Dayton Moore came to Kansas City wanting to build a homegrown team, primarily through the draft. He came from the Atlanta Braves, an organization that had developed Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez, Rafael Furcal, and Kevin Millwood. The Royals organization had been preaching building a team through "homegrown talent" for decades, but ownership had skimped on scouting and development for years, a strategy that was penny-wise, but pound-foolish.
Under Dayton Moore, the purse-strings loosened. The Royals were free to spend more money than ever before on amateur players, which led to record draft bonuses for players like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, as well as record bonuses for international players, such as the millions spent on Cuban pitcher Noel Arguelles.
"Our goal by 2013, 2014 is to have the majority of our 25-man roster be homegrown players. That's what we're shooting for, that's been the long-term plan all along. We were brought in here to build a farm system, build an international program and be aggressive in the Draft, and that's what we're continuing to do."
Dayton Moore was hired in June of 2006, but agreed to take over the Royals following the June draft. He has shown a preference for both college players and high school players, with a bit more than half of the players selected by the Royals in his tenure coming from the high school ranks.
In his first draft, Dayton Moore had the second overall pick. After the Devil Rays selected Vanderbilt pitcher David Price, the Royals were rumored to be deciding between two high school infielders - Mike Moustakas and Josh Vitters. Moustakas and his adviser Scott Boras had high bonus demands that likely would have scared the Royals away a few years prior. The Royals felt they could deal with Boras, however, and ended up signing Moustakas for $5.3 million. Later in that draft, the Royals ended up finding a few gems such as California high school pitcher Danny Duffy, and Western Carolina University reliever Greg Holland.
In 2008, Dayton Moore had the third pick in the draft, with a number of intriguing college bats available, such as Gordon Beckham, Justin Smoak, and Florida State catcher Buster Posey. However Dayton Moore decided to again deal with a high school slugger with Scott Boras as an adviser. He drafted and signed Eric Hosmer to a franchise record $6 million signing bonus.
The 2009 draft was a bit of a bust due to the Royals selecting pitcher Aaron Crow with the ninth pick. However, they did take advantage of a first-round talent falling to the third round due to bonus demands, and the Royals were able to get good value taking high school catcher Wil Myers.
If there is a draft that Dayton Moore regrets, it may be the 2010 edition. Reports linked them to Universify of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal and Florida Gulf Coast University pitcher Chris Sale. In the end, the Royals liked the gritty gamer from Cal-State Fullerton, Christian Colon. Although Colon has gone on to post-season success, one Royals official admitted that draft is the "only decision that causes me to lose sleep."
The pitchers the Royals sought in the 2011 draft were all off the board by the time they selected at #5. The fans wanted Dayton Moore to take the local kid, Gardner-Edgerton's Bubba Starling. Although Starling still may have the tools to become a big leaguer, it is increasingly looking like the entire 2011 draft class was a big bust.
It is too early to tell how the last four seasons of drafts will far at the Major League level. Kyle Zimmer, the first-round pick in 2012, is looking like the victim of an injury-plagued career. 2013 first-round pick Hunter Dozier was looking like a bust until he turned his career around this year. The first round pick from 2014, Brandon Finnegan, helped net pitcher Johnny Cueto from the Reds, and the left-hander is now pitching in the Reds' rotation. The first round pick from 2015, Ashe Russell, has barely begun his professional career.
In all, Royals draft picks under Dayton Moore have netted 52.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at the Major League level, according to Baseball-Reference.
How does that compare to other teams? Below is an analysis of the value of the draft picks signed by each American League team from 2007-2015, the time period Dayton Moore oversaw Royals drafts. The value reflects the total value each player drafted and signed produced before free agency, regardless of whether or not that player was traded. This is a simplistic evaluation, as it does not take into account for player development. For example, the Baltimore Orioles receive credit for the 18.6 WAR career of Jake Arrieta, even though he was a lousy pitcher in Baltimore, and his career did not take off until he refined his pitches with the Cubs. Also listed is the player who makes up the most WAR out of all of that club's draft classes over that time.
Under this analysis, the Royals have netted the fifth-most WAR in the American League from their drafts under Dayton Moore compared to other teams during the same time period. Interestingly, they have not relied on getting value from one big superstar, showing they have gotten good value from a number of players - Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Greg Holland, and Danny Duffy. On the flip side, you could argue that Dayton Moore has not found a big superstar as other teams have. The Royals have also benefited from a high draft position, although they have not benefited as much from multiple sandwich picks the way Toronto and Boston have.
The Royals have drastically overhauled their international scouting under Dayton Moore. In the ten years before Dayton Moore arrived in Kansas City, the Royals spent a quarter of a million dollars on international bonuses - total. The team produced pretty much no Latin American talent over that time period, depriving them of the young players they needed to remain competitive.
Under Dayton Moore, the Royals developed a Dominican Academy, began extensively scouting in Latin America thanks to Rene Francisco, who Dayton brought over from the Atlanta Braves, and offered top bonuses to young Latin American prospects. The team shelled out $6.9 million to Cuban pitcher Noel Arguelles, and while he did not pan out, it showed the Royals were serious about spending on player development. Other investments were much more rewarding for the Royals, netting them Yordano Ventura, Kelvin Herrera, and 2015 World Series MVP Salvador Perez.
Dayton Moore came to Kansas City to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. The trades and free agents would help, but it was clear, for a small market team, that identifying amateur talent would be key to his goal. He certainly had his misses, has not landed the superstar Mike Trout talent, and his more recent drafts look less encouraging. However Dayton Moore has found the pillars of his championship team - Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Salvador Perez - through drafts and international signings.