Way back in 2011, the Royals had the top-ranked farm system in baseball. The system was loaded with guys like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Danny Duffy, Wil Myers, and Jake Odorizzi, many of which would either be the foundation of their eventual championship club, or traded for key components of that team.
Fast-forward to 2018, however, and the system is in far worse shape. Baseball America came out with their organizational rankings, and the Royals are ranked 29th out of 30 clubs. And in case you thought that opinion was an aberration, Keith Law of ESPN ranks the Royals near the bottom as well, putting them 27th, just ahead of the Marlins, Giants, and Mariners.
Royals organizational ranking, according to Baseball America
The Royals certainly traded some prospects away to make their post-season pushes, although many of the players they traded away in 2015 would not be considered prospects anymore. Success has also caused them to draft later, and being aggressive in the Latin American market limited what they could spend for two years as punishment for going over the threshold.
But they have also been the victim of some poor drafts for several seasons, a point Baseball America points out. Since they selected Eric Hosmer in 2008, the Royals have struggled finding high-impact players with their first pick, taking Aaron Crow, Christian Colon, Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, Hunter Dozier, Brandon Finnegan, and Ashe Russell in subsequent drafts, and forfeiting their 2016 first-round pick to sign Ian Kennedy. The Royals failed to land any prospects in the Top 100 list for Baseball America or MLB Pipeline.
However all is not lost. Law notes that the “system is actually still deep, but the top tier is absent.” He notes their high-ceiling talent is too far away from the Majors to get too excited about, a feeling shared by Baseball America.
“The top three prospects in this system--Nick Pratto, Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias--all have the potential to be impact bats in a few years. They’re all many years away, but provide tantalizing glimpses of hope for a strong future in Kansas City.
Baseball America notes that the system is very thin on arms right now, with arms like Eric Skoglund and Josh Staumont struggling with command. Baseball Prospectus unveiled their top Royals prospects last week and also noted that the “Royals have some high upside talent, but they don’t have nearly enough of it yet.”
And the Royals could be able to rectify their situation quickly. They could have up to six of the top 50 picks in this June’s draft, and will be finally able to spend freely in the international market this July. As Clint Scoles at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City notes:
“Slow developing prospects, years of underperforming picks, and trades have left the under-25 cupboard barren of talent. Big spending in the 2015 international market and a talented 2017 draft class should start to show up in full-season ball this season, giving hopes that the farm system isn’t in as bad of shape as most experts believe. Even if prospects do perform well this season expect a continued overhaul with multiple draft picks, more major league trades, and international spending that should give this list a much different look next year. “
If the Royals are going to rebuild, they will need to really nail it in player evaluation this summer. They don’t want to spend another year at the bottom of these lists.