The Royals came into the season with the top farm system in the Majors, and a lot of low-risk, high-upside acquisitions. There was some definite positives this year though, and Will McDonald of Royals Review was nice enough to take the time to answer our questions on the season.
On the Personnel Moves:
MLBDD: Clearly, one of the more pleasant surprises this year has been the performances of free agent signings Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. That said, there was a lot of grief on the Internet about the extension given to Francoeur. What are your thoughts on the extension?
WM: I wasn't a huge fan. When the Royals signed Francoeur last off-season, the pro-Francoeur camp was saying, "it's not that much money, and if he rebounds, he's a great trade chip." Well, the Royals didn't trade Francoeur, they doubled-down. Moore has done this before. There's a part of me that feels queasy about the extenstion because it smacks of a gentlemen's agreement beforehand, and really, the Royals should be more interested in locking up Alex Gordon than Francoeur. Francoeur can be a 2-3 win player, he's always going to be overrated by the mainstream media and probably underrated by the saber guys. I don't think Royals fans will be happy with this contract in a year, but we'll see.
My Thoughts: Francoeur's extension is for 2 years, $13.5 million. That said, I agree with Will that they probably could have done better to try and move him for a prospect or two at the trading deadline. While it is money that could probably have been better spent on an extension for Gordon, we don't really know whether or not that is something that either side is interested in.
Keep reading after the jump to hear Will's thoughts on the rookie class in KC, the Zack Greinke trade, and potential offseason moves by the Royals....
On the New Arrivals in Kansas City:
MLBDD: We've started to see some of this vaunted farm system up in Kansas City, with Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Danny Duffy among the rookies called up. How do you feel they have done this season, and is there one rookie that really surprised you with his performance to date?
WM: Hosmer ended up holding his own more than I expected. A 118 OPS + is isn't insanely awesome for a 1B, but the fact that he displayed healthy amounts of power at such a young age is very encouraging. A 21 year old slugging .465, in 2011's run environment? I'll take it. Moose was a little hard to evaluate, I'm not a huge fan of his game going forward, but I think he can have a peak as an above average player. Duffy's year, well, it just seems like it was a waste. He was a below average starter and the Royals were a bad team, so... what was the point? There's the school of thought that says he "took his lumps" and gained experience in 2011, and maybe that is important. Next year will be huge for him. Typically, pitchers are what they are fairly quickly.
My Thoughts: Hosmer really looks like he's going to be a special player, as he adjusted quickly to the Majors. It remains to be seen yet about Moustakas and Duffy, but there is something to be said about taking their lumps at the Major League level. I also like the fact that they have been bringing up players one or two at a time, as opposed to having all of them come up in one shot.
On the Minor League System:
MLBDD: Elsewhere in the minors, there have been some definite ups-and-downs due to injuries and struggles. Is there one prospect who has really emerged to you as a legitimate Major League prospect, and is there one who has really fallen in your own mind?
WM: Seemingly all the Royals A-list prospects had middling or rough seasons. It wasn't a disaster, but it wasn't 2010 either, when basically everyone who mattered in the system had a great year. To be honest, I don't worry about the pitchers too much. It's a pile of arms and 20% or so will emerge as useful, that's just how it works. Wil Myers is now at an interesting place going forward. Baseball America had him as the #10 prospect in baseball heading into this season, but in his first stint at AA, he just didn't hit well (.745 OPS). He's still a great prospect that any organization in the game would want, and he was transitioning to a new level and new position. Nevertheless, the idea that he would be contributing at the Major League level in 2012, which people were talking about last year, seems unlikely.
My Thoughts: It seems like it should not have been a surprise to see some regression in a system where nearly everything seemed to go right in 2010. The key I think is that there were a few bright spots, as Jake Odorizzi pitched well at High-A Wilmington for the first half of the season, and Lorenzo Cain performed well at AAA also.
On the Zack Greinke Trade, One Year Later:
MLBDD: It's been nearly a full season without Zack Greinke. How do you feel now about the trade, and the players the Royals received in return?
ZM: Alcides Escobar was the only player who made a Major League impact in 2012. He's an all-glove guy who probably is a little overrated defensively, simply because he's spoken about SO glowingly. Lorenzo Cain has a nice year in the PCL, but so did everyone in the PCL. With the Royals now invested in Francoeur and apparently committed to Melky for another season, Cain doesn't really have a place to play. Jeremy Jeffress is just a guy so that leaves Jake Odorizzi. Meh. He has some fans, but in the end, he's a guy at AA. Personally, I don't think it was a great trade. Escobar's a nice enough player, but all-glove SSes who are out machines at the plate actually aren't that hard to find. We'll never know how bad the situation had become vis-a-vis the Royals and Greinke, and the Royals didn't have huge options. Nevertheless, it is a little ironic that now fans are talking about making a trade for a starter for 2012. Hmm...
My Thoughts: It's hard to argue that it hasn't gone the way they'd hoped, but it also seems that it is a bit of a problem of their own making, given the contract extension given to Jeff Francoeur. It seems like a waste to have Cain back in AAA again for another season after his performance there this year, but it seems like an even bigger waste to put him on the bench as a 4th or 5th outfielder.
On Potential Offseason Moves:
MLBDD: Is there one addition that you would like to see Dayton Moore make for 2012 to help this team continue to improve?
WM: I'm in the minority, I think, but I don't know if the Royals should "go for it" in 2012. My sense is that the offense is unlikely to be much better in 2012 and the pitching has miles to go. The move to make, should he choose to do it, is to improve the starting rotation. We're all sharing various prospects for pitchers trades and everyone has their favorites. I do think that's the right move to make -- I just don't know if 2012 is the time to do it.
My Thoughts: Even in a relatively weak division, the Royals pitching staff currently seems to be Luke Hochevar and 4 other guys. Until they can get at least one solid starting pitcher, it's hard to see them being competitive for a playoff spot. While there is the potential for a trade to acquire a high-end starting pitcher, I'm not really visualizing a good match at the moment for them.
Thanks again to Will for taking the time to answer our questions.