Monday, January 18, 2010

Can Dayton Moore Build The Royals From Within?

First things first...

Royalscentricity has been named Best Royals Blog in the 2009 Ray W Awards over at Royals on Radio, Etc. As I stated in the comments section over there,
...thank you for the Ray W Award. As an avid fan of the blogs that Royalscentricity somehow beat out [Rany on the Royals, Royals Review, and Royals Authority], I have to say I'm honored. As weird as this might sound, it might just have been enough positive reinforcement to keep this ball rolling.
If I wasn't positive of the fact that I voted for myself once and only because I wanted to get at least one vote, I'd accuse myself of stuffing the ballot box because I feel like Royalscentricity is woefully inadequate in relation to those other blogs. Regardless, thanks for the honor all you fans. And thank you, Ray, for going to the trouble of putting this together for the second straight year.

Now that I'm done being gracious/self-congratulatory, I'll move on to actual Royals talk...

Kcscoliny posted a bit of dialogue from a Baseball America podcast on the AL Central Top 10 Prospects (streaming it is free, and they start talking about the Royals just past the halfway point--just after their conversation about Aroldis Chapman, if memory serves me correctly) over on Royals Review.

The point is made that the Braves system produced next-to-zero professional pitchers for about a decade while Dayton Moore was in prominent player development and scouting positions. Given that and the fact that there have been exactly zero pitchers who have come up through the Royals system in Moore's time in Kansas City, I'd say John Manuel's assertion raises some red flags that had not occurred to me.

What exactly is it about Dayton Moore's ability to build through player development that has us excited? His big focus has been on pitching as currency and building from within the farm system. He hasn't been at it for long, but the results thus far have been disappointing at best.

The first move he made when he got here (I think) was shipping Mike MacDougal off to the South Side for pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Daniel Cortes. At the time, Lumsden's stock had fallen as a result of some injuries and a less than dominating campaign in Birmingham, but he had been a first round pick. Cortes was young but had flashed potential. As they advanced through the minors with the Royals, Lumsden tanked, and Cortes was deemed too unruly to keep, despite his having been the Royals top pitching prospect heading into 2009.

At the time Cortes was dealt (along with Derrick Saito) for the inimitable Yuniesky Betancourt, he was probably the closest Royals starting pitching prospect to the Majors, but it seemed as though his growth had stunted under the Royals watchful eye and despite early signs of encouragement at lower levels seems to have hit a wall at Double-A.

Shortly after the Cortes deal (Lumsden had been dealt to the Astros for Jordan Parraz the previous offseason), the Royals saw fit to ship off Danny Gutierrez to the Rangers for middling but more advanced prospects Tim Smith and Manuel Pina. While Gutierrez had some issues with John Law in the past, perhaps the more important piece of the Gutierrez puzzle is that he wanted to train with Team Boras in the offseason while the Royals wanted him in camp and on their training program. This butting of heads occurring within the construct of this paranoid and over-sensitive Dayton Moore regime effectively sealed Gutierrez's fate. After all, the Royals had no problems trading for Alberto Callaspo, who had his own legal issues while in the minors with the Diamondbacks. Dissension cannot be tolerated.

It should be noted that Gutierrez was only the fourth-rated pitching prospect left in the Royals system (I'm using Baseball America's 2009 Prospect list, by the way) when he was traded, and he had only advanced as far as High-A ball, but his inclusion here is important for another reason. Upon having been dealt, he posted the following on his facebook page:
Only been with this organization for 1 day and its 10 x's better than KC.*
Of course, there were more than likely some feelings of ill-will towards the Royals on Gutierrez's part, but if memory serves me correctly, Daniel Cortes responded with a post of concurrence on Gutierrez's profile page.

*I know someone out there had a screen cap of this, but I'll be damned if I can find it. If someone else remembers where it was (Fire Dayton? Royals Review fan post?), I will link it up here when said information is relayed back to me in the comments section.

Sure, these two had their behavioral issues, so their indictment carries a little less weight, but it is an indictment nevertheless.

Now, we get word* of the Royals and Mike Montgomery bickering over the long-toss program that he wants to continue working with. If it has gotten Montgomery to this stage in his development, then maybe it works. Given the Royals' (and Dayton Mooore's even longer-standing) inability to develop a Major League starting pitcher from within the system, I don't think that they can unequivocally state their thoughts on the matter as being correct. Moreover, if Manuel's statement that the Royals are trying to have each and every one of their pitching prospects on the same training regimen, then consider me worried. It seems foolhardy to me to try to shoehorn each and every like-positioned athlete in the system into the same program. Body types are different. Athletes are different. It seems logical that regimens should also be different, customized.

*It should be noted that this is the first I've heard of such a rift growing between the front office and their consensus top prospect, and I've not seen anything written anywhere else upon searching for it, but John Manuel has to be better plugged in than me, so I'll have to defer until he is proven wrong.

All of this leaves me very worried about the future of the farm. We are all told that the promise of a brighter future comes from within the organization and is built through the draft. As of yet, there is not a single player that Moore has drafted (unless we're kind and include Kyle Davies...) who has contributed to any of the Royals' nearly non-existent success on the Major League level. Anyone who came up through the system and sits on the Major League roster is a holdover from the Allard Baird regime.

It would seem as though the minors seem to be primed to start churning out talent in 2011 (maybe Aaron Crow or David Lough arrives as soon as this season), but the real concern is will there be any hiccups this year. After all, I think none of us are taking for granted the fact that nearly every top prospect that has come through this system for the past decade has largely disappointed with the exceptions of Billy Butler and Zack Greinke--neither of whom were Dayton Moore draftees.

We can all agree that things in the minors are looking up for Kansas City, but there is also a fair amount of development that needs to take place between where this talent currently sits and where they will need to get to make contributions to a winning effort of the Major League level. It should also be noted that J.J. Cooper, Manuel's co-podcaster, said that if things broke right this year, the Royals would be looking at a top five farm system heading into the 2011 season.

The big question is: Can all of that talent--much of it gathered because the Royals simply paid well above slot in later rounds of the draft--actually coalesce into an ML-ready unit in two years under the inflexible Dayton Moore Royals?


Anonymous said...

I would hesitate to draw many conclusions regarding Moore's ability to develop pitching talent from this. A massive amount of data would need to be compiled to make any kind of significant determination in this type of situation. The permutations of outcomes are almost endless: draftee injured, draftee traded, draftee topped out at AA, etc. Determining what, if anything, would have gone differently if anyone else were in charge would be nearly impossible. I would not be surprised to see that periods of developmental failure like this are completely random and that some long-term baseball men (Shuerholtz, etc.) have had both these and the opposite types of periods.

Old Man Duggan said...

Ah, my mysterious DC reader, I probably have overstepped the bounds of reasonable blame-laying. It is very likely that I'm making too much out of all this. Obviously, my frustration is palpable and has been for the past six months or so. I think some of this is resultant of having taken the wait-and-see approach I took with his acquisitions last year. I wanted to believe that he knew what he was doing, but nearly every move was a catastrophic failure.

I know the sample size of prospects is very small, at least within the confines of Moore's reign in KC. I think we can both agree that the large regressive steps that Moustakas and Hosmer took this season are alarming. That is probably coloring my thinking as well.

I do, however, tend to pay heed when the folks at Baseball America call out our the people in our front office for not having been able to produce a single quality pitcher since Kevin Millwood and Jason Schmidt. That puts us back at, what, 1996? I think we can safely assume that barring great leaps through the minors by Aaron Crow or a sudden affliction of consistency on Hochevar's part the soonest Moore can possibly erase that drought will be 2011. A 15-year dry spell is a very long stretch of time to chalk up to chance.

Am I playing the part of the alarmist? Yes. Is it baseless? The most you could say is maybe.

Anonymous said...

I'm not so mysterious. I grew up in southern Missouri and I was 9 when the Royals won it all in '85. The hook was set and I have been a loyal, although often frustrated, fan ever since. I try to catch the team every year when they come out to play Baltimore and I'm lucky enough to live close to the Potomac Canons who the Blue Rocks play in the Single A division. My point wasn't that the Baseball America claims should be dismissed outright, just that it would be an extremely tough claim to substantiate and that from what I have seen, they made no attempt to do so. Now, if they have reams of data in their super secret basement complex that prove this, then I'd be more than happy to see the results of their analysis and change my mind. Until then, I believe that the saying goes "In God we trust, all others must bring data.". A simple example would be a statistic measuring how many of the pitching prospects drafted by the Braves during that timeframe were traded to bolster the major league team. During most of the period in question, the major league rotation was pretty set at the top 3 which could have affected everything from the level of risk taken during the draft (taking more high risk guys who were less likely to pan out) to when pitching was drafted (i.e. they may have drafted pitching later in the draft because of this which could have led to the low success rate). Basically, all that I am saying is that to make a claim like that, there should be extensive analysis behind it and I would like for them to "show their work" so to speak.

Punky Drewster said...

Congrats on the award bro.

Old Man Duggan said...

Thanks, Drew.