The first concrete sign of spring has arrived. Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Florida and Arizona! This long, bitter, bitch of a winter is on her last legs!
Spring training always brings a burst of excitement. This year I’m a little extra excited because this could finally be the beginning of the end of the Royals long spell of sucking. This season should be ugly and hard and full of frustration. But that seems like the last piece of suffering we will have to go through before things finally begin to turn around next season.
We should see the first of the highly touted prospects stacked in the system arriving in Kansas City just as summer begins to take hold. By the end of the season, if all goes right, a handful of them will have collected a couple hundred plate appearances or few dozen innings out of the bullpen and begun to earn their Major League stripes. Next year will bring more new faces. The hope, confirmed by the opinions of some of the most respected talent evaluators around the game, is that 2013 will be the season when the Royals should expect to win with a roster made mostly of 20-somethings grown in the organization’s farm system.
Why get excited when winning is, at best, still three seasons away? Especially when we’ve been promised youth movements before and continued to see 90 and 100 loss seasons. Simple: this one feels different. The Royals had a batch of good arms in the system in the late 90s, but they either didn’t pan out or the organization ruined them along the way. A few years later a bunch of bats followed, and while many of them worked out (Damon, Sweeney, Beltran, and Dye who arrived in a trade), there was little else around them. They could hit and make a game exciting, but you generally knew they’d find a way to lose a lot of 10-8 games. And then they all left.
This time, though, there are bats and arms. And plenty of each. It’s not just one pitcher or one hitter that we’re pinning our hopes to. There is a broad core around which a team can be built. Sure, there are still holes that will need to be plugged. But the secondary hope is that with all this cheap, young talent the Royals will have a lot of money to spend on proven MLB talent to address those holes. The wealth of talented young players and a weak division, the thinking goes, would make Kansas City a very attractive destination for free agents.
There are dozens of assumptions and hopes and wishes based on potential and possibility rather than known facts in there, obviously. But after so long of being so bad, it feels like this is the time that believing again makes sense.
So I’m pumped up about spring training this year. I’m anxious to hear how Moustakas and Hosmer and Colon and Cain and Escobar and Lamb and Duffy and Collins and Crow and all the other minor leaguers do in camp. I’m hopeful one or two of those guys might surprise and be ready to go north with the Major League club in April. And then I’m excited about what this summer will bring. I’ll be following the developments in Omaha and Northern Arkansas and the various A level team locations as closely as I’ll follow how things go at the K.
Two years from now I may hate myself for believing again, for getting so excited about unproven talent. But right now, it’s making baseball interesting and fun again.