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A History of Royals Top Prospects Part 6 (2005-2007)

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We’re almost to Dayton, you guys!

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

This period was in the heart of the Royals worst years, but also just before David Glass and Dayton Moore came to an agreement that would bring Moore on as the GM along with an increase the Royals' scouting in Latin America plus the ability to actually spend money on prospects once they were scouted. Technically Moore signed in 2006, but he did not participate in the draft that year for the Royals and so this period represents the last set of prospects that have little to nothing of Moore's touch upon their minor league careers.

What this also means is that there still aren’t a lot of prospects, here. However, Allard Baird was able to give GMDM a little something to work with, and hopefully this list of names will bring back some really good memories to go with some of the bad.

2005

Number 1 Prospect: C Joe Mauer makes his second appearance at this position on this list, if you want to know more about him you can find it in Part 5. He is the second of three prospects to be ranked #1 overall twice so far in the history of Baseball America's rankings.

Royals prospects: 75 - 3B Billy Butler, 85 - 3B Mark Teahen

Yes, Billy Butler really did start out as a third baseman in the Royals’ system. No, no one really thought he was going to stick there. As you’ll see in 2006 he actually was tried in the outfield before they finally gave up and hid him at first base.

Quick tangent: Why do teams constantly hide their worst defenders at the one position guaranteed to see most of the action? That seems weird.

Billy Butler has never been able to field, he’s never been able to run, but he could hit. And boy could he hit. He destroyed pitchers at every minor league stop. And when he made it to the big leagues in 2007 he hit there, too. He had a .155 ISO and a 108 OPS+ in his first season in the big leagues at age 21, where he played in about half the games.

Unfortunately, Billy did most of his hitting for some very, very bad teams. Combine that with the facts that he just didn’t get under the ball often enough - leading to lots of doubles instead of homers and way too many double plays - and the lack of defense and he didn’t receive a lot of recognition. His best year was almost certainly 2012. That’s the only year he ever had more than 100 RBIs and only the second time he eclipsed the 20 home run mark - hitting a career high 29. Those numbers earned him an All-Star Berth (Though not a shot at the Home Run Derby hosted at Kauffman, despite promises from one Robinson Cano) and a Silver Slugger Award. Following the 2014 season he signed a 3 year deal with the playoff rival Oakland Athletics. It went so well that they cut him in the middle of the second season, he finished out the year with the Yankees but there’s no telling where or if he will play in 2017.

Mark Teahen, who has dual citizenship between America and Canada, came to the Royals in the Carlos Beltran deal as a very well regarded third baseman prospect. Unfortunately it just never really worked out for him. He had a rough rookie season, though very good 2006 and pretty good 2007 campaigns. Then he fell way, way off again.

It probably did not help that by 2008 he needed to give way at third base for a mroe highly regarded prospect so he ended up in something more akin to a utility role. They tried to make him into a second baseman for the 2009 season (sound familiar?) but it didn’t work very well.

Following the season he was traded to the White Sox for Josh Fields and "fan-favorite" Chris Getz. Fields was actually a top 100 prospect himself during the 2005 season, but he was just about finished by the time the Royals got him only playing in 13 games for them in a single season before disappearing from big league baseball. Teahen played a couple poor seasons for the White Sox then had a horrible year with the Blue Jays before bouncing around the minors for a couple more years.

Teahen’s twitter account is named after one of his dogs, Espy, which actually confused me enough to make me think he was a baseball analyst for ESPN. On his twitter he describes himself as

Husband, Father, Dog Collector, Weight Lifter, Miracle Worker, Almost College Grad, Landlord, Nomad, Pseudo Canadian, Philanthropist & Moneyballer

so your guess is as good as mine as to what he’s doing now. Whatever it is, he seems busy.

Other notable prospects:

14 - OF Jeff Francouer, Atlanta.

23 - LHP Jeff Francis, Colorado.

53 - RHP Kyle Davies, Atlanta. One of Dayton’s first moves was to ship reliever Octavio Dotel to Atlanta in order to acquire this pitcher that he was familiar with. Davies tantalized with raw skill but was never actually able to put it together. The Royals let him leave following the 2011 season, but he did pop back up and pitch two and one-third innings of relief for the Yankees in 2015.

76 - OF Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I think most of you are probably pretty familiar with the basic history of Kendrys Morales. He defected from Cuba as a Center Fielder. He was an outstanding player for the Angels for a few years, primarily as a first baseman and designated hitter before destroying his ankle while leaping on home plate after a game winning grand slam. One of the early players who suffered under the current qualifying offer system he had to miss spring training and half of 2014 then played poorly when he returned. This allowed the Royals to sign him to replace Billy Butler. He delivered some really big moments in 2015 including setting the current Royals' record for total bases in a game when he hit three home runs and a triple against Detroit in September 2015. He also did this:

He recently signed a 3-year contract to play with the Blue Jays, and we've already discussed what happened to the last DH the Royals let go to a playoff rival on a three-year deal.

87 - OF Joey Gathright, Tampa Bay.

95 - 3B Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox.

2006

Number 1 Prospect: OF Delmon Young, Tampa Bay.

Royals prospects: 13 - 3B Alex Gordon, 29 - OF Billy Butler, 84 - 1B Justin Huber

Alex Gordon's story is probably pretty familiar to everyone reading this. Gordon was a mid-western boy who grew up in Nebraska then went to school at the University of Nebraska. He grew up a Royals fan and as a strong hitter from the left handed side that played third base he immediately drew comparisons to his younger brother's namesake, arguably the greatest Royals' player of all time, George Brett.

Unfortunately Gordon had difficulty living up to that hype. Whenever it seemed he might be about to finally break out as a hitter he would get injured. His defense got worse and worse before he was finally demoted to the minor leagues and asked to learn an entirely new position from scratch in 2011. This wasn't just because Gordon had been performing poorly, but the Royals had yet another hot third base prospect nearly ready to come up - remember when Ned Yost said third baseman don’t grow on trees? Are we sure he got that right? When Gordon came back to the big leagues it seemed that some of the pressure had been removed with the position switch. He immediately became one of the best left fielders in baseball, winning multiple gold glove awards and even platinum glove award. He was also an All-Star three straight years from 2013-2015.

Following the 2015 season he reached free agency and for only the second time since the ‘90s - Mike Sweeney being the other - signed a long term deal that seems likely to lead to him retiring as a Royal.

I told you last time that we’d get to other notable prospect Justin Huber later, this is why. Unfortunately the Aussie suffered a knee injury that ended his catching career which is why he shows up in KC as a first baseman. Like a lot of injured prospects, he ended up busting.

The Royals traded third-baseman Jose Bautista - yes, Joey Bats - to the Mets for their prospect. I’m sure that they would like to have a do-over because Huber ended up batting .204 with four doubles as his only extra base hits in 38 games across three seasons. The Royals sold his contract to the Padres where he got his first real playing time and hit the only two home runs of his career in 34 games during the 2008 season. He had a single game in the big leagues during 2009 and then it was the minors and independent leagues for the rest of his career.

Other notable prospects:

56 - RHP Edinson Volquez, Texas. Volquez has had a very up and down career, but signed with the Royals as a free agent before the 2015 season to replace James Shields in the rotation after being 'fixed' in Pittsburgh. Volquez had one of his best seasons ever and pitched an effective and and emotional world series for the Kansas City Royals before completely falling apart in 2016. About halfway through the season some were still predicting he'd receive a qualifying offer but he only got worse from there and current rumors suggest he is unlikely to return to Kansas City at any price.

63 - RHP Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles Dodgers. Broxton signed as a free agent with the Royals following a lackluster 2011 campagn that itself followed back-to-back all-star appearances. Broxton rebounded with a 2.27 ERA as the Royals' closer and was traded to the Reds for J.C. Sulburan and Donnie Joseph. It also freed up the closer role for promising rookie reliever Greg Holland.

78 - 1B Kendrys Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

2007

Number 1 Prospect: RHP Daisuke Matsuzuka, Boston.

Royals prospects: 2 - 3B Alex Gordon, 25 - OF Billy Butler, 32 - RHP Luke Hochevar

Luke Hochevar was kind of a surprise as a Royals draft pick. He had actually been drafted twice before by the Dodgers but they couldn’t come to terms on a contract either time. The first time Hochevar elected to go to college, the second he elected to pitch in the independent leagues for a year after some agent-swapping drama and reneging on a deal. Despite the contract drama and the inherent risk of signing a guy who basically spent a year just trying not to get worse, the Royals managed to get the deal done. This was an early indicator that Moore was not going to just ignore prospects because of price tags, anymore.

Hochevar had a cup of coffee in September 2007 then started 2008 in the Royals’ rotation. During his time there he, like Davies, would occasionally flash potential - even delivering an 80-pitch complete game victory once - but he never finished a season with an ERA under 4.68. In 2013 he was finally demoted to the bullpen where he actually excelled with a 1.92 ERA across 70.1 innings. He suffered a torn UCL before he even got his 2014 season started, but signed a new deal to come back with the Royals in 2015, which led to the outing you see above.

He started 2016 as a lights out fireman reliever, but as the season went on it became something was not quite right. At the end of July he was shut down with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and had to have season ending surgery. He is currently a free agent but should be ready to pitch again by spring training of 2017, there’s still a possibility he will even sign a deal with the Royals.

Other notable prospects:

30 - LHP Franklin Morales, Colorado. Franklin Morales signed as a minor league free agent before the 2014 season but, aided by an injury to TIm Collins and an excellent spring training, won a relief role at the start of the season. He was mostly effective in the role until they reached the playoffs where he didn't get as much work and his effectiveness suffered.

45 - 3B Josh Fields, Chicago White Sox.

59 - LHP Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco. Sanchez was a moderately effective starter for the Giants which caused the Royals to trade Melky Cabrera for him following Cabrera's career revival in the Royals outfield. Sanchez was very bad as a Royal and was traded to the Rockies to acquire a similarly under-performing pitcher in Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie improved with the change of scenery, Sanchez did not.

75 - RHP Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees. Joba was part of a group of young Yankees starters to all come up at the same time, but didn't really succeed in the role. He was converted to a reliever relatively quickly and was effective in that role for nearly a decade. He was cut from the Tigers in 2015 and signed with the Royals for some September depth but pitched very poorly and is now out of baseball.

82 - 2B Alberto Callaspo, Arizona.

97 - RHP Wade Davis, Tampa Bay. Wade Davis came to the Royals as a secondary concern in the James Shields trade prior to the 2013 season. The right-hander was never a very effective starter, but was on a team friendly deal and had had one decent year as a reliever. The Royals put him back in their rotation where he did miserably before being demoted to the bullpen for the end of 2013. He was originally competing for a starting role again in 2014 but when Luke Hochevar got hurt he was asked to go back to the bullpen. He quickly took over the setup role and had one of the all-time great seasons for a reliever. The Royals recently picked up the last team option on his current contract so he may serve as the Royals' closer in 2017 but there are also a large number of rumors that the Royals will trade him away while the value of top relievers is high and he is still relatively healthy.

This might actually stand as the Royals' most successful batch of prospects between the start of Baseball America's list and this point. But next week we'll begin to see the farm system really shine.

You can read Part 1 of this series here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 can be found here, Part 4 can be found here, and Part 5 can be found here.