The Royals are on the brink of winning their first World Series in 30 years, leading the Mets three games to one. While it’s certainly not over (5 of 43 teams have come back from being down 3-1 in the World Series), I figured it was as good of a time as any to write about the Royals 2011 Farm System.
Compilation of Royals Top Prospect Rankings
Below is a list of the top ten farm systems in 2011, using five different rankings from the industry. The first three were a consensus among most of the publications, with Kansas City topping the list in each one.
Compilation of Farm System Rankings
Rankings alone won’t do the praise for this system justice, so here are some of the comments coming from those who ranked them:
This is not just the best minor-league system in baseball, it’s the best by a wide margin. The more I wrote about these prospects, the more trouble I had figuring out any way for things to go wrong. Another winning record could occur as early as 2012, but more importantly, the team should return to annual playoff contention shortly thereafter.
The phrase “Mission Accomplished” has acquired an ironic connotation of late, but if anyone could use the phrase earnestly to describe his own efforts, it would be [Dayton] Moore, as the Royals have arms coming out of their ears.
That’s particularly impressive when you consider that Kansas City’s top two prospects are bats, and there are some solid position player prospects further down in the system.
The Royals set a record by placing nine players on our Top 100 Prospects list, starting with three of the very best hitting prospects in the minors in 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas and OF Wil Myers. They also have an enviable collection of lefthanders, led by John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer.
What can you say? This is one hell of a farm system. While the young pitching gets a large amount of attention, and deservedly so, the Royals also have three of the most elite young bats in baseball in the Moustakas/Hosmer/Myers troika.
Kansas City has a plethora of top-end impact talent and loads of depth throughout. The best system in baseball and a reason to follow America’s pastime for long-suffering Royal fans.
It’s difficult to find one negative comment about this farm system. It contained high impact talent AND depth at almost all positions. Years of futility earned the Royals multiple early round draft picks. From 2005-2010, they had a top five pick on five different occasions. Additionally, Kansas City was active on the international front, signing players out of the Dominican (Kelvin Herrera & Yordano Ventura), Venezuela (Salvador Perez), and even Nicaragua (Cheslor Cuthbert).
In 2011, Doug Gray at minorleagueball.com assigned a monetary value to every prospect in baseball based on John Sickel’s grading system. He estimated the Kansas City farm system to be worth $243 million while the next best team (Tampa Bay) was worth $184 million. Here is a graph Doug provided, showing all farm systems in 2011:
But having a top farm system has never guaranteed success. Scott McKinney at Royals Review studied prospect success and failure rates and determined that 70% of Baseball America Top 100 prospects are failures. In August of this year, Alex Speier wrote in the Boston Globe:
Remarkably, none of the last 14 organizations to be designated with the top farm system by Baseball America has won a World Series since receiving that accolade. The last team to hoist a championship trophy following a top farm system ranking was the 2005 White Sox, four years after they’d been named the top farm system in 2001.
Of course, this will change if the Royals can win just one of the next three World Series games.
So what does a team with the best farm system need to do to reach the next step?
First, they need to continue to develop these players, as none of them are finished products.
The Royals did just that, as a good number of their prospects reached the big league level. Of course, not all of them have reached their potential, but that is expected.
Next, they need to surround this core with complimentary players.
Whether it is from outside the organization through free agency or via trade, Dayton Moore may have done his best work in this aspect. He parlayed Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi & Mike Montgomery into James Shields and more importantly, Wade Davis. He also signed Chris Young, Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales & Ryan Madson to fill out the roster. Finally, at the trade deadline this year, Moore traded prospects to acquire the final pieces to the puzzle in Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist.
Finally, they need luck.
Because sometimes no matter how hard you try, things just don’t go as planned. On the other hand, there’s always a chance to find that diamond in the rough that you weren’t expecting. As Branch Rickey said, “Luck is the residue of design.” It’s hard to tell how much of the Royals success is luck, but by putting the organization in the best situation possible, they have been in position to capitalize on many breaks.
We can now look back retroactively at the 2011 farm system to see where it ranks among the 30 teams in terms of wins above replacement. Granted, it is far too early to make a final judgement on these systems as most of the players are still beginning their careers. Below is a table showing how many wins above replacement each team’s 2011 farm system has produced, along with their winning percentages in subsequent seasons. The top prospect is the player with the most WAR in that farm system.
|11||Blue Jays||59.2||.500||.451||.457||.512||.574||Brett Lawrie|
|13||White Sox||56.8||.488||.525||.389||.451||.469||Chris Sale|
|23||Red Sox||40.0||.556||.426||.599||.438||.481||Josh Reddick|
*Note: I have only included players with positive career WAR in these totals.
Surprisingly, the Diamondbacks have accumulated the most WAR of any team from the 2011 prospect class. However, Kansas City is not far behind in second place. Whether or not this farm system turns out to be among the all-time greats remains to be seen. But if they end up winning the World Series in the next few nights, it will be impossible not to deem it a success.
Thanks to Hawkins DuBois for helping out with prospect lists.