• Royals Present a Note of Prospect Caution

    On Thurdsay, the Twins and Royals kicked off a four-game series at Target Field. The two teams are nearly even in the standings, although the ways they've reached their present records have been drastically different. Kansas City owns the American League's lowest team ERA by a sizable margin, thanks in large part to the additions of James Shields and Ervin Santana, who have both been fantastic. Meanwhile, Minnesota's staff has been among the league's worst.

    So, with all their success on the mound, what is preventing the Royals from more fervently challenging the Tigers in the Central? The culprit, to a large extent, is an offense that has proven shockingly incapable of hitting for power. With the season's halfway point approaching, KC has tallied only 43 home runs, pacing them to become the first AL team to fall short of triple-digits in a season since the strike-shortened 1994 campaign.

    This dearth of dingers can be traced to two young players in the line-up from whom the Royals expected heavy contributions. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas simply aren't getting the job done, and the duo represents a cautionary tale that Twins fans ought not ignore.

    Prior to the 2011 season, Hosmer and Moustakas were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 8 and 9 prospects in baseball. Having combined for 56 home runs in the minors in 2010, the pair profiled as two of baseball's best up-and-coming power bats. Yet, while there have certainly been glimpses of greatness -- Hosmer launched 19 homers and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2011, while Moustakas went deep 20 times at age 23 last year -- the overall results have been mixed at best, and this year both have been key figures in the struggles of the Royals offense.

    Although each player has been healthy enough to appear in the majority of Kansas City's games, both have hit only four homers. Moustakas sits with a brutal hitting line of .210/.269/.308; Hosmer's .267/.321/.375 line looks far better in contrast, but is obviously well short of expectations.

    Neither player is yet 25 years old so it's far too soon to brandish the "bust" label, but their tribulations serve as a reminder that no prospect -- no matter how highly regarded -- is fail-safe, and sometimes the transition to a successful big-league career can take time, if it happens at all.

    Which brings us to the dynamic duo currently tearing up Minnesota's farm system. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton were ranked by BA before this season as the ninth and 10th best prospects in the nation. Each has fed the hype by performing well enough to earn a midseason promotion, so Twins fans are understandably licking their chops imagining the impact these young hitters can have at Target Field in the not-so-distant future.

    Sano could appear in the big leagues before this season is over, and Buxton's not terribly far behind. But reaching the majors and succeeding there are two vastly different things. Even for the most talented of prospects, acclimating to the highest level can be a daunting challenge requiring plenty of patience.

    At this point, both the Twins' top two prospects appear capable of hitting the ground running and quickly adapting once they take that ultimate step, but to hold that expectation is simply unfair. As a reminder, fans at Target Field this weekend need only look across to the other dugout.
    This article was originally published in blog: Royals Present a Note of Prospect Caution started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 54 Comments
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Prospects are prospects, and have not proven much of anything........it is one reason that sometimes you should trade them for proven, legit, MLB players. I'm not suggesting trading Sano or Buxton, I'm saying that sometimes you should give up a top prospect for a proven player(s). that's one way you close gaps.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Before the 2011 season Moustkas had already played at the AAA level, Hosmer at the AA level. Sano had not played above A ball, Buxton rookie to get similar ratings. That is a big difference when you compare and contrast them. The year before Moustakas was at 80 and Hosmer was not in the top 100 (apolgies if I missed) when they were playing near the same level of ball as Buxton and Sano.
      BA has pretty good luck projecting good players at 8, 9, and 10. The last player before the KC duo to not preform as well as expected was 2008 Franklin Morales
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Before the 2011 season Moustkas had already played at the AAA level, Hosmer at the AA level. Sano had not played above A ball, Buxton rookie to get similar ratings. That is a big difference when you compare and contrast them. The year before Moustakas was 80 and Hosmer was not in the top 100 (apolgies if I missed) when they were playing near the same level of ball as Buxton and Sano.
      That's true. But at the same time, the fact that Hosmer & Moustakas had succeeded at higher levels made them relatively safer bets, right?
    1. Mave's Avatar
      Mave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      That's true. But at the same time, the fact that Hosmer & Moustakas had succeeded at higher levels made them relatively safer bets, right?
      Not only that but Moustakas was drafted 2nd overall and Hosmer was taken 3rd the very next year... That and the upper level success should have made them safer bets. But then again, they are called "prospects" for a reason.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This blog expanded something I've been pointing out recently to some. We can't think of these players as certainties. A lot of the chatter on the forums lately has seemed awfully certain of future success.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there." Yogi

      Kind of sums what happens with prospects because a lot them don't get where we had hoped.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Good article Nick. I was kind of wondering when someone would bring Kansas City up. I don't remember the details but BA made a big deal of the record number of prospects the Royals had in their top 100 with several in the top 10 several years ago. Like the OP said, prospects are just prospects. If one wants to take a down and dirty look at the Twins future, Buxton, Stewart, and next year's pick, maybe as good of indication as any. Did I remember to say very timely choice for your article?
    1. Joe A. Preusser's Avatar
      Joe A. Preusser -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      This blog expanded something I've been pointing out recently to some. We can't think of these players as certainties. A lot of the chatter on the forums lately has seemed awfully certain of future success.
      Good point. I too feel our future success is all but gaurenteed. It is not only likely but almost certain that some of our prospects will fail. But the sheer number of quality arms and bats in our system ensure that enough will make it to make our MLB team very strong in the near future. That is where my confidence lies, not in assuming everyone will pan out to All-Star level.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Prospects are prospects, and have not proven much of anything........it is one reason that sometimes you should trade them for proven, legit, MLB players. I'm not suggesting trading Sano or Buxton, I'm saying that sometimes you should give up a top prospect for a proven player(s). that's one way you close gaps.
      And also a reason to be very careful about trading proven major league talent for unproven minor league lotto tickets.

      Something to keep in mind amidst all the "trade Perkins/Willinghame/Morneau/Doumit/XXX now!" demands.
    1. AScheib50's Avatar
      AScheib50 -
      It is true the Royals have had a bad run with their prospects. Some of their draft choices have been big misses ie: Luke Hochevar...

      It's easy to look at them and get nervous about our future. But what about using the Cardinals as a barometer? They have loads of prospects coming up right now, too. And they are a perennial contenders. They've often done so with the help of young guys coming up and playing well.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Joe A. Preusser View Post
      Good point. I too feel our future success is all but gaurenteed. It is not only likely but almost certain that some of our prospects will fail. But the sheer number of quality arms and bats in our system ensure that enough will make it to make our MLB team very strong in the near future. That is where my confidence lies, not in assuming everyone will pan out to All-Star level.
      I'm not sure we have any more depth than they did then.

      I think the caution has to be carefully worded - I'm excited about the potential of our future, but wary to plan on it. When we hear a lot of people talking about how we spend our money or what we do in the offseason, it's always about "WHEN we get good" rather than "IF". As if we should wait because this certainty is around the corner.

      There is no certainty around the corner, rather we should be preparing for it actively. Prepare for the best, but don't plan on it. Maybe that's the best way I can say it succinctly.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      That's true. But at the same time, the fact that Hosmer & Moustakas had succeeded at higher levels made them relatively safer bets, right?
      As pitchers learn what you don't do the batter has to adjust to what the pitcher throws. Hosmer and Moustakas have to adjust as well.
      As the Royals became a lot more relevant it became more important for the pitchers to be more careful with what they throw. The difference in ERA for the starting pitchers for the Royals might be near 2 runs. Pitching against the Royals you have to pitch better because you are not going to score as many runs. The playing to the level of your opponent may be a factor.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by AScheib50 View Post
      It is true the Royals have had a bad run with their prospects. Some of their draft choices have been big misses ie: Luke Hochevar...

      It's easy to look at them and get nervous about our future. But what about using the Cardinals as a barometer? They have loads of prospects coming up right now, too. And they are a perennial contenders. They've often done so with the help of young guys coming up and playing well.
      And the Braves...
      And the Rays...
      And the Red Sox...
      And the Rangers...
      And the Giants...

      Being smart and not stupid about who you pick and how they are developed and profiling what those teams are doing right is a more illuminating cautionary tale in telling the Twins to get off the Schneid, already..... as opposed to KC Royals scare tactics. These teams draft and develop talent with a consistently smart and comprehensive plan and aren't overly dependent on getting top 5 picks year after year like KC.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Baseball Prospectus | Future Shock: Organizational Rankings, Part 2
      2010 Baseball prospectus had KC rated at 10, the Twins at 8 in rating the team's prospects overall
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      And also a reason to be very careful about trading proven major league talent for unproven minor league lotto tickets.

      Something to keep in mind amidst all the "trade Perkins/Willinghame/Morneau/Doumit/XXX now!" demands.
      When did major league talent become so proven? Capps, Liriano, Mauer, Morny, Willingham, and every other big leaguer not named Mcab or Pujols has up and down years. While prospects do have a high bust rate and don't always make it to bigs they are at least cheap. How often do we see players fade after signing a big contract which cripples a team financially? The answer is a lot.

      While I agree comparing the Royals "historic" group of prospects a few years ago to the Twins current group is a good cautionary tale but let's not kid ourselves that the Royals problems has only come from specs not working out. Their front office has made just as many, if not more, bad calls with big league signings. The Twins are not the Royals.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I think the most important thing we can take away from Kansas City's situation is that it's really freakin dumb to trade away a AAA masher for a pitcher before you find out if your other young mashers can actually mash the ball.

      Can't hit homers, eh? Well, there's a young kid in Tampa who could have helped a bit with that. After all, he already has two homers in 42 PAs.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      I think the thing you learn is how difficult it is to be a GM. At the time of the trade, opinions were no worse than evenly split. There is pressure to produce immediately in Kansas City, which at this point in time we are immune to.
    1. Mave's Avatar
      Mave -
      I saw something pop up on Twitter a while back, "Little League 2 million players, High School 455,00 players, College 25,000 players, Drafted 1,500 players, MLB 750 It isn't easy. " Numbers aside, it does reverberate the big point brought up here. Nothing is guaranteed until players/"prospects" consistently perform on the big stage.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      I think the thing you learn is how difficult it is to be a GM. At the time of the trade, opinions were no worse than evenly split. There is pressure to produce immediately in Kansas City, which at this point in time we are immune to.
      I thought the trade was awful. You let your young kids break out and then you go pick up a "final piece". You don't pick up a guy in his prime that you'll have for only a couple of years and cross your fingers that the young players will break out. Doubly so if you have to trade one of those young guys to pick up that in-his-prime player, thereby reducing the number of failures you're allowed to have and still succeed as a whole.

      The Royals have the bulk of their young players for 4+ more years. What's the rush? You get your own house in order and then you upgrade. It's not a difficult concept.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      "Final piece?" How would anybody know if they have 'the final piece"? I think it make sense to think like a collector of fine art--you acquire pieces that fit, when they become available. Case in point. I read an article today about "trading dealine players"--guys that will become free agents at the end of the season. One name was Matt Garza. A guessimated price of $15-16MM per season was stated--guessimated! It is clear the Twins need several replacements in their rotation. Garza was the only pitcher named either! My point is that a significant improvement in the rotation is needed, not all "prospects" will succeed (point of this thread) and this off-season there will be some very "useful pieces" available--it would be folly to think that all needed "pieces" can be acquired in one season.
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