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The Royals All-Decade Prospect Team

Looking back on what was

MLB: SEP 13 Astros at Royals Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s been a decade, somehow, since Bryce Harper was the most obvious first pick of all time. That 2010 draft featured four players in the first round who have accrued 30+ WAR in their MLB careers so far (Chris Sale, Manny Machado, and Christian Yelich), four more have reached 10+ (Yasmani Grandal, Noah Syndergaard, Drew Pomeranz, and Matt Harvey) and another five have reached at least five wins in their career. Unfortunately, none of those players were drafted by the Royals despite having the fourth overall pick. Four of the five first players taken were worth at least eight wins so far, with fourth overall pick Christian Colon (selected by the Royals) being the exception with 1.9 WAR.

This is a theme of the overall decade of drafting for the Royals, seemingly stepping the potholes that most other teams have avoided. Still, there have been players the Royals have taken that weren’t without hype that they ultimately didn’t live up to. So what we’ll do here is nominate an all prospect team, considering the “best” prospects the Royals have had, regardless of how their MLB tenure (or lack thereof) have ended up.

I wanted initially just limit this list to players acquired via draft, trade, or international free agency in 2010 (so for instance excluding any drafted player in 2009, 2008, etc...) but I’m going to open up the criteria to just anyone who was considered a prospect in this past decade.

Catcher - Wil Myers (2009 draft - 3rd round, 91st overall)

I’m going to admittedly cheat a bit here (right off the bat) and classify Myers as a catcher, who even though he was drafted as such, moved to right field not too far after he signed, not logging an inning behind the plate after A+ Wilmington.

Myers, in my opinion, is the best position player prospect the Royals have had since Alex Gordon. Crowned as Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year (he and Tom Gordon as the only Royals recipients of) right before being traded to Tampa Bay (also the first player to win that award and be traded before his MLB debut), Myers hit .303/.395/.522 (146 wRC+) in his Royals minor league tenure.

His minor league success never quite translated to the majors (a lot due to his defense), but he signed an extension with the Padres that will keep him in the majors into his 30’s.

First Base - Eric Hosmer (2008 draft - 1st round, 3rd overall)

Hosmer was well known for years before he was drafted and was as well decorated as any past high school prospect. He was known for his batting practice home runs and long left-handed swing. He was committed to Arizona State but every knew that was just for show and even with Scott Boras as his agent, he would never set foot on campus.

Hosmer always ranked high on top prospect lists, both Royals-centric and all prospects. He struggled in his first full season, ultimately having to get LASIK surgery that would propel him into one of the best prospects in baseball (reaching as high as #8 overall in 2008 per Baseball America). After the eye surgery it was non-stop dominance: .354./426/.573, 80 extra base hits, and a 170 wRC+ in just over 700 plate appearances between A+ through AAA. He would barely make it to May in AAA before he was called up for his MLB debut

Second Base - Christian Colon (2010 draft - 1st round, 4th overall)

The Royals first pick of the decade, Colon didn’t live up to the spot he was picked (this will be a recurring them here). The first round of the 2010 draft featured 10 players who would post an 8+ career WAR, including four of the first five picks...Colon was not one of them.

Colon was captain of Team USA and was telegraphed as a top 10 pick for a year or two leading up to the draft. Bryce Harper was never not going #1 but there was some leeway with the next few picks. The Pirates pulled a semi-surprise going for Jameson Taillon over Manny Machado, which then allowed the Orioles to take him. With the Royals on the board, it was down to two names really: Christian Colon and Chris Sale.

That is the end of this capsule.

Shortstop - Adalberto Mondesi (2011 international free agent)

If I said Mondesi would debut in the majors by age 19 as part of the Royals World Series winning roster, you would say he lit the minors on fire and was a top five prospect. Mondesi did make the majors by age 19 and he was a part of the Royals World Series roster, but as we all know it was for a lone pinch hitting appearance (he struck out).

Mondesi would return back to AA and then get called to the majors once again...and then the next year went back again after a rough start to the year. His road to the Majors has been anything but linear, with an atypical path that has seen him hit .258/.304/.404 in the his minor league career. He’s going to be a mainstay in the Royals lineup due to his electric skills, even if he never quite learns how to lay off high fastballs. All his singles are doubles, and all his doubles are triples and every once in awhile, his triples are inside the park home runs. That is what makes Mondesi fun.

Third Base - Mike Moustakas (2007 draft - 1st round, 2nd overall)

This one took all of 0.001 seconds to pick. Moustakas is not only the best third base prospect the Royals had in the 2010’s, but he’s right behind Wil Myers for the best of all the Royals hitting prospects this decade.

A teenage Moustakas demolished California high school pitching, setting the state home run record and being one of the best bats to come out of The Golden State in years. He wound up hitting .282/.337/.503 (124 wRC) and 84 home runs in the minors, his only stumble coming in A+ Wilmington as a 20 year old before he blasted his way to the majors from then on.

There were so many things fun and weird things throughout Moustakas’ career with the Royals (like that in 2017 he went all the way to August 2nd before being called out on strikes) but everyone will remember this:

Outfield - Bubba Starling (2011 draft - 1st round, 5th overall)

Quite possibly the best prep athlete to come out of Kansas/Missouri in a generation. When we talk about generational talents, we just assume they develop. The Royals’ path to Starling was reportedly a path they didn’t even want to go down or at least not one they expected to. The Royals expected one of the “big three” college arms (Paxton/Bauer/Cole), everyone presumed that the Mariners would take Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Instead, Seattle pulled a draft day surprise (to their misfortune) and took James Paxton instead (who to be fair has had a nice career too - just not Rendon level), and the Diamondbacks followed with Trevor Bauer. Just like that, the Royals’ plans fell apart. The Orioles would take Dylan Bundy, a player who reportedly asked the Royals to not even consider him due to their dislike of long tossing (Bauer shared the same sentiment), and so the Royals were left with a choice between the best college position player or the best high school position player.

We all know how this unfolded, now almost ten years later. Starling would eventually make the Majors after a rough minor league career and those same struggles continued in his so far brief major league career too. But regardless of what Starling’s minor and Major league numbers look like a decade from now, the Royals didn’t screw up selecting him - he would have been immediately selected in the next few picks had the Royals passed. He was the best prep hitting prospect in the draft and those are always wanted, even if teams are a bit more hesitant now. There were red flags (his age, his hit tool) but it didn’t take too much squinting to see a five-tool player patrolling the Royals outfields for a decade or more when his name was called that night in June.

Pitcher - Kyle Zimmer (2012 draft - 1st round, 4th overall)

I’ll plunge to my death before I stop shouting from the mountain tops about how good a prospect Zimmer was. To me, he was the best pitching prospect since Zack Greinke.

When he was healthy* he had two 70s pitches: a fastball with life that would touch 100 MPH and a spike curveball that he would toy with the break on every pitch. Then behind that he had a slider that rated as above average...then behind that a changeup that he didn’t have to use much because of his other stuff but was near average anyways.

*He was never healthy. That’s the gospel according to every pitcher in the minors it seems. Every season we’d hear about Zimmer’s arm/eblow/shoulder finally feeling great only to see him on the shelf by around mid-April.

Pitcher - Mike Montgomery (2008 draft - 1st round, 36th overall)

Pitcher - Danny Duffy (2007 draft - 3rd round, 96th overall)

Pitcher - Chris Dwyer (2009 draft - 4th round, 112th overall)

Pitcher - John Lamb (2008 draft - 5th round, 145th overall)

You can’t tell the story of the Royals prospects in the 2010s without talking about this quartet of lefties, for better or for worse. Three from California, one from Massachusetts, these arms were a big part of the 2011 “Best Farm System in the History of Whenever.”

Montgomery was supposed to be the ace, with overwhelming power and command, Lamb the lefty precision artist who carved up the strike zone, Dwyer was the rare draft eligible freshman who fit in more with high school peers, and Duffy the laid back lefty who would round out the rotation.

Duffy would be the only one to really make it out and live up to expectations but he, like the others, would get injured along the way. Forearms, obliques, backs, elbows, and even an unexpected car accident, we saw these names on the injured list too often. That’s not something you can blame on them, it’s part of the business of being a pitcher. But it’s also a good reminder of how fragile the arms and dreams of pitchers are.

Pitcher - Yordano Ventura (2008 International Free Agent)

I would be remiss if I didn’t include Ventura, who on a prospect status may have been closer to Jake Odorizzi than the quartet above, Ventura was always a wild card that needs to be mentioned.

His legacy will always be bigger than the brief time he played on the field. He threw hard and sometimes he threw it intentionally at batters to get in a fight. That, was Yordano, who seemed to play like it was just another day on the dirt in the Dominican.

From the moment we are born, a clock is put over our heads that counts down to the second we are no longer here. It can’t be stopped or slowed, but I just wish Yordano had a little more time on his is all.