The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series. The AL Central team that was seemingly in a perennial rebuild suddenly has put itself in a great position. They won the 1985 World Series and this was the first time they were back in the playoffs. They have now gone 8-0 this postseason and will represent the American League in the World Series.
The Twins have had a run of four-straight 90-loss seasons, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Royals roster and see how their players were acquired. Are there similarities between the Twins and the Royals?
I always write and talk about how important it is for the Twins to develop their core and then supplement it with free agents or through trades to find final pieces. Both the 1987 and 1991 World Series championship Minnesota Twins teams had strong cores. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Greg Gagne were part of both cores. The 1987 team included Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola who were on the teams when they were losing a lot of games. Dan Gladden, Juan Berenguer and Jeff Reardon were added. Gladden became part of the core of the 1991 team.
The core of the Royals roster are four first-round picks.
Billy Butler was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Alex Gordon was the #2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Mike Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Eric Hosmer was the #3 pick in the 2008 draft. All four of these players have certainly had their ups and downs in their big league career. Fans complain about the lack of power shown by Butler and Hosmer. Alex Gordon struggled early in his career and switched positions. Mike Moustakas has struggled with the bat, and in fact, he was sent down to AAA this year because he was playing so poorly.
Other guys that they have drafted and developed are around the roster. Closer Greg Holland was the team’s 10th round pick in 2007. Lefty Danny Duffy was their third round pick in 2008. Jarrod Dyson was the team’s 50th round pick in 2006. Yes, I meant to type 50th.
In addition, the Royals signed some of their new core as international free agents. Flamethrower Yordano Ventura was signed from the Dominican Republic in 2008. Fellow Triple-Digit tosser Kelvin Herrera signed in 2006. Salvador Perez, who is one of the best catchers in baseball offensively and defensively, signed out of Venezuela in 2006.
In addition, reliever Brandon Finnegan became the first person to play in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year. The lefty pitched for TCU this spring, was selected with the 17th overall pick in June, and was up in September. He played a huge role in the Division Series.
The Royals then made a few trades that have had a huge effect on their roster, and on this year’s results. There were a couple of completely opposite trades.
When the Royals were struggling and had a terrific starting pitcher in Zach Greinke, they were able to trade him to Milwaukee. The Brewers sent Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and the ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain in that deal.
Odorizzi was on the other end of a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago. Instead of acquiring prospects, the Royals traded one of baseball’s top prospects, Wil Myers, along with Odorizzi and more in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields had become an Ace for the Rays and pitched in the playoffs and the World Series. Davis was a soft-throwing starter who was being moved to the bullpen. The Royals gave him a shot to start last year, but he became arguably baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2014.
In addition, the Royals traded soft-tossing lefty reliever Will Smith to the Brewers last offseason for outfield Nori Aoki. They acquired reliever Jason Frasor at the Trade Deadline for a minor leaguer. They also got Josh Willingham from the Twins in mid-August.
With that core having gained some experience and the Royals starting to show signs of life, they supplemented their team with some free agent signings.
In July of 2012, the Royals traded left Jonathan Sanchez to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie. Both pitchers had struggled immensely and maybe a change of scenery would help/ Well, Guthrie pitched well down the stretch and turned it into a three year deal worth $25.2 million deal with the Royals. Though he has been about league average in those two seasons, he has worked a combined 214.1 innings for the team.
After letting Ervin Santana go elsewhere after the 2013 season, the Royals signed very soft-tossing left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract. The move was widely criticized at the time, but Vargas pitched well in the first year.
After trotting out guys like Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz at second base in recent years, the Royals gave Omar Infante a four year, $30.25 million contract to be their second basement. Granted, the 32-year-old hit just .252/.295/.337 (.632), but he has 13 years of big league experience which likely helped the club in some way.
After getting released by the Angels in June, veteran Raul Ibanez signed with the Royals. He hit just .188 with six extra base hits in 90 plate appearances.
Consider this: Had the Twins gone out and signed free agents like Guthrie, Vargas and Infante, would those moves have excited the Twins fan base? Do they scream "OK, now, we're heading to the World Series?"
The Royals have a pretty young core of talent that should allow them to make a run for a few years. In their regular lineup, Omar Infante is the only hitter over the age of 30. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer are still under 25 while Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakus are all 28 or less.
Yordano Ventura is 23, and Danny Duffy is 25. Meanwhile, James Shields becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the 32-year-old could bolt for big money. Jeremy Guthrie is 35 and Jason Vargas is 32. They’ll need to develop a couple more pitchers and possibly sign one or two to replace Shields.
The bullpen is full of hard throwers, and they are quite young. The forgotten name might be 2009 first-round pick Aaron Crow who was very good the last couple of years before struggling a little bit in 2014.
A reminder of the Royals first round picks in the last decade:
· 2004 (14) – Billy Butler – High School
· 2005 (2) – Alex Gordon – College – Nebraska
· 2006 (1) – Luke Hochevar – College – Tennessee
· 2007 (2) – Mike Moustakas – High School
· 2008 (3) – Eric Hosmer – High School
· 2009 (12) – Aaron Crow – College – Missouri
· 2010 (4) – Christian Colon – College – Cal State Fullerton
· 2011 (5) – Bubba Starling – High School
· 2012 (5) – Kyle Zimmer – College – San Francisco
· 2013 (8) – Hunter Dozier – College – Stephen F. Austin
· 2013 (34) – Sean Manaea – College – Indiana State
· 2014 (18) – Brandon Finnegan – College – TCU
The Royals have had a boatload of very high draft picks and for the most part, they have made good on them. Hochevar was moved to the bullpen in 2013 and posted an ERA south of two. He had Tommy John surgery this spring. Colon made his MLB debut in 2014. Starling, Zimmer and Dozier are all participating in the Arizona Fall League.
HOW DO THE TWINS COMPARE?
Are the Twins doing any of the things that have made the Royals successful this year? Head on over to Twins Daily now to see how the Twins system compares to the Royals of previous years and where it could lead.