by John Unrein
The Kansas City Royals have been a small market baseball franchise since their inception in 1969. Ewing Kauffman, the original owner of the Royals was aware from the outset of the unfair nature of the economics affiliated with baseball. Kauffman insisted that the Royals would find long term success through building the organization from the foundation up. The anchor for this endeavor would be the development of a strong farm system by investment in scouting, player development, and avoiding adding an abundance of older veteran players to the original rosters.
The Los Angeles Dodgers provided Kauffman a blueprint that he would use to find triumph. An emphasis would be placed on accumulating pitching talent and athletic position players through the Major League Baseball draft. The borrowed model worked as the Royals had their first winning season in 1971 with a record of 85-76, good for second place in the American League West. That same year the Royals selected George Brett in the first round (29th overall) of the MLB amateur draft.
Kansas City would make its first playoff appearance in 1976. The roster was abundant with homegrown talent. Names like Brett, Frank White, John Wathan, Paul Splittorff, Dennis Leonard, Jamie Quirk, Al Cowens, and Steve Busby littered the lineup with talent, marking the investment Kauffman had made from the outset in finding and growing young players with ability. A process that has repeated itself throughout the history of the Royals.
The Royals would make World Series appearances in 1980, 1985, 2014, and 2015, winning the Commissioner’s Trophy in 1985 and 2015. Those titles were savored by former Royals farmhands with the names of Bret Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, Danny Jackson, Mark Gubicza, Bud Black, and Buddy Biancalana during 1985. Thirty years later it would Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson, Mike Moustakas, Aldaberto Mondesi, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, Yordano Ventura, and Greg Holland who had made the trip down Interstate 29 from the club’s AAA affiliate in Omaha to One Royal Way in Kansas City.
History appears ready to repeat itself with a plethora of homegrown talent emerging in the Royals farm system. The Royals are currently ranked with the 10th best minor league talent in all professional baseball per MLB Network as of March 15th. The organization has three players ranked in the Top 30 prospects by MLB, with shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. (Number 7), left handed pitcher Daniel Lynch (Number 29), and left handed pitcher Asa Lacy (Number 30). General Manager Dayton Moore and his staff have found success again turning draft picks into prospects knocking on the proverbial big league door for the Royals.
The following is a breakdown of player ratings, how the players were acquired, their position, and estimated ETA for the Royals Top 100 prospects as first reported by Anne Rogers for MLB Pipeline.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 60 -- Witt Jr.
Power: 60 -- Witt Jr.
Run: 65 -- Brewer Hicklen
Arm: 70 -- Seuly Matias
Defense: 70 -- Nick Pratto
Fastball: 75 -- Samuel Valerio
Curveball: 60 -- Alec Marsh (Austin Cox, Noah Murdock)
Slider: 60 -- Lynch (Lacy)
Changeup: 70 – Jackson Kowar
Control: 60 -- Jonathan Bowlan
How they were built
Draft: 20 | International: 8 | Trade: 2
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 9 | 2022: 11 | 2023: 6 | 2024: 3 | 2025: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 1 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 0 | SS: 5 | OF: 6 | RHP: 12 | LHP: 5
What does all of this mean for the Royals heading into the 2021 season? Confidence is high among the team and smiles are plentiful. Both Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy have been quoted by the media in saying that they are having a blast competing again and that this is the most confidence they have seen by a Royals team since 2014 and 2015. This leaves Royals fans with something to look forward to as the home opener on April 1st approaches against the Texas Rangers.