KC's top prospects figure to be worth the wait
Organization high on Starling, adds overall depth to system with Draft
KANSAS CITY -- The Royals' system is built on patience. That only makes sense, as more than half the players in Kansas City's starting lineup have worked their way through the organization.
From Draft picks like designated hitter Billy Butler, left fielder Alex Gordon, first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas to international free-agent signings like catcher Salvador Perez, the Royals have always been willing to spend a little time developing talent.
The prospect with the most fan attention in Kansas City is 21-year-old outfielder Bubba Starling, a former area high school standout who was selected with the fifth overall pick two years ago. He is the Royals' No. 1 prospect and is ranked 24th overall by MLB.com, but remains with the Class A Lexington Legends. Starling is batting .208 through 52 games with 27 runs and 27 RBIs.
"Bubba's doing great," general manager Dayton Moore said last week. "Once he gets about 1,500 at-bats in the Minor Leagues, we will start evaluating where he is and where his timetable is."
Starling, who underwent Lasik eye surgery in May, is right where Moore wants him to be.
"He is an unbelievable competitor, as we know; he is a terrific athlete, he comes from a great family -- he will be fine," Moore said. "He is where he needs to be, and we are proud of what he's accomplished so far."
Kyle Zimmer, the pitcher Kansas City picked up in the first round of the 2012 Draft, is right behind Starling as the No. 2 prospect. He's with the Wilmington Blue Rocks and is 0-6 on the year with a 6.32 ERA.
The Royals' No. 3 prospect, Yordano Ventura, made his Triple-A pitching debut on Thursday, when he allowed only one run on one hit and four walks with six strikeouts in five innings for the Storm Chasers. In Double-A, he was 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 11 games this season before moving up.
Ventura signed with Kansas City in 2008 and had a breakout season last year with Wilmington, where he struck out 98 batters in 76 1/3 innings. He was also named a Carolina League All-Star.
Second baseman Christian Colon has been rising through the ranks since he was drafted in the first round in 2010. He is playing for the Storm Chasers, batting .227 with 26 runs and 23 RBIs in 52 games. Colon was promoted to Omaha in 2012 and is listed as the Royals' No. 10 prospect.
Kansas City also has pitcher Danny Duffy up in Omaha rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last year. He has yet to make his first rehab start in Triple-A, but he will likely be called back up by the end of the season if all goes well. Duffy is joined by center fielder Jarrod Dyson, who is rehabbing from a high ankle sprain.
Pitching may be the greatest asset the Royals have at this time, but they are always looking to improve their depth with young talent. This year, they brought in a crop of 21 new pitchers in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
"We always go into the Draft with the philosophy in mind that we always need pitching, and we like to get a bat or two," said assistant general manager for scouting and player development J.J. Picollo.
The Royals opened this year's Draft with a position player in Hunter Dozier. The shortstop from Stephen F. Austin was the eighth overall pick. They added three shortstops and a flurry of other position players -- at least one new player for each spot in the lineup.
"I think we've addressed our position needs, and then you still get the pitchers thrown in there," Picollo said. "In the end, I think we will be stronger in both areas. Whether one outweighs the other, time will tell."
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.