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Hok Talk: What makes a prospect wave?

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What signs should we be looking for that Dayton Moore is doing it again?

Corona Open Jay Bay - WSL Championship Tour 2019
These are some waves from South Africa. I love the internet.
Photo by Ed Sloane/WSL via Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Dayton Moore was the man in charge when the Royals had winning seasons from 2013-2015. And one of the primary things that many people talk about when they discuss those rosters are how a “wave” of prospects all came up at once and ultimately contributed to those winning clubs. It is only natural then that people are looking for the next wave, now. Some people even think they can see that wave forming in the farm system. So, since we’re going to look for it anyway, I thought it might be good to know just exactly what we’re looking for.

There were a lot of highly-ranked prospects

A lot has been made of the fact that players like Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, and Yordano Ventura never made top 100 lists. But the Royals had a lot of other guys that did make those lists. Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Christian Colon were all top 100 prospects the moment they were drafted. In 2011, two years before they started competing and four years before they became truly dominant (for a single year) they had eight guys in Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list.

Of those eight, only four ended up on contributing directly to the 2014 and 2015 playoff teams. The other four did contribute indirectly to those clubs because they were traded away to other clubs to help the Royals fill holes for the Royals but didn’t play in any meaningful big league games for KC. So even though the Royals got contributions from guys who never made a top-100 list they also got help from eight guys who did make those lists all at the same time. In other words, it takes a lot of highly ranked prospects as well as some under-the-radar guys to form a wave.

For those hoping we’re already looking at the next wave in our current minor league system, the first sign will be seeing a lot of guys start popping up on top 100 lists. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the Royals traded Greinke they got three guys who had or would appear on top-100 prospect lists for him - plus Lorenzo Cain. I know many of you don’t want to trade Whit Merrifield but doing so might be what they need to do in order to actually fill out the wave.

They moved quickly and won

Much has been made of the fact that not only did those guys all play in the minor leagues together but they also won together. If you check back through the Royals minor leagues from 2008-2013 you’ll see a bunch of guys moving quickly and a bunch of winning records, including several first-place finishes. Moustakas and Duffy were drafted in 2007 and made their debuts by 2011. Hosmer was drafted in 2008 and also debuted in 2011.

So here’s the thing, a lot of people are looking at the 2018 draft class as part of the next wave. If that’s the case then probably most of the guys that got drafted before them are going to be contributors or roleplayers. On the 2013-2015 Royals Luke Hochevar, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon were the primary contributors from earlier prospect waves. Most of the others flamed out or were dealt in order to fill in the gaps for the wave that ended up bringing home the trophy.

The other thing we need to keep an eye on in the minor leagues is for where the Royals are winning a lot. The Wilmington Blue Rocks have won a lot of games. And for those of you hoping the next wave includes last year’s draft class that’s a good sign as the team has benefited from the pitching efforts of last year’s top four draft picks as well as other much-talked-about prospects like Nick Pratto, Seuly Matias, MJ Melendez, and Kyle Isbel. The statistics look pretty bad for most of those hitters but perhaps we should believe more in the team record more than the player stats?

They struggled a bit before finding their feet at the major league level

Not a single one of the Royals prospects from the wave had immediate and sustained success. Except for perhaps Salvador Perez. This is the really hard part about looking toward the future and it’s why Dayton Moore almost lost his job before everything came together. If the wave comes up and everyone struggles for a while it’s hard to know if it’s just your typical prospect struggles that we can expect them to outgrow or if they’re just busts.

So do the Royals have the next wave in their system, yet?

That’s the $100 million question, isn’t it? We have essentially four criteria. And the Royals have only met one of them so far. But it’s going to take more time to see if they can meet any of the others. Still, it does seem like it might be a bit premature to declare the current crop of prospects the next wave.

The worse news, though, is that even if the current wave is in the system and started with the 2018 draft class - which is what seems the most likely class to start with of all of them - that means we’ve got to wait until 2021 and 2022 for them to make their debuts. And then we will have to wait two-to-three more years for them to get the hang of competing at the major league level before we can expect them to actually start competing again. Which means waiting until possibly 2025 for the next playoff team. Ten years between playoff teams absolutely beats thirty but that’s still an awfully long time to wait. Still, given Dayton Moore’s history, it seems like it might be the best-case scenario right now.

Poll

Are you content to wait until 2025 for the next Royals playoff team?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Yes! I know Dayton Moore will get us there!
    (61 votes)
  • 30%
    No. That’s way too long to wait.
    (148 votes)
  • 29%
    No, it definitely won’t take that long.
    (145 votes)
  • 27%
    Not really, but I’ll be surprised if it comes even that quickly.
    (136 votes)
490 votes total Vote Now