Kansas City Royals see fruits of farm in ALCS that Orioles couldn't match

Just hours after the Kansas City Royals clinched a World Series berth with a sweep over the Orioles, tomes began to emerge about how it's all been part of the Royals' plan. That's a little tidy for my taste — both of these teams had to adjust on the fly to get to the ALCS, but I won't just say Kansas City got lucky and move on.

Most of the time, baseball comes down to talent, and where the Royals' talent came from made the difference.


Both teams spent much of the first decade of this century picking high in the draft, with the opportunity to hoard young talent to use it to build a winner. The Orioles, to their credit, have built a winner without the benefit of a lot of that talent panning out. The Royals are simply seeing the fruits of drafting and developing better players.

First baseman Eric Hosmer, an incandescent minor league talent in 2010 who was called up to Kansas City the following year, was the third overall pick in 2008. One pick later, the Orioles selected left-hander Brian Matusz, who moved to the bullpen in 2012 and played a bit role in the ALCS.


Third baseman Mike Moustakas hasn't found much of a foothold in the major leagues in terms of hitting for average, but the second overall pick in 2007 has four home runs in the playoffs, which leads all players. To the Orioles' credit, Matt Wieters, selected fifth in that draft, has certainly panned out, even if he didn't play in the postseason.

There are also a couple former prospects from the previous generation, if you can call it that. Left fielder Alex Gordon and designated hitter Billy Butler, selected second overall in 2004 and 14th overall in 2003, respectively, have had productive careers and earned All-Star appearances with their original clubs. The Orioles' top picks that year, never really made it (catcher Brandon Snyder) or didn't sign (pitcher Wade Townsend).

The talents acquired via trade are something of a wash, with both teams sending away a front-line starting pitcher for key cornerstones. The Orioles acquired center fielder Adam Jones and Game 1 starter Chris Tillman from Seattle for pitcher Erik Bedard, while up-the-middle stars Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar came to Kansas City from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade.

The only edge there would go to Kansas City for turning top prospect Wil Myers into starter James Shields and reliever Wade Davis, whom the Orioles will probably see in their nightmares until Christmas.

But the biggest difference exists in the international markets. The Orioles' lean years featured plenty of international talent the team developed, but this year's edition of the team featured only second baseman Jonathan Schoop and pitcher Wei-Yin Chen as products of the international market. Young right-hander Yordano Ventura struggled in his only start, but no international player had the impact of Kelvin Herrera, the hard-throwing reliever who struck out six in 5 2/3 innings over four games.

All of this fails to mention that Kevin Gausman, who is leading the current Orioles wave of youngsters, was the team's best pitcher in the series. Kansas City has another wave coming, too, which will make it interesting to see who can sustain this year's success.

But for all the Orioles commendable roster-construction to get to this point, it's the traditional draft-and-develop method that helped Kansas City past them.