How the Kansas City Royals built a championship club


SEPTEMBER 2015 – After crowned the American League champions last year and entering September with the AL best record, let’s examine how these Kansas City Royals were built by general manager Dayton Moore and his lieutenants.

It began a decade ago with the selection of Alex Gordon, the second overall pick in the 2005 draft. Gordon appeared to be a bust early, with sub-par batting averages – .215 in 2010 and .232 in 2009 – and just average power. Then Kevin Seitzer modified his swing — a .303 average with a career high 23 home runs in 2011 – and the Royals moved him from third base to left field, where he has won Gold Gloves the past four years.

In 2006, the Royals had the first overall pick. The Royals shied away from Evan Longoria, a third baseman who was picked third overall, but the Royals had chosen Gordon, a third baseman in 2005. The 2006 draft included first-round picks Clayton Kershaw, seventh, Tim Linecum, 10th and Max Scherzer, 11th, all future Cy Young Award winners. Imagine a Royals’ rotation of Kershaw and Zack Greinke? The Los Angeles Dodgers can.

Instead, the Royals selected right-hander Luke Hochevar one-one. Hochevar was mediocre as a starter, but thrived after moving to the bullpen in 2013. He missed last season after elbow surgery, but the Royals retained him as a free agent.

While Hochevar went first, in the 50th and final round in 2006, the Royals drafted speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson out of Southwest Mississippi Junior College. They also signed a couple of international free agents: Venezuela catcher Salvador Perez and Dominican right-hander Kelvin Herrera. That turned out OK, you think?

It was a very good year for the Royals in 2007, well not in the final standings, 69-93 record, but in the draft. They picked third baseman Mike Moustakas second overall. In the third round, they selected left-hander Danny Duffy. In the 10th round, they selected Western Carolina closer Greg Holland.

Moustakas, like Gordon earlier, seemed to be a kaput choice. He hit .212 in 2014 and was sent to the minors for eight games. He had a .236 average in 514 career games entering 2015, which turned out to be a breakout season. He was voted to the All-Star team and started using the whole field instead of being a dead pull hitter.

Royals ReportIn 2008 with the third overall pick, the Royals drafted Eric Hosmer, a Plantation, Florida High School first baseman. They also signed Dominican right-hander Yordano Ventura, who would soon be labeled “Ace” Ventura with a fastball reaching 100 miles per hour.

Also in 2008, the Royals traded veteran left-hander Horacio Ramirez to the Chicago White Sox for a little known Class A Brazilian outfielder by the name of Paulo Orlando that was barely mentioned in the agate type on the transactions page.

Moore pulled off a trade on December 19, 2010 that raised eyebrows, but eventually was critical in turning the Royals around. Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award winner, was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Royals received four players in return, including shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

Escobar and Cain have developed into All-Stars and their defense is extraordinary. Think the Royals would be in first without those two?

Odorizzi was flipped two Decembers later as part of a deal with the Royals receiving Wade Davis and James Shields. Davis, like Hochevar, was a flawed starter, but has been nearly spotless since moving to the bullpen fulltime in September 2013.

Also, in July 2012, the Royals acquired – stolen might be a better word — Jeremy Guthrie from the Colorado Rockies for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. Guthrie soon became a rotation fixture.

In 2013, the Royals dabbled in the free agent market, signing second baseman Omar Infante and left-handed starter Jason Vargas.

In 2014, the Royals picked left-hander Brandon Finnegan in the first round and by October he was a member of the Royals’ World Series bullpen.

After the 2014 season, they signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales, outfielder Alex Rios and right-handers Edinson Volquez, Kris Medlin and Yokan Pino. In spring training 2015, they signed free agent left-hander Franklin Morales and right-hander Chris Young. They also signed right-handers Ryan Madson and Joe Blanton to minor league contracts with spring training invites. All have contributed to the club this year with Kendrys Morales leading the club in victories and Volquez topping the club in victories.

Early in the season, the Royals acquired backup catcher Drew Butera in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels. Just before the July 31 trading deadline without a player having to clear waivers, the Royals acquired No. 1 starter Johnny Cueto in a blockbuster with the Cincinnati Reds that included Finnegan. They also obtained utility player nonpareil Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics soon after trading for Cueto.

Ten of the Royals’ 25-man roster began their career with the Royals. They are Hochevar, Gordon, Dyson, Moustakas, Hosmer, Holland, Herrera, Ventura, Duffy and Perez.

Eight Royals came via the trade route – Cueto, Zobrist, Davis, Butera, Orlando, Escobar, Guthrie, and Cain.

Plus, seven were free agent signings: Kendrys Morales, Franklin Morales, Volquez, Rios, Infante, Medlin and Madson.

Three Royals pitchers on the disabled list all began their careers with other organizations. Left-handers Tim Collins and Brian Flynn were acquired in trades with the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins, while Vargas was a free agent signee.

Article by Alan Eskew

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