Royals' Youth Movement Still Short Starting Pitchers

KANSAS CITY, MO - Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals slides in to score a run in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

This weekend, Kansas City Royals prospect Mike Moustakas will take over at third base for the foreseeable future. This is probably a good thing. As John Sickels writes, "in the long run he will be a source of consistent power and solid defense. He's only 22 years old, and with a normal age curve he should develop into an All-Star caliber slugger."

With Eric Hosmer already playing well for the big club, the Royals have graduated their top two hitting prospects to the majors, with both of them slightly ahead of schedule. The Process seems to be working, at least with Homer and Moustakas.

But a baseball team cannot live on bats alone, particularly a team with severely limited financial resources. The Process will work only if the organization's homegrown hitters are accompanied by homegrown starting pitchers. And in that regard the jury is still very, very much out.

Granted, Danny Duffy's currently in the Royals' rotation and there's no questioning his stuff. But in five starts, he's 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA and has nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Duffy's ahead of schedule and probably just needs more experience, whether with the Royals or back in Class AAA.

What about the others, though? Before the season, John Sickels ranked Duffy the 12th-best pitching prospect in baseball, but had four other Royal starters in the top 45: Mike Montgomery (14), John Lamb (19), Jake Odorizzi (23) and Chris Dwyer (44).

Surely, one or two of those guys will be ready to join Duffy this season or next, right?

Maybe.

Lamb had Tommy John Surgery last week. Montgomery is really struggling with triple-A Omaha. Dwyer's got a 6.89 ERA with double-A Northwest Arkansas. Really, at this moment the only bright spot is Odorizzi ... but he's doing his damage in the Class A Carolina League, and is at least a year from even beginning to pitch for the big club. Let alone helping them actually win games.

None of this means the Royals have done, or are doing, anything wrong. It just points to the exceptionally difficult nature of developing young pitchers, and relying on them to anchor a rotation in the majors. The Giants have done it, and the A's have sort of done it. But so many teams try, and so many fail. I will believe in The Process when the Royals have three homegrown starting pitchers with 200 innings and better-than-average FIP stats.

And I'm not holding my breath until it happens.

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