The Omaha Storm Chasers, 2011 Champions of the Pacific Coast League, clinched another playoff berth on Saturday. With a record of 77-52, Omaha has pretty much demolished the competition this season. That's great, it's fun to win.
How many minor league championships does it take to equal one World Series Trophy? Infinity, baby.
That the Chasers are in a position to win back to back championships probably is not a surprise to all that many of us. This is, after all, an experienced AAA team. While Omaha is right at league average in age for both position players (26.7 years old) and pitchers (26.0) they have some truly seasoned minor league hands on the roster.
|Age||AAA Plate Appearances|
|Derrick Robinson||24||446 (3297 total in minors)|
|Anthony Seratelli||29||385 (2695 total in minors)|
The above list (obviously) does not include the best player on the team, Wil Myers, or recently promoted Tony Abreu (1,573 AAA plate apperances) or Jason Bourgeois (2,309 AAA PAs) or Mitch Maier (1,131 AAA and 1,117 ML plate apps).
Couple that level of experience on the position side with a veteran pitching staff (14 of the 21 pitchers used by Omaha this year have tasted the majors) and, again, no surprise this is a AAA juggernaut. That is all fine and good for the organization, but how much help does this team really have to offer for the big league Royals?
'Help' may require a bit of a further definition.
This 2012 Chaser squad has certainly provided the parent club with its share of middle and long relievers. The ability to shuffle the likes of Nate Adcock, Louis Coleman, Everett Teaford and even Tommy Hottovy, Jeremey Jeffress and Francisely Bueno up and down I-29 should not be underestimated. Next year they will likely contribute Brandon Sisk, Blaine Hardy and Donnie Joseph to the supply line. Still, that's not really 'help'.
What we are talking about here are true big time impact players. Kelvin Herrera was 'help'. Mike Moustakas was, too. We are not talking about guys, however valuable, that fill in the gaps. We're looking for guys that make a major difference in the win and loss column - or at least have the potential to do so.
The obvious name on the pitching staff is Jake Odorizzi. Should he become a solid number three major league starter (maybe a number two if the Royals actually catch a break this time), then of course he meets my definition of 'help'. There's one and one that is likely to be in Kansas City sooner than later in 2013.
How about Will Smith? If all Smith turns out to be is just another number five, I don't think that really qualifies. However, what if Smith continues to pitch as he has recently and improves another tick? In my mind, that makes Will Smith a legitimate number four starter - I'm thinking a left handed Jeff Suppan from his St. Louis days - and that makes Will Smith something of a positive impact for the Royals.
On the other side of the ball, obviously the Storm Chasers have one of the premier minor league bats in baseball to contribute to the cause. There seems to be an organizational struggle to find Wil Myers a position to play (he'll see more action at third from here on out in AAA), but that could well be cover for the Royals gaming Myers' service clock and not wanting to anger the always grinning man from France.
After Myers, we all hope that Johnny Giavotella hits, but there are many who don't think he will. He is a guy that would have chance to make an impact as an everyday player. After Johnny, however, you are really talking about utility types in Abreu and Falu, fourth outfielders in Lough, Derrick Robinson and Maier and perpetually blocked lumbering first baseman in Clint Robinson.
Is that enough?
If Giavotella and Myers are legitimate everyday players for Kansas City next summer and Odorizzi and Smith have locked down the three and four spots in the starting rotation, then yes, I think this 2012 Omaha team did its real job: feed the big league club.
You could make the case that if just Wil Myers makes it, but makes it big, that this Omaha team will have contributed more than enough to Royals. I am not sure that is enough, however. For Kansas City to be successful sooner rather than later, I believe the 2012 Omaha Storm Chasers had better provide at least three, preferably four major league regulars to the 2013 Kansas City Royals.
In the end, minor league championships mean nothing. What matters is the number of quality major league players you develop.