June 2, 2011

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I apologize in advance to those of you who are not baseball fans. I may get a little technical in my discussion in this week's editorial, revealing myself as a nut for America's pastime.

I've been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember, and most of you hecklers out there also know that I am a fan of the loveable losers from Chicago's north side, the Cubs.

I'm heading to St. Louis this weekend to take in a contest in one of the game's greatest rivalries, the Cubs vs. the Cardinals.

I've been a bit spoiled this summer. Last weekend I was a guest at Royals stadium to watch the I-70 Showdown between the in-state rivals as baseball opened up its interleague schedule.

I have to say I was a bit embarrassed for the hometown squad. While the Royals took the field in their powder blue uniforms, the near packed house was far-more visibly red in color. I'm certain than not all of those Cardinal fans made the drive over from St. Louis. I suspect with the hard times the Royals franchise has fallen on (maybe that's why I like them better than the Cardinals - they're like my American League Cubs?) many KC residents have swung their allegiances to the more successful Cardinals.

But here's where my baseball geekiness comes into play. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that over the next several years, the Royals may stop that flight of former fans and rebuild their support base in Kansas City. With the uncertainty of St. Louis's roster future with the pending free agency of top players Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter, it may even go as far as to see an increase of powder blues when the Royals travel to St. Louis.

The reason for hope in Kansas City comes from the farm system. Nope, the Royals are not growing traditional crops, but instead are producing the game's best young talent, according to Baseball America, the sport's top authority on minor league baseball.

I was able to see one of the newest Royals, first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was called up to the big league club earlier this season. Top left-handed pitcher Danny Duffy also has got the call this year. But those are just two of the nine prospects the Royals placed on Baseball America's list of the games 100 best future stars. That is the most ever by any organization in baseball.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas likely will be joining Hosmer and Duffy in Kansas City soon. He should team with Hosmer to give the Royals two big bats in the middle of the lineup for years to come. Outfielder Wil Meyers, a converted catcher, is the third top bat on the horizon for Royals fans. The three hitters were ranked among the top 10 prospects in baseball heading into the 2011 season.

Duffy tops an embarrassment of riches for Kansas City, as the team has four highly touted left handed pitchers, which is hard to come by in the big leagues. John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, and Chris Dwyer give the team four highly regarded southpaws. Lamb and Montgomery were both ranked by Baseball America among the top 20 prospects in the game, meaning Kansas City, one of 28 MLB teams, has 20% of the game's brightest future stars.

Rounding out the future stars KC hopes to witness in the coming years are former first round pick, shortstop Christian Colon, and right handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi, the top player received in the off season deal that sent former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to Milwaukee.

While not all prospects pan out for the big league squad, it is at least a huge ray of hope for Royals fans and those folks who sell the blue jerseys in Kansas City.

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