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KC's Minors depth starts to take shape

KC's Minors depth starts to take shape

At the start of the season, and in MLB.com's organizational preview, it was stated that the strength of the Royals' farm system laid near the bottom, in A-ball. A commitment to the First-Year Player Draft along with being able to take impact players high up in the first round had enabled Kansas City to stockpile young talent, even if it was a little further away from the big leagues.

So, how did that work out in 2009?

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Considering that two of those impact first-rounders, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, didn't completely set the world on fire, it still kind of went according to plan. Wilmington, the Royals' affiliate in the Class A Carolina League, played over .600 ball and made the playoffs. Down a notch in the Class A Midwest League, Burlington made a nice run to the championship round, losing to Fort Wayne. In the rookie-level Pioneer League, Idaho Falls played .581 ball, though it missed the playoffs.

Much of that success comes directly from adding depth to the system via the Draft in recent years. In 2009, it was no different, though the organization did try to even out the bottom-heaviness of the system.

"Our main goal, through the Draft this year, was to achieve some balance," said J.J. Picollo, Kansas City's assistant general manager for scouting and player development. "We'd been very much high school-oriented the first few years under [general manager] Dayton Moore.

"We needed some college players, some advanced players, to help our system more quickly. You can see that pattern in the first three picks: an advanced college pitcher, a high-ceiling high school bat, then another college pitcher."

In a perfect world, those college arms like first-rounder Aaron Crow can jump on the fast track and join the young talent that was in A-ball in 2009 and create a solid wave of talent that hits Kansas City all at about the same time.

While that's going on, the Royals will continue to deal with other weaknesses in the system. One used to be left-handed pitching, but with Danny Duffy (2007 Draft), Mike Montgomery ('08) and then Chris Dwyer ('09), that's not as big of an issue.

"Going into 2007, we didn't have any left-handed pitching prospects to speak of," Picollo said. "We wanted to address that, and I think we have over the past couple of years. When we look at our system, that's an area we really improved on.

"We also tried to address the athlete question. We've drafted some [plus] runners over the past few years. Trying to get those types of athletes into our system will continue to be a priority."

MLB.com's Preseason Picks

Mike Moustakas, 3B: After such a strong second half in '08, it looked like Moustakas was poised to be the best hitter in the Carolina League in 2009. He may have fallen short of that, but there still was a lot to like about the 20-year-old. He finished second in the organization with 86 RBIs and hit 16 homers to go along with 32 doubles. The plus bat speed is very much there, and he should just get better with age.

Daniel Duffy, LHP: Nothing like being spot-on with a prediction. It was written that Duffy would top the organization in ERA, and that's exactly what he did, finishing with a 2.98 mark as a 20-year-old in the Carolina League. He also finished second in the system with 125 strikeouts in 126 2/3 innings pitched.

MLB.com's Postseason Selections

David Lough, OF: He made the "Under the Radar" list before the season as a slightly undersized guy with some tools. As a former two-sport guy, he was polishing them for the first time and really put them to good use in 2009. He topped the organization with his .325 average while hitting 14 homers, driving in 61 runs and stealing 19 bases while splitting time between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas.

Daniel Duffy, LHP: The young lefty continued to be a pretty consistent strike thrower at such a young age, posting a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Carolina League. He was a league All-Star and also was chosen to represent the Royals at the Futures Game in St. Louis.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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