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How the Royals were built

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The *pennant-winning* Royals, mind you.

Dilip Vishwanat

Dayton Moore, Internet punching bag, human knock-knock joke, and giggle-generating general manager, is in the World Series. He's hoping to join the ranks of past GM legends, like Kenny Williams, who actually won the danged thing. This is the same Moore who built some of the most amazing, hilarious rosters (Chris Getz! Yuniesky Betancourt! Willie Bloomquist! Kyle Davies!) of the past 10 years, who was inexplicably extended after a 90-loss season

Trust the Process.

It's easy to be stubborn about this, easy to double-down on the idea that the playoffs are a crapshoot and that any GM can look good. I lived through it with Brian Sabean, watching families get torn apart by the CAN'T-ARGUE-RESULTS and PLAYOFFS-PROVE-NOTHING debates, after 2010. Instead of reinforcing past biases, then, let's actually look at how the Royals were built. We'll limit ourselves to the 25-man roster, though it's not like the Royals have any injury concerns other than Luke Hochevar, which is probably a subject for the near future.

Drafts

Eric Hosmer
Billy Butler
Alex Gordon
Mike Moustakas
Christian Colon
Jarrod Dyson
Terrance Gore
Greg Holland
Brandon Finnegan
Danny Duffy

For most of the last two decades, the Royals have picked at the top of the Rule 4 draft in June. The results had, before this postseason, been underwhelming. It was one of the easiest torpedoes to fire at Moore, a huge flaw in The Process. It's not really as easy as looking at the players the Royals didn't get in the first round, though. You also have to look at the players they avoided.

(Note that Alex Gordon and Billy Butler were already in the system when Moore became the GM.)

Eric Hosmer:

Could have drafted Were lucky to avoid
Buster Posey Brian Matusz
Jason Castro Kyle Skipworth

Yonder Alonso

Gordon Beckham

Justin Smoak

Brett Wallace

Like, literally more than 1,000 others

Mike Moustakas:

Could have drafted Were lucky to avoid
Matt Wieters Josh Vitters
Madison Bumgarner Daniel Moskos
Jason Heyward Matt LaPorta

Casey Weathers

Phillippe Aumont

Beau Mills

Like, literally more than 1,000 others

Christian Colon:

Could have drafted Were lucky to avoid
Matt Harvey Too early to say … but there will be more than 1,000 of them
Chris Sale

By limiting ourselves to the active 25-man roster for the NLCS, we don't get to include Luke Hochevar instead of Clayton Kershaw, or Bubba Starling instead of Anthony Rendon, which was one that people were loudly first-guessing at the time. The Royals could have had a much better roster, using the power of hindsight. Instead of focusing on the columns on the left, take the occasional peek at the columns on the right. The Royals aren't here in spite of the draft; they're here at least partially because of it.

Drafts can get worse. Drafts can get much worse. Getting a little production out of Hosmer and Moustakas, even throughout the ups and downs, is somewhere in the middle of the best- and worst-case scenarios.

The Starling-instead-of-Rendon gambit still ticks me off, though, and I have no attachment to the Royals. The good news is that everyone who wasn't a first-rounder -- Danny Duffy and the like -- has to be considered an unqualified success.

International free agents

Salvador Perez
Yordano Ventura
Kelvin Herrera

Just a few months after hiring Moore, the Royals signed Perez and Herrera. If you're reluctant to give Moore credit for those moves, note that Moore brought Rene Francisco over with him from the Braves and made him special assistant to the GM in charge of international operations. The Royals got a franchise cornerstone in Perez (and that's if he doesn't hit) and an important bullpen cog in Herrera. Only three teams had more international prospects in the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook this year.

Ventura was another steal, an unheralded signing who went mostly overlooked because of his size. Before the season, I wrote about why you should root for Yordano Ventura.

... here's a list of all the Royals' pitching prospects to make Baseball America's top-100 list in the past 20 years:

Jeff Granger
Jim Pittsley
Glendon Rusch
Orber Moreno
Jeff Austin
Dan Reichert
Kyle Snyder
Chris George
Mike MacDougal
Jimmy Gobble
Zack Greinke
Luke Hochevar
Dan Cortes
Noel Arguelles
Aaron Crow
Mike Montgomery
Chris Dwyer
Jake Odorizzi
Danny Duffy
John Lamb
Kyle Zimmer
Yordano Ventura

Even with the Royals in the World Series, that list still makes me physically ill. Smell your computer screen. It smells like sulfur. Now you need a new computer. That's the legacy that Moore had to deal with (and contribute toward) when he took over. Ventura is something of a coup.

Trades

Alcides Escobar
Nori Aoki
Lorenzo Cain
Eric Kratz
Josh Willingham
James Shields
Jeremy Guthrie
Wade Davis
Jason Frasor
Tim Collins

That's an impressive list. If you strip away the context -- say, the players who went the other direction -- it's clear that a huge chunk of the Royals' production this year came from wheelin' and/or dealin'. Total WAR for that bunch this year: 17, which is more important than it looks when you consider that Kratz, Frasor, Willingham, and Collins weren't supposed to be major contributors this year (and weren't).

What we don't have is a list of offers the Royals turned down for Zack Greinke and Wil Myers. That would help. But we do have a legacy of teams trading away their best players and prospects and getting nothing of value in return. The Royals got 33 percent of their lineup and 40 percent of their rotation through trades. If you ignore the idea of Myers possibly turning into a superstar on the cheap -- and for the next 10 days, you're kind of silly if you don't -- it's hard not to be impressed with the quantity-turned-quality that the Royals and Moore accumulated over the last two years.

Moore got Guthrie for a broken Jonathan Sanchez, you know. That's worth quite a few trade ribbons and trade medals.

Free agents

Omar Infante
Jason Vargas

You can probably add Guthrie to this list, in a way, considering he was re-signed to an extension, and all three players have contracts that will almost certainly make the Royals feel like they ate gas station sushi in two years. Eight million to a 35-year-old Infante in 2017 is going to feel like $20 million to the Royals compared to other teams. They'll be limited by the deal.

However, it represents one of Moore's greatest achievements: realizing that second base was a huge, gaping hole. He handed these out at the Winter Meetings.

a

Infante didn't have a good finish to the season, but I can pull up a list of the last 10 players to get at-bats at second base for the Royals and feel confident that Infante is better than each and every one of them. It probably would have made more sense for the Royals to wait and deal for someone like Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline, but now we're in the same woulda/coulda/shoulda zone that we were in for the drafts. There were ways to be worse.

That's almost the slogan for the Moore Era. There were ways to be worse. There were ways to screw up the international scouting completely, or at least prevent it from being a strength. There were ways to Royals up the drafts as bad as they had in the past, and there were ways to turn Zack Greinke into VHS tapes and Wil Myers into someone who didn't help a lick.

Moore has been imperfect. But he's been cagey enough to sneak by us and get into the World Series. If Sean Doolittle doesn't throw that pitch there, or if Bob Melvin lets Jon Lester pitch a little longer, maybe this evaluation isn't so flowery, which means there's too much results-based analysis here. Sure, but I'm not the only one blinded by a pennant. And when you step back and look at the roster, maybe it's worth some time to pick out the things that went right instead of the things that could have gone better.