When the 2012 MLB season comes to a close, we may be able to pretty clearly define which direction the Kansas City Royals are going in. General Manager Dayton Moore built an incredibly high ceiling and well-timed farm system that is beginning to bear the fruits of their labor (and pain of losing). Moore has done a fantastic job of moving pieces and getting quality players back. As we have seen with many organizations, the worst spot you can be in is to have little financial flexibility but with no real answers within vision.
We have seen Alex Gordon revive his career and show that all the hype along with being Baseball America’s top prospect wasn’t for nothing. We saw the emergence of Aaron Crow and Tim Collins out of the bullpen, while players like Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Salvador Perez get some playing time. We saw the emergence of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas (although less impressively than Hosmer) come up and provide some pop at the corners, something Alex Gordon was supposed to do but is not doing from Left Field. Across the diamond you see products of the patience the front office has had, even more so the Kansas City fans who were promised “you wait and see”. Now they are seeing things turn around gradually, and spirits are high along with expectations. But before everyone gets too excited, they may want to watch very closely at two southpaws who could determine if KC is just good, or if they’re a championship level team for years to come.
Mike Montgomery is the type of pitcher that scouts wish they could fill their farm systems with. He’s big, strong (and getting stronger) and has a very easy arm action. It’s easy to compare him to another lefty, but when I first saw Montgomery I instantly drew comparisons to a young Jon Lester. Although Montgomery doesn’t get over his front leg as well as Lester does, he has a nice curve that comes out of a very similar arm slot as his fastball which touches 95. The results simply haven’t been there for Montgomery in 2012, and his 4.12 BB/9 certainly didn’t help things either and contributed towards his 1.50 whip. He struggled with injuries in 2011 somewhat, but the results need to start matching the ability. 2012 is a big year for Montgomery to show that he isn’t just a nice scouting report.
John Lamb is a fellow lefty in the Kansas City organization who unfortunately suffered an elbow injury in May of 2011 and had to have Tommy John. Although he will miss most of if not all of 2012, we will likely be able to indicate how successful the surgery was as he continues to rehab well into 2012. Lamb has a similar assortment of pitches to Montgomery, but hasn’t shown the strikeout numbers at advanced levels that Montgomery has. He opens up a little early but drives through the ball and adds good deception to his potentially plus change. Like Montgomery, he could afford to cut down the walks and will need to show he can perform against more advanced hitters.
2012 is a big year for the Royals and an even bigger year for Montgomery in a performance sense and Lamb from a health perspective. Up at the big league level they will be supported by a strong defensive team both in the infield and outfield. KC may be able to supplement their rotation if they’re one quality arm short, but not two, which is why the success of these two is so important. The arbitration clocks start ticking once these guys reach the big leagues and they would be very hot commodities to other ball clubs looking to add a young talented player. Come 2013 Royals fans may know if their patience has been worth it and Dayton Moore’s legacy will be defined, one way or the other.
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