Under the Radar

Will Smith, LHP: You can never have too many lefties, right? The Royals got Smith from the Angels last July in the Alberto Callaspo deal. He got pushed by the Angels, but the Royals liked what they saw post-trade. It will be interesting to see where he starts the 2011 season as there doesn't appear to be room in the Double-A rotation for the time being.

Salvador Perez, C: The Venezuelan catcher, signed back in 2006, has drawn rave reviews for his defensive skills throughout his career. He can really block the plate, throws well and pitchers love throwing to him. He also started to hit a bit in 2010, making the Carolina League All-Star team while hitting .290 over 365 at-bats. It should be fun watching how he handles that talent-laden staff in Double-A this season.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year -- Eric Hosmer
The only hesitation with this selection is if Hosmer hits his way to Kansas City before most people expect. If not, he could very well contend for an organizational triple crown.

Pitcher of the Year -- John Lamb
So many lefties, only one can be chosen. Anyone in that NW Arkansas rotation could step up and nab this honor, but it will be Lamb's stuff and command that allows him to dominate at two levels and earn a callup to Kansas City before the year is over, enough to win his second straight Pitcher of the Year nod.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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