KC places six prospects in MLB.com's Top 50
Moustakas, Hosmer ranked No. 1 at their respective positions
KANSAS CITY -- Third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer intrigued the fans at last weekend's Royals FanFest. No wonder, because they head the franchise's formidable class of emerging prospects.
Moustakas, the team's top pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, is a step ahead of Hosmer, the first-round choice in '08. But the Royals feel both are close to helping lead a turnaround in the fortunes of Kansas City.
They aren't the only two, by any means.
In fact, six Royals Minor Leaguers were among MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects for 2011, which were announced on Tuesday. That matches the most by any one organization in the eight-year history of the rankings.
In 2006, the Dodgers and the D-backs each had six players on the preseason list, and in '04, the Angels had six on the postseason list. This year, the Royals' six is twice as many as any organization other than Tampa Bay, which landed four on the list.
After Hosmer signed, he heard from general manager Dayton Moore and player development boss J.J. Picollo about their ambitious plans for revitalizing the Royals.
"The first couple of years coming in, talking to Dayton and to J.J., they're saying, 'Listen, we want to build this thing from the ground up in player development.' And you say, 'Yeah,' but you don't really realize it," Hosmer said.
"And then last year in Double-A, seeing all the guys doing what we did, in winning the championship, Dayton and all those guys were right with what they're telling you. You can actually see it now and it's going to be fun."
Among the Top 50 Prospects, Moustakas is ranked No. 7 and Hosmer No. 8, accentuating their close proximity ascending the ranks. Each was rated first at his position.
They have plenty of company.
Left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery is ranked No. 14, catcher Wil Myers is No. 16, left-handed pitcher John Lamb is No. 34 and right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi is No. 37.
All except Odorizzi were drafted and signed by the Royals. Odorizzi was acquired in the trade that sent ace pitcher Zack Greinke to the Brewers.
"We've gotten a lot of recognition and a lot of individuals have been recognized," Picollo said. "It's nice, because the scouts have been doing the job and signing the right guys. Their makeup is good, their talent is good and it just kind meshes well and you see them moving up through the system well."
Moustakas is considered the closest to making the Majors, perhaps as soon as this Spring Training, although the company line is he might need more time at Triple-A. Yet he batted .293 last year in 52 games with Omaha after ripping through 66 Double-A games with a .347 mark for Northwest Arkansas. Combined, he socked 36 homers to tie for the most in the Minors.
"He's got more Minor League at-bats [than Hosmer], he's played in Triple-A and the season he had last year was about as good as you could possibly have," Picollo said. "He's a mature kid. The thing you worry about with some guys is when they get to the big leagues they're going to get overwhelmed with the money, the travel, the things that come with being a Major Leaguer. With Mike, he's the same kid now as when he signed up. I would expect he'll stay that way."
Hosmer, like Moustakas a left-handed batter, roared to a .354 average in 87 games for Class A Advanced Wilmington. Promoted to Double-A just after Moustakas left for Triple-A, Hosmer hit .313 in 50 games and popped 13 home runs -- plus six more in the Texas League playoffs.
Montgomery and Lamb also pitched in for Northwest Arkansas' championship season. Naturals manager Brian Poldberg has been in the organization for many years.
"It's been so nice to watch the change in the talent level," Poldberg said. "One year we'd have good pitching, the next year we'd have good hitting and the next year maybe neither. This year, we had both, and it made my job a lot easier, I'll tell you that."
Montgomery, 5-4 for the Naturals, is 15-10 with a 2.27 ERA in his three seasons. Lamb, oddly enough, is also 15-10 with a 2.83 ERA in his two seasons. Like Montgomery, Lamb pitched for three teams last year, and his best marks were 5-3 with a 1.45 ERA with Wilmington.
The two left-handers will be among a posse of pitching prospects in the Royals' Major League camp that will include fellow lefties Everett Teaford, Noel Arguelles, Tim Collins, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, Blaine Hardy and Will Smith.
"It's exciting for every one of us," Lamb said. "I realize as a player that I'm not battling Mike Montgomery or I'm not battling Chris Dwyer and any of the other lefties to get to the Major Leagues. I feel like personally when I'm ready, I'll be there. Working with a group of such extremely talented lefties as we have at such a young age, it's easy to learn and pick up things every day, especially if it's a four- or five-man lefty rotation."
Myers, a right-handed batter, just completed his second season and hit .315 with 14 home runs and 83 RBIs for two Class A teams. He played several positions in high school, but now he's rated as the second-best catching prospect in the nation.
Odorizzi spent all of last season with the Brewers' Class A Wisconsin club and was 7-3 and a 3.43 ERA, with 135 strikeouts and just 40 walks in 120 2/3 innings. He was the key to the Greinke trade.
Moustakas is 22 years old, Hosmer and Montgomery are 21 and Lamb, Myers and Odorizzi each are 20.
In addition to those players in the Top 50, the Royals' Christian Colon was rated the ninth-best shortstop prospect, and Johnny Giavotella was rated the 10th best at second base.
"It starts with ownership. They've given us the ability to go sign good players," Picollo said. "And then it comes down to our scouts; we know it takes time. The first couple of years, we took a lot of high school kids, so we were committing to four or five years. Now, we're getting into that fifth year. In the meantime, we tried to inject some college players that were a little further along and they've sort of arrived at the same time, so there's a complete picture. The biggest step is getting to the big leagues, but it's coming together."
Hosmer boiled it down to a simple sentence.
"We've got some talent, that's for sure," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.