Every day in spring training until we finish the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. Next stop is Surprise! where the Royals can't wait for slugging superprospect Eric Hosmer(notes) (pictured) to hurry up and get to the majors.
2010 RECORD: 67-95, fifth in AL Central
BIGGEST ACQUISITIONS: Left-hander Jeff Francis(notes) had two solid seasons with the Rockies, but suffered injuries the past two years ... Outfielder Lorenzo Cain(notes), via Milwaukee, was the best major league-ready player acquired by general manager Dayton Moore in the Zack Greinke(notes) deal.
BIGGEST DEPARTURE: The AL Cy Young winner in 20009, Greinke never played on a team that won more than 75 games. Unwilling to wait for GM Dayton Moore's farm system to bear fruit, Greinke asked for a trade.
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ROYALS
1. How long until reinforcements come? The Royals have been named the top organization by Baseball America and others. Infielders such as Hosmer and Mike Moustakas(notes), catcher-turned-outfielder Wil Myers(notes), along with left-handers John Lamb(notes) and Mike Montgomery(notes) make up what Fangraphs calls, possibly, the best farm system in a decade. The Royals, probably, will be in position to win very soon. That's a foreign concept for an organization that has had one winning season since 1995 and hasn't had a playoff berth since it won the World Series in 1985. Prediction: The Royals go .500 in 2012 and win the AL Central in 2013. And then every season thereafter.
2. Can Dayton Moore get them over the hump? Being a small-market team, the Royals have to draft well and develop players to succeed. They appear to be doing that, but there's more to running an organization than the draft and Moore's overall performance in other areas like free agency has been poor. It's probably one of the reasons Greinke pushed for a trade: He didn't trust Moore's process and didn't want to be locked into a loser for another 5-10 years. Ned Yost, by the way, begins his first full season as manager.
3. Is Billy Butler(notes) on the verge of stardom? He looks like a young Jeff Bagwell to me, which should be high praise except nobody likes Bagwell all of a sudden for no good reason. Butler's ballpark, cool as Kauffman Stadium is, with its fountains and huge TV, works against him in the power department. Otherwise, he's got drool-worthy stats. Butler ought to be the next Royals player to break the 30-homer barrier. They haven't had a 30-homer guy since Jermaine Dye(notes) in 2000. Believe it or not, they've only had 10 30-homer guys ever and no one has hit more than the 36 that Steve Balboni hit in 1985. (When the Royals used to win in the '70s and '80s, they did it with speed and George Brett.)
4. What does the outfield look like? Alex Gordon(notes), who once upon a time was a top prospect, is still trying establish himself as a major leaguer. He has the inside track in left. Cain and Melky Cabrera(notes) will vie for center, and Jeff Francoeur(notes) — everyone's favorite ex-Brave, ex-Met, ex-Cetera — has a strong throwing arm in right. At the plate, he's had two above-average seasons and four terrible ones.
5. Is Bruce Chen(notes) still there? He is, though he and agent Scott Boras failed to get a multi-year contract after Chen had one of the best years of his career. The other pitchers in the rotation are talented but none — except for Francis — has established any kind of major league consistency. Luke Hochevar(notes) has the best stuff, but he hasn't translated it into any kind of big league success.