Not to be a buzzkill or anything, because plainly the Pirates are a lot more interesting than they were a year ago, and I enjoy watching the games a lot more now that the lineup contains Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker. But has anyone seen what the Royals have been up to lately? Not the major league team, which obviously is pretty bad, but their minor league system, where they have a ton of players whose numbers (and ages) jump off the page. Ironically, the Royals got some bad press recently when pitcher Zack Greinke said he wasn't particularly enthused about the team's rebuilding effort. But that effort deserves more positive attention than it's gotten. Here are some of the key names:
-P- Mike Moustakas, 21, 3B, 1st round, 2007: .316/.368/.606 at Classes AA and AAA. The Royals moved Moustakas up after he posted middling numbers at Class A+ last year, and he has responded with 26 homers so far.
-P- Eric Hosmer, 20, 1B, 1st round, 2008: .341/.415/.564 at Classes A+ and AA. Hosmer struggled a bit last year, but so far this year he has 56 extra-base hits.
-P- Wil Myers, 19, C, 3rd round, 2009: .322/.435/.504 at Class A and Class A+, which is ridiculous for his age.
-P- John Lamb, 20, SP, 5th round, 2008: 1.73 ERA, 137 K, 34 BB in 124.2 innings at Classes A, A+, and AA.
-P- Mike Montgomery, 21, SP, 1st round, 2008: 1.76 ERA, 73 K, 18 BB in 71.2 innings at rookie ball and Classes A+ and AA.
This, actually, is what a rebuilding effort should look like. I have no faith that Royals GM Dayton Moore can turn this group of players into an actual contending team, but this could very well be the core of a contending team. It's interesting that, while the big-league Royals have recently been noteworthy mostly for pointlessly acquiring veterans like Jason Kendall and Rick Ankiel, they've pursued pretty much the same strategy in the draft that the Pirates have - spend tons and tons of money. This offseason, when those top-100 prospects lists start coming out, the Royals will probably have all of these guys in the top 50.
Certainly, Pedro Alvarez compares favorably to most of these guys, but there isn't anyone else in the Pirates' minor league system right now who does. Some of that certainly is bad luck, as Starling Marte is definitely someone who could have had a breakout year like the one that, say, Myers is having, but Marte and several other top prospects got involved in weird injuries this year. It's also worth pointing out that at this point last year, the Royals' farm system looked like it was all fancy draft picks and little to show for them - Moustakas and Hosmer were coming off mediocre seasons, and Myers and Lamb hadn't done much yet. When you shoot for the stars in the draft, things can come together quickly. But as much as there have been lots of interesting developments this year involving Pirates players now in the big leagues (Walker and Tabata, in particular), and as much as I think their 2010 draft has the chance to be a great one if they sign Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie, it's been a very disappointing season so far in the minor leagues.