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Dayton Moore and the failure of player development

The potential has been in the farm system. The results have been missing in the majors.

The biggest success story out of Dayton Moore's drafts.
The biggest success story out of Dayton Moore's drafts.

In the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, the analysts graded the Royals drafts under Dayton Moore going back the previous five years - not including 2011. Here's how it looked:

2007: A
2008: A
2009: B+
2010: C+

Ahh... the drafts of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Potential All-Stars. Cornerstones. Saviors. Letter grade, "A."

I find these grades to be interesting. They fluctuate from year to year based on the expectations of the prospects and the major league impact of those who already reached the bigs. One year, a draft may look spectacular. The next, not so much. Makes sense. So why not go back and look at the grades from the previous years to see how things evolved? Here are the grades from the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

2007: A
2008: A
2009: A

Three consecutive drafts graded at an A for Dayton Moore. Names singled out were the usual suspects. In 2007 it was Moustakas, Danny Duffy and Greg Holland. For 2008 it was Hosmer, Mike Montgomery and John Lamb. When discussing the 2009 draft they mentioned Wil Myers, Chris Dwyer, Aaron Crow and Louis Coleman as Royal bright spots for the future.

We're jumping around a bit, but let's look at the most recent edition of the Prospect Handbook to the current draft grades. By this point, Moore's first draft was no longer included.

2008: B
2009: A
2010: C+
2011: B

The '08 draft fell to a B grade when Hosmer and Johnny Giavotella struggled in the majors, Montgomery struggled in the minors and Lamb's recovery was slow from Tommy John. Myers was responsible for the lofty grade of the '09 draft. The '10 draft has always been underwhelming and Christian Colon isn't going to change that.

The point of this exercise is to illustrate how well the Royals have drafted under Dayton Moore. While I doubt any General Manager micromanages to the point where he is involved in all 50 draft picks, he certainly is responsible for hiring the scouts who find, cross-check, draft and sign all of these players. Also, before the current collective bargaining agreement, teams could and routinely did go over recommended slot to secure draft picks. While scouting was responsible for some of the grades above, the fact that Moore convinced ownership the proper way to build a team was through the draft cannot be overlooked. Without David Glass and his open checkbook, these drafts simply would not have happened.

The draft has been a difficult area to evaluate Moore, simply because it takes time to develop young players. Now that we are closing in on the seventh anniversary of his hiring, we have long passed the time of looking at his draft choices with any kind of grace. He has a track record. It is fair game.

Let's review the top picks and other notable names from Moore's first four drafts.

2007 Draft

Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland, David Lough and even Clint Robinson have made it to the major leagues from this draft class.

Moustakas threatens 747s with his proclivity to pop up. He's everyone's favorite for a trip to Omaha.

Second round pick Sam Runion was the first of three consecutive high school arms taken by the Royals that year. Allegedly, that showed commitment to building a young staff. Runion could never figure out his secondary pitches. He has battled injuries and was moved to relief in 2010. Currently has a 6.16 ERA in Northwest Arkansas.

Duffy made his first minor league rehab start last weekend. He is on schedule for a mid-season return. The most notable of Moore's pitching prospects, he's struggled with command at the major league level, posting a 4.7 BB/9 over the parts of two seasons.

Fourth rounder Mitch Hodge last pitched in the minor leagues in 2011.

Outfielder Adrian Ortiz was drafted out of Pepperdine. He lasted until 2011 in the organization, but was let go after hitting just .115/.179/.231 for Wilmington. Ortiz was a speedster with little power. He graded at 80 speed.

Holland was a 10th round selection and Lough followed him in round 11. So far, Holland has been the star of this draft class with a 4.7 fWAR. That accounts for more than 50 percent of the total fWAR for the entire class.

Total fWAR: 9.0

2008 Draft

From this draft, only Eric Hosmer and Johnny Giavotella have sniffed the major leagues.

Mike Montgomery was close to making the team coming out of spring training in 2011, returned to Triple-A and suddenly saw his command and control disappear. He was included in The Trade as kind of a throw-in. His fall was stunning.

Tim Melville was projected as a middle of the rotation starter, but could never get his mechanics and command issues under control.

John Lamb was the Royals best pitching prospect in 2011. He was thought to have a higher upside than Montgomery due to his ability to command three plus pitches and to succeed without his best stuff. He has been struggling to recover from Tommy John surgery and has a 5.27 ERA in High-A while struggling to hit the upper 80s with consistency.

Aside from Hosmer's rookie season, this draft class has been a disaster.

Total fWAR: -1.7

2009 Draft

So far, the Royals have netted only two relief pitchers from this draft in Aaron Crow and Louis Coleman.

Crow was thought to be the top right-handed pitcher in the 2008 draft and was selected by Washington. After he didn't sign, the Royals took him 12 overall the following year. He projected as a starter, but suspect mechanics led to command issues which meant he transitioned to the bullpen. His strikeouts are way down this season, but he's still been effective in relief.

Wil Myers was a huge reason this draft has been graded so highly the last couple of years. We wonder what could have been.

Chris Dwyer, after struggling in Double-A and getting hammered in Triple-A last season, has recovered to show some promise this year in Omaha. Delivery issues plagued him in the past and he has had problems keeping the ball down in the zone. He currently has a 0.8 HR/9 and a 2.83 ERA in Omaha which is positive, but is striking out only 6.6 batters per nine.

Coleman is a natural born ROOGY.

Total fWAR: 1.7

2010 Draft

Christian Colon was taken fourth in a draft with three clear top line players. He's hitting .256/.305/.355 in his first extended look in Triple-A. Despite mounting evidence he lacks the range to play shortstop and despite the Royals glaring need at second base, he has taken most of his defensive reps at short. At this point, he's not really a prospect.

Second round pick Brett Eibner has a career slash line of .204/.315/.367 in almost 1,000 minor league plate appearances.

Third baseman Michael Antonio has a career line of .236/.289/.361 in over 1,100 plate appearances.

Kevin Chapman was traded for Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois. Chapman has a 7.7 BB/9 and a 9.9 SO/9 in Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Local product Jason Adam has long been regarded as the Royals top prospect out of this draft. The fifth round selection, he has been getting hammered in his first look at Double-A. He has a 7.15 ERA, a 4.0 BB/9 and a 7.9 SO/9. Right handed hitters are hitting .346/.431/.495 against him.

To be fair, there haven't been a ton of impact players from the 2010 draft. Sure, there are some huge names like Chris Sale, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to name a few, but there hasn't been one team that dominated that draft when it comes to talent. So far. Just three years removed, it's still early to render a verdict. However, in the case of the Royals, it doesn't look promising.

Here's the deal... with the exception of the 2010 draft, the Royals have drafted exceptionally well. I know, it's shocking to think the Royals under Dayton Moore have done anything well, but he does deserve credit in this department. They also deserve credit for hustling on the international signings where they have found some success. Salvador Perez has a 4.7 fWAR and despite his lack of plate discipline, should form the backbone of the Royals defense for years to come. Kelvin Herrera has netted 1.1 fWAR although his struggles with the home run have landed him back in Triple-A. Chelsor Cuthbert, Yordano Ventura, Adalberto Mondesi and Orlando Calixte are all young, exciting names to Royals fans. But they are not going to contribute in the next year or two.

These drafts and international free agents enabled the team to field the best farm system in baseball a couple of years ago. Heady times for a general manager who says most of his talent has to be home-grown to compete.

However, something has gone horribly arwy since those players have been in the organization. Player development has been beyond awful. How do you have a farm system that is the envy of organized baseball and the best you can turn out is a pair of relievers? That's absurd. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the player development, stupid."

Player development. Under Dayton Moore, the Royals have taken a cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach to player development. And it's not working. They simply can't figure out how to taylor a development program to fit an individual player's needs. They can't seem to fix a pitcher's mechanical flaw or a hitter's messed up swing. The evidence of this failure is seen daily in the major league box score. Or more tellingly by the names missing from the box score.

It turns out you have have the best drafts in the world and use those drafts to build the best farm system in the world, but those players won't amount to their weight in fWAR if you don't have a clue how to develop that raw talent.

Certainly, there is an attrition rate when it comes to prospects. Many of them fail. Others succeed but ultimately fail to reach their true potential. And sometimes a player comes out of nowhere to surprise. Evaulating prospects is a tricky business.

But when there is so much failure, so much wasted potential, questions have to be asked. Why have Montgomery, Noel Arguelles, Melville and others failed? Why has Lamb struggled in his rehab? Why has Dwyer not lived up to his potential? Why has Colon struggled with his contact at times this year? Why can't Giavotella make the jump from Triple-A? Why, in the tenure of Dayton Moore, has the team failed to develop a draft pick into a quality every day major league ballplayer? Why? Why? Why?

There has to be some accountability here. Instead of accountability, we have questions. So many questions.

Supposedly, this group of formerly talented players just "don't know how to win." Again with the insulting bullshit. This is the same group, the same core, that was kept together and brought along throughout the minor leagues where they won titles and individual accolades. The kind of stuff, we were told, that would translate to major league success when they were ready. And today, they "don't know how to win." Please.

We are also at a point, seven years into Moore's regime, where the upper levels of the minors are barren of prospects. After years of solid drafts, again, how does this happen? How is it, there isn't a single impact prospect at Triple-A? Even after The Trade? Mismanagement and lack of player development have this organization lopsided. I always broke The Process down into stages. Stage One was the Moustakas/Hosmer group. The early drafts. Stage One finished with December's trade with Tampa. Stage One has been a colossal bust. Stage Two still looks promising with some names in the low minors. But do we give Dayton Moore and his regime more time? Why, after the failure of Stage One, should they get to screw up Stage Two? Why should we trust them to develop a major league player of quality, when they have had seven years and failed to produce one?

And let's not forget the two best position players on this team were drafted and developed by Moore's predecessor. Six years of drafting and this regime hasn't come close to matching a player with the talents of Billy Butler or Alex Gordon. Amazing.

Six years of drafting. And the biggest success has been Greg Holland.

So much raw talent. So many questions. So few success stories.

Dayton Moore was handed a gift his predecessor lacked. He had the means to acquire some of the top young talent in the game. And through the bungles of the player development system, he's pissed that talent away.

Exhibit B.