|04-11-2003, 11:27 AM||Topic Starter|
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Dutton: Royals say farm system offers more balance than in recent years
Royals say farm system offers more balance than in recent years
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Posted on Fri, Apr. 11, 2003
A change in draft philosophy that accompanied Allard Baird's promotion to general manager in 2000 is finally taking hold throughout the Royals' minor-league system.
After stockpiling pitchers in the late 1990s, the club instituted a more-balanced approach that now, for the first time in years, shows a growing number of high-end position players percolating up the ranks.
"Our position-player depth is probably stronger at A-ball and below," said assistant general manager Muzzy Jackson, who directs the club's player-development operations.
"But over the course of the next two or three years, I think you're going to see us put good, balanced clubs at Double-A and Triple-A."
The organization's top overall prospects are still pitchers -- most notably, right-hander Kyle Snyder at Class AAA Omaha, lefty Jimmy Gobble at Class AA Wichita and 19-year-old sensation Zack Greinke, a righty at Class A Wilmington.
"It's important to have a good mix," Jackson said. "With arbitration and free agency, we know we might have to move guys. That's why we need another wave that's ready to come up together and sustain us over the next five to seven years."
Although this year's lineup has two rookies in shortstop Angel Berroa and designated hitter Ken Harvey, the only other non-pitcher likely to offer much help before next year is outfielder Alexis Gomez.
Opinions in the organization are mixed on Gomez, whose age jumped this year from 22 to 24 after document checks when he applied for a visa to return from the Dominican Republic.
"He's a tools guy," Jackson said. "He has the ability to be a star. Just tremendous physical tools and attributes. But he was a volleyball player who has a limited baseball background. So, he's got a long ways to go in terms of having the actual skills necessary for the major leagues.
"If the skills come, he has a chance to be great. If not, you've got a fourth outfielder who can't hit. That's why people are torn."
But if Gomez, who is currently playing at Omaha, doesn't emerge as a potential long-term replacement if center fielder Carlos Beltran is traded, the Royals also have viable candidates in David DeJesus and Alan Moye.
DeJesus was the organization's minor-league player of the year in 2002 after batting .288 in splitting time at Wilmington and Wichita. Moye arrived this spring from Cincinnati in the trade for reliever Jeff Austin.
One problem: Both are nursing shoulder injuries. DeJesus isn't expected back for another six weeks or so, but Moye should return much sooner.
DeJesus is a scrappy, leadoff type, but Moye offers an alluring mix of speed, power and defense.
"Moye is a potential five-tool guy," Baird said. "Real physical. Can run. He's a true center fielder with above-average raw power. He's also an above-average runner, but he needs to improve his plate discipline."
DeJesus probably will head to Wichita, while Moye is expected to start in Burlington.
Club officials also like their long-term possibilities at catcher and in the middle infield.
Wilmington shortstop Andres Blanco is generally considered the organization's top non-pitching prospect. The Royals consider his defense already to be major-league quality. Behind Blanco, at Class A Burlington, is Angel Sanchez.
Second baseman Ruben Gotay, also at Wilmington, shows pop at the plate. But the Royals also like a pair of converted shortstops, Alejandro Machado at Wichita and Don Murphy at Burlington.
The Royals believe they have three strong catching prospects as eventual replacements for veteran Brent Mayne: Mike Tonis at Wichita and two players splitting time at Burlington, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Tupman.
"Tonis just needs innings," Jackson said. "If he stays healthy, you could possibly see him this year."
The most intriguing non-pitcher in the system is outfielder Roscoe Crosby, a two-sport standout who recently quit his football career at Clemson in order to concentrate full-time on baseball.
Crosby hasn't played baseball since he was a high school senior in 2001 and is only now recovered from surgery on his right elbow. But his potential once drew comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr.
"We're starting him from scratch, day one, as if he's never played baseball before," Jackson said. "Just basic tee work and fundamentals.
"How to throw the ball correctly. How to throw hops. How to read breaks. How to take pitches properly. We want to teach him how to play baseball."
Crosby is likely to play this summer in rookie ball and appears at least three years away from big-league duty. But he's still just 20.