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  • 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. Thegrin's Avatar
      Thegrin -
      Ask yourself this... Would you trade Plouffe straight up for Moustakas ? Would you trade Morneau for Hosmer ? or would we take Hosmer for Parmalee and Colabello ? Maybe the Twins aren't so bad after all?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      "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.
      Are you responding to me?

      If so, what do the Royals trading away prospects have to do with the Twins acquiring a free agent like Matt Garza?

      And the simple reason why you shouldn't trade prospects for established players before you're competitive is cost and window; established players cost more money and you don't get them for six years. Again, look at the Royals. They jumped the gun without making certain that their offensive prospects were ready, traded off a piece that could help them for six years, and they lose Shields after next season. This Shields trade could have single-handedly dismantled the potential of one of the best farm systems in the past 20 years because the GM got impatient.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Very important article, and a great reminder of what prospects are. Kyle Gibson once told me when I asked him what it was like to be the Twins top prospect, "It's a nice honor, but all it really means is that I haven't done anything yet." It's certainly not unusual for a Top prospect not to become a star. Some barely become regulars. But the nice part is that there are often players who are no highly ranked who do become long-time regulars.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Lots of risk in baseball.

      Sign guys over 30 and watch them decline. Give any pitcher a long term deal and see them lose a season to injury.

      Developing talent and retaining control of those players through arbitration is essential to sustained success. The a twins have both depth and top end talent. It is an encouraging position.

      That doesn't mean that those players won't struggle together before putting it together. The 1986 Twins took a step back before a pretty good 5 year run when the key players entered their primes. Hrbek and Gaetti were 27 and 28 at the beginning of that 5 year run. Hosmer and Moustakas are 23 and 24. Will the a Royals have enough patience?
    1. troyhobbs's Avatar
      troyhobbs -
      Lots of good points but having multiple top 10 prospects in your system is better than not having any.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post

      Developing talent and retaining control of those players through arbitration is essential to sustained success. The a twins have both depth and top end talent. It is an encouraging position.
      I agree with this paragraph 100 percent. Long term success can only be built with a productive farm.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      I don't follow the Royals (nor really care to follow them). Yes, there is risk in longer term contracts--there is different type of risk in limiting the team to two-year contracts too! But then we need to pull way back to answering the question: "What are we trying to do?"
      Unless that question is closely defined we are likely talking to cross purposes. Consider the 2011/12 off-season where Willingham, Doumit, Carroll, and Marquis were signed. I think the answer is simple--just make the team palatable until younger, and better, players are acquired--as opposed to building a team for the future. The lowest cost option (eg. Houston and Florida) wasn't adopted for a reason. A higher cost option of obtaining one young star and paying him free agent salary, was also not adopted. What was the Royals plan?--I don't know, it seems like a hybrid of what the Twins did before the '12 season, and the "higher cost option" I wrote above. Admittedly, it is more expensive than the Twins plan, but it does show a committment by the Royals to their fans that status quo was unacceptable and a better team needed to be put on the field.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      What was the Royals plan?--I don't know, it seems like a hybrid of what the Twins did before the '12 season, and the "higher cost option" I wrote above. Admittedly, it is more expensive than the Twins plan, but it does show a committment by the Royals to their fans that status quo was unacceptable and a better team needed to be put on the field.
      Winning trumps all and it looks like there's a good chance that Moore just blew the Royals' shot at winning. Unless they pull it together in 2014, their window could slam shut.

      No matter how you look at it, taking a 3-4 year window, gambling with a prospect, and reducing that window to 1-2 years is a pretty sketchy idea.

      So I'll take a patient route over impatience, bad decisions, and grandstanding.

      An addendum: this does not excuse the Twins from spending money. They could easily be chasing 1-3 year contracts without hurting their future one bit.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      IMO one could even speculate they once again changed their 5 year plan after 3 years.
    1. CK's Avatar
      CK -
      I live in KC. And, trust me, I can't talk about the Twins' elite prospects around here. Hoo boy.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      So far from the game tonight you know that Hosmer and Moustkas can still hit inferior pitching.
    1. SgtSchmidt11's Avatar
      SgtSchmidt11 -
      Moose and Hosmer must have read this article and taken offense...3 HR's.
    1. jerickasdad34's Avatar
      jerickasdad34 -
      Nice bulletin board material buddy, kinda jynxed us on that one
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      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?
      I think it's also important to acknowledge that Sano and Buxton are/were more highly ranked as younger, more inexperienced players than Hosmer and Moustakas--Sano's and Buxton's tools are just that loud.

      Buxton and Sano are producing better numbers at younger ages than Hosmer and Moustakas--the latter two having some monster AA/AAA seasons. And honestly, I'm hoping that Sano and Buxton don't even have the chance to match their upper level production (they'll be with the big club...).

      Though the whole exercise is worth while, but I think this says more about the Royals capacity to scout and develop than it does any generalization about the wariness of top ten prospects.
    1. jun's Avatar
      jun -
      Quote Originally Posted by SgtSchmidt11 View Post
      Moose and Hosmer must have read this article and taken offense...3 HR's.
      4 hrs from the powerless KC tonight against the Twins pitching.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      A counter argument to the Royals/Pirates is the Cubs/Mets. For the better part of a decade they have been adding older, breaking down FA's, rushing prospects to help now and trading prospects for help now. And this has resulted in really expensive losing teams that were built on terrible foundations. Both teams are now shedding payroll and have started building a farm system recently.

      Prospects can bust and they will bust in the Twins system but it's how you rebuild.
    1. Red Bull's Avatar
      Red Bull -
      Wow did you seriously just bring up Hosmer and Moustakas? Hosmer was a bum his first season in the minors. Sano and Buxton were both great in there first years. And actualy have real potential, Hosmer was never supposed to be one of the games best players. Yea they thought he could be an allstar a couple years(Still could be) but he wasnt nearly as elite of a prospect as Sano and Buxton.

      Moustakas was a bum in his first 2 seasons in the minors aswell. He had a .805 OPS his first year and a .718 his second year. Just like Hosmer we all knew he wouldnt be one of the games best and though maybe he could be an allstar. I didnt think either would be good.

      They were similar to collabello, hes tearing up AAA but thats the only time in his life he has done something like this. We all know hes not gonna be a great player, hes just a AAA all star that cant translate to the pros. Sano and Buxton have put up amazing numbers in every league they have been in at every age. REAL TALENT! A good prospect will do that, they will be good in every level they have played in.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      A counter argument to the Royals/Pirates is the Cubs/Mets. For the better part of a decade they have been adding older, breaking down FA's, rushing prospects to help now and trading prospects for help now. And this has resulted in really expensive losing teams that were built on terrible foundations. Both teams are now shedding payroll and have started building a farm system recently.

      Prospects can bust and they will bust in the Twins system but it's how you rebuild.
      The Cubbies are an excellent example on how not to do it. Those who barrage this board on the necessity of being the darlings of the FA market need only study the lovable losers.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      The Cubbies are an excellent example on how not to do it. Those who barrage this board on the necessity of being the darlings of the FA market need only study the lovable losers.
      Or study even harder the other many teams that are and have been generally successful in their FA acquisitions and ask the questions why it has been demonstrated that building from every possible avenue, including FA, works for them.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by jun View Post
      4 hrs from the powerless KC tonight against the Twins pitching.
      Twins pitching regressing to the HR/FB mean.
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