Royals’ pipeline on the verge of feeding major-league roster

By Jeffrey Flanagan
August 31, 2010

Dayton Moore knew there would be no easy fix to the Royals when he took over as general manager in 2006. These weren�t the Yankees where championships are won with the checkbook.

Moore knew it would take years of scouting, drafting and developing to overhaul a franchise that has had just one winning season since 1994.

�There�s only one way to do this,� Moore said at the time, �and that�s to build up your minor-league system so that it continually feeds the major-league roster. Without that pipeline, small-market teams have little to no chance of succeeding.�

Moore and J.J. Picollo, assistant general manager of scouting and player development, set their focus on building that pipeline and by most accounts, it is ready to burst with potential major-league talent.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas, now at Triple-A Omaha, no doubt will be the next to arrive in Kansas City � perhaps as early as 2011.

And as I mentioned last week, the Royals now have two power hitting first basemen/DHs at Class AA Northwest Arkansas � Clint Robinson and Eric Hosmer.

Hosmer, of course, has been the center of attention. The third overall pick of the 2008 draft, Hosmer destroyed Class A pitching earlier this year, earning a promotion to Northwest Arkansas. He has made that leap quite nicely, too, hitting .316 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in 43 games for the Naturals.

Robinson�s progress has been the eye opener. Robinson, selected in the 25th round of the 2007 draft, leads the league with 27 homers and 89 RBIs. He also is hitting .321 with a .403 on-base percentage.

Very soon the Royals will have a bottleneck at first and DH when you add in Billy Butler and Kila Ka�aihue.

�Better too many than not enough,� Picollo said. �It�s a nice problem to have.�

That potential bottleneck will give Moore options down the line, too, to trade one or two of the foursome to fill needs elsewhere.

The Royals also are keeping a close eye on the development of Derrick Robinson, perhaps the fastest player in the organization. Robinson, a centerfielder, stole 62 bases at Class A Wilmington in 2008 and 69 there last season.

This season at Northwest Arkansas, Robinson has stolen 50 bases and is headed for a career-high in average, presently at .285. The issue, though, with Robinson is strikeouts.

�He has been a 100-strikeout guy or close to it each year,� Picollo said, �and obviously that�s not what you want with his speed.�

Robinson has 84 strikeouts this season as Northwest Arkansas nears the playoffs.

“He�s so fast that he can miss-hit balls and get hits,� Picollo said. �Once he can put the ball in play more consistently, it could get pretty exciting. We�re being patient because he�s 22, still young for that league.�

Picollo also is pleased with the progress of second baseman Johnny Giavotella, a second-round pick in 2008. Giavotella, 5 feet 8, 185 pounds, is hitting .319 with six homers, 30 doubles and 58 RBIs.

�Just a tough kid and a real gamer,� Picollo said. �Plays hard. Very strong. He�s got some pop in his bat but probably projects out more as a singles and doubles guy. His range is better and so is his ability to turn double plays.

�He�s a good hitter but he also must understand that defense is going to get him up here.�

The Royals also have highly-touted pitching prospects Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy at Double-A.

Montgomery, a 6-foot-5 left-hander, missed time earlier this season with elbow soreness (the MRI was clean). He�s been hit and miss since his return, though he did throw seven shutout innings two starts ago.

Another left-hander Danny Duffy, who has been dominant in the minors, came back this season after leaving the game for personal reasons in the spring. Duffy has returned to form, posting a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA.

Optimistically, both could be in the big leagues by 2012.

And let�s not forget 5-foot-8 left-handed reliever Tim Collins, acquired in a trade with the Braves. Collins is dominating at Triple-A Omaha, posting two wins, three saves and a 1.50 ERA in 12 games there.

�It all looks promising,� Picollo said. �But we have to keep in mind that until that pipeline produces players that contribute up here, it doesn�t mean much. Getting them here and contributing is the ultimate goal, the only goal.�