Kansas City enters the 2013 season with a revamped pitching rotation, featuring newcomers James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana. But in order to land Shields and Davis, the Royals sent prospects Wil Myers (No. 4 overall on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list), Jake Odorizzi (No. 45), Mike Montgomery and Patrick Leonard to the Rays. Kansas City also sent another pitching prospect, Brandon Sisk, to the Angels in acquiring Santana.
"We still feel really good about where we are," said J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager/scouting and player development. "We gave up a couple really good prospects in that trade [with the Rays], but we still feel good about our depth, and I like what we have in our system."
The big offseason trade with Tampa Bay came after Myers torched the Minors in 2012 to the tune of a .314 average to go along with 37 home runs and 109 RBIs in 134 combined games with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. With the 22-year-old slugger now out of the picture, fellow outfielder Bubba Starling will assume the role of Kansas City's top organizational prospect.
Starling, 20, hit .275 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 53 games at Rookie-level Burlington last season. The club's 2011 first-round Draft pick, Starling is a five-tool center fielder who can impress with his arm and speed, as well as his bat.
For Picollo, the current state of the Royals' system is reminiscent of the 2008-09 offseason, when Mike Moustakas (20 years old at the time) and Eric Hosmer (19) were at the top of the club's prospect rankings. Both players burst onto the scene two years later and are now key elements of the franchise's core.
"The difference is a lot of the attention now shifts to the young guys in the system," Picollo said. "With Wil and Odorizzi being gone, that's two of the top guys in our system. But overall, we still feel like we have depth. It's just shifted heavily in favor of the other guys, like it did when Hosmer and Moustakas were at the top of our list.
"This is just part of the whole process for us."
Top 20 prospects
Much like the Royals' Major League rotation, the top of this list looks much different than it did at this time a year ago. Starling has taken over the top spot, and he's followed immediately by a pair of 21-year-old right-handers, Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura.
Kansas City also has a quartet of up-and-coming lefties on the list, highlighted by John Lamb. The 22-year-old was widely considered one of the game's top lefty prospects before suffering an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. He returned near the end of last season and appears ready for a quick return to form. Fellow lefties Donnie Joseph (No. 7), Sam Selman (No. 12) and Chris Dwyer (No. 16) also cracked the list.
Along with pitching and Starling's presence in the outfield, the organization has a plethora of infield talent in the pipeline. Up the middle, the Royals have shortstops Orlando Calixte (No. 4), Adalberto Mondesi (No. 6) and Humberto Arteaga (No. 14), as well as second baseman Christian Colon (No. 10) all on the radar.
The Royals also have a strong contingent at the corners, headed by third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert (No. 9). Cuthbert, 20, has already demonstrated advanced talent for his age both at the plate and in the field.
Under the Radar
As if the Royals' trio of shortstops in the Top 20 wasn't enough, middle infielder Jack Lopez has the potential to soon join that conversation as well. A 16th-round pick drafted out of high school in 2011, he is a superb defensive shortstop with a strong arm. Though he's just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, Lopez has some surprising pop in his bat. With the abundance of other shortstops in the system, he will likely start the season with Class A Wilmington.
Right-handed pitcher Miguel Almonte will also be worth keeping an eye on this season. The 19-year-old right-hander was dominant last season, going 6-1 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts in the Dominican Summer League and 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in six appearances (two starts) in the rookie Arizona League. He commands three pitches -- a mid-90s fastball, a great changeup and a developing curve.
Hitter of the Year
Starling is the new top outfielder in the system with Myers gone, but it's another outfielder, Jorge Bonifacio, who could steal the show with his bat. The 19-year-old younger brother of Major Leaguer Emilio, Jorge has the ability to drive the ball to all fields, and his quick bat stays in the zone longer than most hitters his age.
Pitcher of the Year
It'd be tough to go wrong with either Zimmer or Ventura, but Zimmer gets the call here. The fifth overall pick in 2012, Zimmer impressed in his pro debut last year, going 3-3 with a 2.04 ERA in nine starts combined with Rookie-level Surprise and Class A Kane County. He had bone chips -- a known condition when he was drafted -- removed after last season, but is on pace to pitch without restrictions in 2013.