Every off-season, Baseball America releases its Top Ten Prospect list of each organization. The Royals will have their released on January 11, but there is not quite the emphasis on prospect lists for Royals fans anymore because the Royals are actually good. How did they get so good? Those prospects finally paid off.
An interesting feature with the prospect list is when Baseball America tries to project the organization's Major League roster four years into the future. It is not something to be taken too seriously - trades, injuries, players not panning out will render much of the prediction useless. Still, it is interesting to look back at what was predicted, and in the case of the Royals, it is actually pretty accurate.
Let's take a look at the what Baseball American predicted the 2015 Royals would look like way back in January of 2012.
Projected Catcher: Salvador Perez
Actual Catcher: Salvador Perez
Sal had played just 39 Major League games, but was outstanding, hitting .331/.361/.473 with 1.5 rWAR. Perez was not even listed among the top ten Royals prospects the year before, although he was cited as the organization's "Best Defensive Catcher" and was projected to be their starting catcher in 2014.
Projected First Baseman: Eric Hosmer
Actual First Baseman: Eric Hosmer
This was a pretty easy call as Hosmer was coming off finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .293/.334/.465 with 19 HR 78 RBI, a home run total he has never matched.
Projected Second Baseman: Johnny Giavotella
Actual Second Baseman: Omar Infante
Giavotella stumbled in limited opportunities with the Royals and was traded to the Angels last winter where he had a decent season. Second base has been a bit of a sinkhole for the Royals over Dayton Moore's tenure, leading him to seek the answer in free agency, but with similar disappointing results.
Projected Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Actual Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Escobar was coming off his first season in Kansas City after being acquired in the Zack Greinke deal. He had shown little with the bat, but had his finest defensive season, a 1.9 dWAR season. His excellent glove made him a good bet to have a future in Kansas City.
Projected Third Baseman: Mike Moustakas
Actual Third Baseman: Mike Moustakas
Moustakas had his rookie year in 2011 as well, hitting an underwhelming .263/.309/.367 with five home runs in 89 games. As a former first round pick, the future seemed bright for him, but that future would be clouded until he totally saved his career in 2015.
Projected Left Fielder: Wil Myers
Actual Left Fielder: Alex Gordon
Baseball America would name Myers the #28 prospect in baseball that off-season, despite underwhelming numbers in AA Northwest Arkansas. Myers would end up dominating that season of play, being named Minor League Player of the Year and becoming the centerpiece of the James Shields trade the next winter.
Projected Center Fielder: Bubba Starling:
Actual Center Fielder: Lorenzo Cain
Despite not having played any professional baseball yet, Starling was ranked the best position player prospect in the organization, ahead of Myers. Baseball America noted he would need time to develop, but expected him to be starting by 2015. Cain didn't really have prospect status anymore due to playing time in the big leagues, but had spent most of 2011 in AAA Omaha in his first year in the Royals organization.
Projected Right Fielder: Alex Gordon
Actual Right Fielder: Alex Rios
Baseball America seemed to think Gordon would move over to right field because of his cannon arm. Gordo had his breakout season the season before, hitting .303/.376/.502 with 23 HR 87 RBI in 2011, winning his first Gold Glove.
Projected Designated Hitter: Billy Butler
Actual Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales
Billy had signed a contract extension the year before that would have kept him in Kansas City through 2015, had they exercised the player option. They did not.
Projected Starting Rotation: Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Jake Odorizzi, John Lamb, Luke Hochevar
Actual Starting Rotation: Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie
The "actual starting rotation" is the rotation the Royals began the season with. Here is where we see the most departure from the projected lineup we imagined several years ago. This is a testament to how hard it is to develop pitching prospects and Dayton Moore's weakness in developing starting pitching.
Mike Montgomery was ranked the top prospect in the Royals organization in 2012, despite struggling with a 5.32 ERA as a 21-year old in AAA Omaha the previous season. Duffy made 20 starts for the Royals the year before, but with an ugly 5.64 ERA. Even Odorizzi had struggled after being promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas, and John Lamb had Tommy John surgery the summer before. Chris Dwyer and Jason Adam are two other starting pitchers in the Royals top ten prospect list that failed to pan out, but the #10 prospect, Yordano Ventura remains the best starting pitching prospect Dayton Moore has ever developed. This list perfectly demonstrates the adage "there is no such thing as a pitching prospect."
Projected Closer: Joakim Soria
Actual Closer: Greg Holland
Holland was coming off a 1.80 ERA season with 74 strikeouts in 60 innings, so it shouldn't have been too difficult to see he would take over closing duties for Joakim Soria shortly. Just two months after this article was published, Joakim Soria had Tommy John surgery, ending his Royals career and giving Holland the closer's job.
Dayton Moore wanted a homegrown team full of guys that came up together, and for the most part, that seems to be the case. Baseball America's projected lineups can be way off at times (look, for example, at Oakland's projected 2015 lineup), but for the Royals, it was pretty spot on thanks to some patience and consistency by Royals management.