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A Look to the Future: Your 2013 Kansas City Royals

I decided to turn my focus to the trade deadline for a few days there while teams potentially altered how these posts could play out, but with that out of the way I'd like to jump back on this horse and get through more of these organizations.

I'm particularly excited for this one, too, because Kansas City has a truly impressive collection of young talent. Comparing the team's current roster to their 2013 roster would be like comparing apples to oranges; there's actually a chance that Dayton Moore could have a legitimate contender assembled by then. 

As a healthy reminder, I'd just like to mention that these lineups DO NOT include any sort of speculated free agent, trade or draft acquisitions that could happen before the 2013 season, and one could almost be guaranteed that by the time that 2013 comes, each team will have acquired some new players through free agency, trades and/or the draft. That being said, these are still exceptionally useful looks at how the teams will look by 2013, so we can have a better idea of what kind of players each organization is lacking in, and which players they'll be more likely to target through free agency. Like, as commenter backtocali noted on Baltimore's post, the Orioles could possibly look to sign a Prince Fielder-type to make the 1B/DH situation a bit easier to deal with, as he'd be an obvious upgrade on Snyder/Reimold and with so many young players presumably there should be a good amount of payroll flexibility, too. But for this exercise, we're sticking purely with players that are either in the organization already or have been drafted this year with a reasonable likeliness of signing (so yeah, there's no Zach Lee for the Dodgers. Sorry). Additionally, after the trade deadline I'll probably do a few posts covering how trades changed these outlooks, particularly on teams where impact prospects could be dealt or acquired.

As always, here are links to the previous installments on the 2013 Oriolesthe 2013 Piratesthe 2013 Astrosthe 2013 Indians, the 2013 Mariners, and the 2013 Nationals, if you missed 'em.

The Starting Lineup.

Catcher: Wil Myers, Opening Day 2013 Age: 22, Current level: Advanced Single-A

I'm a big fan of Myers for a few reasons. One of which is that he's born exactly a year before me to the day, and he now surpasses former NBA player Mark Aguirre as the coolest person born on the same day as me. That is, unless you're really into William Lloyd Garrison.

If someone else is filling this spot in 2013, it's presumably because Myers has been moved to another position, either third base or right field. He's only 19, but his bat is quite advanced for his age and there's a chance that the team could try to expedite his progression through the minors by moving him to an easier defensive position. But with some time, most scouts seem to believe that Myers could be adequate defensively as a catcher, and that would give him some huge upside given his bat.

He's currently hitting a combined .311/.430/.497 between Single-A and Advanced Single-A, although he's not showing nearly as much power at the higher level. What's really impressive is his polished approach, though, as he's already walked 67 times compared to only 70 strikeouts in 409 plate appearances. The Royals could have themselves an absolute OBP-machine with solid power and defense at catcher. Sounds like a stud to me.

First Base: Eric Hosmer, Opening Day 2013 Age: 23, Current level: Double-A

Anybody who has questioned Hosmer's status as an elite 1B prospect probably doesn't have nearly as much to say now after Hosmer's first 20 games in Double-A.

Most people pointed to his weak HR total, 7 bombs in 375 PA, in Advanced Single-A Wilmington as a major problem given that he's a first baseman that depends on offensive value. But he's already more than doubled that HR total in his 20-game stint at Double-A, batting .338/.393/.714 with 8 homers in 84 PA to raise to his season line to an astonishing .351/.423/.577. 

He's clearly over the vision and hand issues that plagued him last season, and now the big-time raw power is coming through in games along with his impressive hitting ability and polished approach at the plate. Right now, there aren't many better hitters in the minor leagues.

Second Base: Johnny Giavotella, Opening Day 2013 Age: 25, Current level: Double-A

One of many strong early-round draft picks that Dayton Moore's front office has made, Giavotella has bounced back from an underwhelming 2009 performance to put up a very strong 2010 campaign in his first go through Double-A. 

He's currently batting .301/.373/.413 through 460 PA, including a very strong 44/53 BB/K ratio. He's not regarded as a particularly good defender at second base but he's good enough to stick, especially if his bat plays well at the next level.

He's small at 5-foot-8 so his power potential is fairly limited, but with good contact skills and the willingness to take a walk, he should have enough power to at least convince pitchers that they can't knock the bat out of his hands. He doesn't project as a star or anything, but a middle infielder with on-base skills will generally find his way onto an MLB roster one way or another. Giavotella's never played anything but second base professionally though, so this seems like a good spot for him.

I suppose there's a chance that Chris Getz could emerge as the team's long-term option here before Giavotella could reach the majors, though.

Third Base: Mike Moustakas, Opening Day 2013 Age: 24, Current level: Triple-A

Moustakas was regarded as an elite hitting prospect for years before his stock took a dip after a rough 2009 season, although presumably it's pretty much back to where it was before, if not higher.

The former second-overall pick in the 2007 draft, Moustakas struggled at Advanced Single-A Wilmington in 2009. The Royals had him begin 2010 at Double-A anyways, and he immediately felt pretty cozy in the confines of his home ballpark with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He finished his Double-A stint with a .349/.414/.690 line...    but on the road he batted just .222/.318/.398, leaving behind some serious concerns about why he was so much better at home.

And the third baseman hasn't really assuaged those concerns yet, especially with all of the holes in his Triple-A performance. He's got a .269/.274/.484 line that should improve with a higher BABIP, but he's also walked just once in 95 PA and he's doing absolutely nothing against lefties. He hasn't looked like an MLB-ready impact bat yet, to put it one way.

Moustakas is a pretty good defender at third base right now thanks to an absolute rocket of an arm; his footwork and instincts aren't too good but his arm helps to offset that. Most scouts believe that his defense will deteriorate fairly quickly, forcing a move to the outfield within a few years. But with all of that said, he should still be a solid defender at third by 2013, and his bat should be ready to inflict its power on MLB pitchers by then, too.

Shortstop: Christian Colon, Opening Day 2013 Age: 23, Current level: Advanced Single-A

The team's 2010 first-round pick and the 4th-overall pick in the draft, Colon signed quickly and has already played in 32 games with Advanced Single-A Wilmington. He's a solid defender at shortstop despite some legitimately poor foot speed, as his range is actually pretty good and his hands are good.

He's struggled somewhat in Wilmington so far, batting .242/.305/.344 in 142 PA, but he has a solid approach at the plate and projects to be a decent hitter with fringe-average power. Given his strong defensive value and the high-probability that he becomes a solid offensive player, there's are lots of reasons to believe that Colon has a future as Kansas City's shortstop.

And given his polish and pedigree, don't be surprised if he pushes his way to Kansas City even before 2013. The Royals don't exactly have anyone blocking him, unless you consider Mike Aviles or the injured Jeff Bianchi to be major competition.

Left field: David Lough, Opening Day 2013 Age: 27, Current level: Triple-A

An 11th-round pick out of Mercyhurst College (PA), Lough was exactly the kind of draft prospect that essentially needed to hit from the moment that he reached professional ball in order to prove himself as a legitimate MLB prospect. He started strong in the Appy League in his short-season debut, but was somewhat underwhelming as a 22-year-old in Single-A in 2008.

2009 was Lough's breakout season, though. Always a guy with strong tools, he finally began to turn them into high-quality production against more refined, superior competition. After batting .320/.370/.473 in 61 games in Advanced Single-A, he actually improved his numbers with a move to Double-A, raising his line to .331/.371/.517 in 65 games at that level.

Already 24 years old coming into the 2010 season, Kansas City kept him moving quickly by starting him with Triple-A Omaha. His numbers have been somewhat underwhelming (.256/.318/.420), but there are reasons to believe that he's still taking strides as a hitter. A big part of why his 2010 numbers look weak is a very low .275 BABIP (league average is closer to .330-.335), but it's worth noting that he's flashing the highest walk rate of his professional career.

John Sickels noted yesterday in his Top 20 Review that Lough, "still impresses with his tools/athleticism, but [he's] unrefined with the bat." In left field his glove would likely play out as above-average; he splits his time in left and center at the moment. He'll probably never be a star given his offensive profile and the high-probability that he ends up in left field, but the tools and production give reason to believe that he could be a solid regular in short order.

Center field: Derrick Robinson, 2013 Opening Day Age: 25, Current level: Double-A

A 2007 fourth-round pick out of a Florida high school, Robinson spent three years struggling in Single-A before a breakout performance in Double-A this season.

Always regarded as a good defender in center field (BA rated him as the organization's top defensive outfielder), the questions were always surrounding whether Robinson's bat would ever catch up. It appears to be doing that this season, though, with a .292/.353/.388 line that would reflect the best full-season OPS of his minor league career by over 100 points. His numbers have taken a significant dip since the end of May as Robinson has gotten away from the patient approach that made him so successful in the season's first two months, but the solid nature of his overall line just reflects how good he was in April and May. 

This season, Robinson has begun to take more pitches and add more loft to his swing, which has led to significant improvement in his ability to hit pitches with authority. He'll never have great power, but he should be able to rack up extra-base hits in the gaps with his speed, and he adds a ton of value on the basepaths. He stole 131 bases total in 2008 and 2009, and has 44 this season, with both figures accumulated at the same 75% success rate. 

He still doesn't project as much offensively as he still needs to refine his approach and improve his on-base skills to take advantage of his base-stealing ability, but as a plus defender in center field he doesn't need to be more than a few runs below average with the bat to be a high-quality regular at the game's highest level.

Right field: Alex Gordon, Opening Day 2013 Age: 29, Current level: MLB

This could reflect the end of the Alex Gordon Era in Kansas City, as the former Nebraska star hits arbitration for a fourth and final time before hitting free agency after the 2013 season. 

The 26-year-old Gordon has been a major disappointment since being the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. He absolutely destroyed the minor leagues before being rated the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the 2007 season. He earned a job as Kansas City's everyday third baseman in 2007. He put up two pretty solid campaigns in Kansas City, coming out as roughly league-average in both seasons despite significant offensive improvement in the latter season. 

But everything fell apart in what was supposed to be Gordon's breakout season, 2009. He tried to play through a hip injury early in the season, but looked absolutely awful both at the plate and in the field and eventually was shut down. He returned in July but continued to struggle, getting demoted to Triple-A in the process. He started to get things back together in Triple-A and finished 2009 with a strong September strong in Kansas City, leaving some optimistic as 2010 entered the picture.

It's been another disappointing year in Gordon's odyssey though. Early-season struggles led to his demotion and a move off of the position he played his entire professional career, third base. Now playing the outfield in Triple-A, Gordon must not have been too happy about the demotion because he played so well in Omaha (.315/.442/.577) that people started to seriously wonder why he wasn't playing in Kansas City. 

Now he's back in the Royals' everyday lineup thanks to David DeJesus' season-ending surgery. He's struggled somewhat so far (9-for-44 with 3 HR, 3/8 BB/K), but his BABIP is at .182 and the power is clearly there, so I think that Gordon is ready to re-establish himself as a building block in Kansas City going forward. Maybe it's not what the scouts expected when they saw The Next George Brett, but he should still end up being a pretty good player.

Designated hitter: Billy Butler, 2013 Opening Day Age: 26, Current level: MLB

Currently the Royals' everyday first baseman, 2013 is Butler's final arbitration-eligible season before hitting free agency. Billy Ray Butler is one of those guys that wasn't really born to play baseball; he was simply born to hit.

The 14th-overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Wolfson HS in Florida, Butler began hitting on Day 1 and hasn't stopped since. He began his career by hitting .373/.488/.596 in 74 Pioneer League games as an 18-year-old third baseman. He promptly made his way to Double-A at age 19 by embarrassing Single-A hitters to the tune of a .348/.419/.636 line in 2005, which he split between the outfield and third base. He spent 2006, his age-20 season, at Double-A and hit .331/.388/.499 in 119 games. By 2006 the 3B experiment was over and Butler was a full-time outfielder.

Butler spent 2007 and 2008 split between Triple-A and Kansas City. He killed the ball in Omaha, but batted just .282/.334/.420 in 216 games with the Royals during that time-span. By the middle of 2008 he was established as the team's DH, although his days of playing the outfield were certainly over. He's been the team's everyday first baseman since the beginning of 2009, and has firmly established himself as one of the more intriguing young 1B in the game.

Butler got some attention with his 2009 performance, as he became just the sixth player ever to hit 50 doubles and 20 homers in a season at age 23 or younger. His overall performance wasn't nearly as impressive though, as a relatively low walk rate and poor defensive marks made him only slightly above-average overall.

In 2010, we've seen a lot of nice things from Butler, but at the same time we've lost some of the power that made his performance so noteworthy last season. Improvements in walk and strikeout rate reflect some refinement in his approach at the plate, but that improvement has essentially been off-set by a decline in power. His wRC+(a stat that normalizes weighted Runs Above Average to the same scale as OPS+, so 100 is average) marks have been identical 125's in both seasons. So far, the improvement in his overall performance has really come in the form of defensive improvement as he gets more comfortable at first base.

Right now, Butler isn't much more than an above-average first baseman given his lack of power or a sky-high walk rate. But he could be one of the best hitters in the game if he can get put everything together, and a guy who could provide some good value even as a DH.

The Starting Rotation.

No. 1: LHP Mike Montgomery, 2013 Opening Day Age: 23, Current level: Double-A

No. 2: LHP John Lamb, 2013 Opening Day Age: 22, Current level: Double-A

No. 3: RHP Luke Hochevar, 2013 Opening Day Age: 29, Current level: MLB

No. 4: LHP Christopher Dwyer, 2013 Opening Day Age: 24, Current level: Double-A

No. 5: LHP Danny Duffy, 2013 Opening Day Age: 24, Current level: Double-A (disabled list)

A couple things to note here initially:

- Zack Greinke's contract runs out after the 2012 season, which explains his exclusion.

- How freaking awesome is Kansas City's Double-A rotation? When Dwyer comes off the DL, some team could potentially face Montgomery, Lamb, Dywer and Duffy in four straight games. Any team that's loaded with left-handed hitters would be totally screwed.

Okay, so now let's dive into these five guys.

Montgomery might be the most well-known of these guys, as he's generally regarded as the organization's top pitching prospect. Multiple elbow injuries are by far the biggest red flags on his stock, but AOL FanHouse's Frankie Piliere said of him a couple months ago that, "As far as performance and stuff, Montgomery is as good as you'll get in a left-handed pitching prospect." Armed with a low-to-mid-90's fastball, a developing curve and one of the best changeups in the minor leagues, he's consistently regarded as one of the best left-handed pitching prospects in baseball. With his stuff, track record and physical projection, the only thing that should hold Montgomery back from becoming a good MLB starter is health.

Honestly, I'm not sure that any pitcher has jumped farther up the prospect charts this season than the left-handed Lamb. After a solid, 68-inning short-season debut as an 18-year-old in 2009, Lamb has already made his way to Double-A as a 19-year-old thanks to some absolute domination of lower level competition. He's only made one start with NW Arkansas after putting up a 1.50 ERA in 114 innings between Single-A and Advanced Single-A, but his performance in the lower minors has left a big impression on scouts and talent evaluators. He's got a very athletic frame and impressive stuff (91-94 fastball, plus curve, fringe-average change). Also, in Kevin Goldstein's mid-season top-11, he noted that a scout said, "If you had any balls, you'd put him on the [mid-season top-11] list."

Hochevar is the only pitcher on this list with MLB experience, as he was in Kansas City's starting rotation before hitting the disabled list on June 16 with a sprained right elbow. The former No. 1 overall pick has spent most of the past three seasons in Kansas City's rotation, getting 22 and 25 starts in 2007 and 2008, respectively. With a solid ability to miss bats and a strong tendency to induce ground-balls, the right-hander looks to be a solid mid-rotation starter going forward if he can stay healthy. His velocity actually showed a significant uptick in 2010, with an average velocity of 93.8 MPH, which would put him among the hardest-throwing starters in baseball and is substantially higher than his 91.8 MPH average fastball velocity from 2009. He could show some significant improvement if he can hold his velocity somewhere near there, although that's probably not too likely.

Like Lamb, Dwyer is a lefty who's shot up the prospect boards this season, thanks to an impressive full-season debut. A 2009 fourth-round pick out of Clemson University, Dwyer's already made his way up to Double-A with an impressive arsenal for a left-hander. He has a good fastball that sits 90-93 with nice life, a changeup that's taken huge strides since he's left college and now projects as above-average, and a curveball that's already above-average at 74-77. His command comes and goes, which obviously explains the high walk rate, but there's huge potential given his full package. He could emerge as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

It was a really tough choice for the last spot between Duffy, 2009 first-round pick Aaron Crow and 2008 fourth-round pick Tim Melville. But the poor performance of Crow and Melville has seemed to offset the time that Duffy lost when he temporarily decided to leave baseball, as the left-handed Duffy has come back strong since returning to the organization. He's only 21 and he's already made his way up to Double-A this season after making strong starts in short-season ball and Advanced Single-A Wilmington. Like some of the clubs other lefties, Duffy uses a low-90's fastball that can touch 95 and has a good breaking ball, but his delivery isn't pretty so expectations are tempered for now. He's certainly got the upside to be way more than a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, though.

Closer: Joakim Soria, Opening Day 2013 Age: 28, Current level: MLB

Soria is obviously an easy choice given that the Royals hold relatively cheap club options on the closer through 2014. One of the AL's best relievers since joining the Royals as a Rule 5 pick in 2007, Soria has a career ERA of 2.11 in 234 innings over the past four years. His FIP and xFIP marks aren't as low at 2.88 and 3.33, respectively, but they still place him among the very best relievers in the game. Oh, and he's pretty much a lock-down when it comes to save opportunities: 119-for-131 over the past four years, good for a 90.8% success rate.

The Royals are apparently somewhat open to dealing him, as they talked to the Yankees about Soria and even reportedly turned down a major package that included top prospect Jesus Montero. But given that they turned down a Montero-based package, the asking price is clearly very high for one of the game's best relievers locked up reasonably through 2014. If Soria is still around in 2013, he'll assuredly be the club's closer. And if he's not, maybe the recently-acquired Tim Collins could make for a good, cheap replacement.