I feel like I have written 'this team is the most frustrating group of Royals ever' at least six times in my writing career and we might as well count this as the seventh. EXCEPT THIS TIME I REALLY MEAN IT!
Having guessed that this could be an 85 win team and realistically expecting the 2013 Royals to be at least an 80-81 win group, anything less will seem extremely disappointing. Even the pessimists among us view this team as underachieving.
What makes this team, amend that, this organization so very frustrating this year is the lack of any in-house options to make it better or even all that different. The Royals seemingly went from the Best Farm System in History to one which has no viable options anywhere in the near future in case one of their position players fails.
With the draft approaching, let's take a look at the position player depth in the organization. I will list the majority of players at each level, but the focus is on where the next everyday player might be. Irving Falu, for example, would likely be a perfectly competent utility player and even a 15 day fill-in as needed, but likely is not the future at second base or anywhere else.
Salvador Perez - signed through 2016 with club options through 2019
AAA - Brett Hayes, Adam Moore
AA - Manny Pina, Juan Graterol
Hi-A - Parker Morin, Kenny Swab
Low-A - Jin-Ho Shin, Cam Gallagher, Alex Marquez
The Royals have Perez locked in for a long time and as long as he stays healthy, continues to be a defensive force and hits some, they are in great shape. Behind Salvador are three levels worth of back-up types and then some hope for both Shin (who is in his 4th year in the organization) and Gallagher, who was drafted out of high school in 2011. Perez is not the problem this year and likely won't be in the future....unless he gets hurt again...or ages quickly (as catchers sometimes do).
Alcides Escobar - signed through 2015 with club options through 2017
Chris Getz - team control through 2014
Elliot Johnson - team control through 2016
AAA - Johnny Giavotella, Christian Colon
AA - Orlando Calixte, Alex McClure, Rey Navarro
Hi-A - Justin Trapp, Jack Lopez
Low-A - Raul Mondesi Jr., Yowill Espinal, Humberto Arteaga, Kenny Diekroger
The Royals shuffle guys around between second, short and third in the minors, so check third base as well as I kind of arbitrarily assigned guys for some sort of balance. Giavotella, now 254 games into his AAA career, has been tried at third and in left and his career seems to be headed towards an upside that might be Willie Bloomquist...and that's the upside. Christian Colon is hitting .241/.293/.330 in the PCL while Navarro is in this THIRD year in AA.
If you squint just right, you can see Calixte being an everyday player, but likely no time before 2016. Of course the jewel of the system is Mondesi, who is playing in A ball at age 17. His overall line is not really all that impressive (.251/.297/.395), but the upside is undeniable. What you love about Mondesi is that he could take four years to make the majors and still be just 21 years old. The one position player in the system who can actually think about being a true star in the majors is Mondesi, but even his debut (much less his 'star potential') is a good two and half seasons away.
Mike Moustakas - team control through 2017
AAA - Irving Falu
AA - Angel Franco
Hi-A - Cheslor Cuthbert
Low-A - Michael Antonio
While the luster is off Cuthbert's star, he has a respectable .269/.342/.396 line playing in Wilmington. The potential is still there to be regular major league third baseman, but even if everything breaks right, Cheslor will not even be knocking on the major league door until late 2015 and more likely 2016. Antonio had a hopeful 2011 and a poor 2012 that has led to him repeating Low-A. Drafted as a shortstop, he is playing third exclusively now.
Billy Butler - signed through 2014, team option for 2015
Eric Hosmer - team control through 2017
AAA - Xavier Nady, Max Ramirez, Chad Tracy
AA - Matt Fields
Hi-A - Daniel Mateo, Murray Watts, Jared Schlehuber
Low-A - Fred Ford, Mark Donato
Alex Gordon - signed through 2015, player option for 2016
Lorenzo Cain - team control through 2017
Jeff Francoeur - signed through 2013
Jarrod Dyson - team control through 2017
AAA - David Lough, Anthony Seratelli, Willy Taveras, Paulo Orlando
AA - Yem Prades, Brett Eibner, Roman Hernandez, Whit Merrifield
Hi-A - Lane Adams, Jorge Bonifacio, Geulin Beltre
Low-A - Terrance Gore, Ethan Chapman, Bubba Starling, Nick Cuckovich
Lough has been intriguing in his second shot in the majors: if for no other reason than he is not Jeff Francoeur. Before is injury, the Royals seemed headed towards a Gordon-Dyson-Cain outfield that might have been okay. You likely were looking for Seratelli somewhere in the infield discussion, but he has played the vast majority of 2013 in right field for Omaha. In his career, Anthony has played pretty much everywhere and by 'played', I mean you can give him a glove, tell him a position and he knows where to go stand.
Prades struck out basically once per game last year in AA and is doing his best to match that again this year at the same level. Roman Hernandez is doing better than his fellow Cuban, but not to an extent that screams 'Yes! I can play every day in the majors'. Brett Eibner..ugh.
Jorge Bonifacio is likely your new rightfielder of the future now that Wil Myers has been traded. He was off to a really nice start in Wilmington (.325/.404/.452) before going out with an injury on May 12th. It would have been nice for Jorge to progress to the point of a mid-season call-up to AA with hopes of him being ready for a major league look in late 2014, but now a mid to late 2015 'wish' is more likely. Adams is athletic and not without some promise, but at 22 is not young for his level.
Terrance Gore is really, really fast, but his line is otherwise unimpressive (.234/.339/.266). Sadly, that fits in with Ethan Chapman's line and, more sadly with that of Bubba Starling. Bubba does have 6 home runs and 7 steals, but remains all projection and no performance. If he is a major league regular, it sure won't be anytime soon.
Undeniably, the lower rungs of the farm system have some talent and some hope, but is there an organization that can't say that? The stark reality right now is that there is probably not a single position player in AA or AAA who would be anything more than a touch above replacement level player in the majors between now and the end of 2014.
Dayton Moore rebuilt the farm system from just about nothing, but his plan ended up with the first and second waves of prospects being four years apart. That is all fine as long as Hosmer and Moustakas hit, Escobar does not regress and Perez stays healthy...oh, wait.