RC Q&A with Dayton Moore: Part II

In Part II of our interview with Dayton Moore, we spoke about some of the changes that have taken place at the minor league level, such as the switch to Wilmington and the addition of a seventh minor league affiliate. Additionally, we asked Moore about the future of Justin Huber, the safety of Angel Berroa's job, and how he would define "The Royals Way" of playing baseball.

Royals Corner: You added another minor league affiliate this offseason, and you changed the High-A affiliate from High Desert to Wilmington. Could you tell us a little bit about how the Wilmington switch came about?

Dayton Moore: Well, we were very, very aggressive in trying to get back into Wilmington. The Carolina League is the best developmental league in all of baseball, in my opinion. It's fair for pitchers, and it's fair for hitters. Wilmington is one of the greatest places to play. The environment and the experience is so important for the development of a player, and Wilmington provides that. We were really aggressive getting back in there, and it was really, to me, one of the best things that happened all of last year. We signed a two-year agreement, and Matt Minker is a great guy. He just really opened it up, and we talked, and we were just fortunate to get back in there.

As far as adding a team at the lower levels, it just gives us an opportunity to be more aggressive signing and developing players, and creating more competition for our full season A team in Burlington. Look for us to lose probably a lot of games at the lower levels, at the short season clubs, because the talent is going to be more spread out. But it's going to give us a lot more innings to develop pitchers, and again to be aggressive in signing high risk players.

RC: How do you plan to stock seven teams? For instance, do you think you might draft some more college players later in the draft?

DM: Every player that we draft, we expect to be a prospect. We're not drafting fill-in players. If that's the approach we have, then we're going to get people who understand that's not the approach. Deric Ladnier understands that. We had three teams over in Atlanta when Deric was there as a national supervisor, and then a farm director, and he understands all that. Our goal is to draft a prospect. We don't sign a players unless we feel they have some kind of carrying tool to get them to the Major Leagues. They've got to be a prospect. We're not drafting fill-in players. Or signing fill-in players.

RC: You've added a lot of pitchers since you've come in. Where would you say the pitching depth is now, and how does that compare to where you expect it to be?

DM: It's not even close. You never have enough. We need to have 20-25 average or better pitching prospects in the minor leagues. It's a philosophy that we've always operated under, growing up in the game, and it's just the way we've always looked at things. Because what happens is, there's always going to be a third who underachieve, and you're always going to need a third to use in trades, because you're never going to make an impactful trade unless you give up young pitching. Well, you never want to give up young pitching unless you've got some depth. And then the final third, you use to supplement your Major League team at different times.

But you can never create a Major League model in the minor leagues, so when the remaining one-third of those average or better pitching prospects graduate to the Major Leagues, if half of them achieve what you expect them to achieve, that's pretty good. They get hurt up there too, so you can never have enough. You've just got to keep pounding the pitching. You've got to protect it and develop it properly. But most importantly, you've got to protect it in the minor leagues.

RC: In Atlanta, you had an organizational philosophy called "The Braves Way," which you encouraged throughout the minor league system. I spoke with J.J. Picollo the other day, and he mentioned that you were doing some of the same things here, but how would you characterize or sum up what you expect "The Royals Way" to be?

DM: It's very simple principles, really. We're not inventing things in the game. We try to keep things very, very simple, and just make sure that there are certain fundamentals that every player, based upon the position that they play, are a part of. And there are pitching absolutes that are very important that we're very strict with. And part of the scouting philosophy is that every player we sign must be a prospect, and they must profile based upon the position they play. That being said, we must also be instinctive enough to sign and draft the Mark Lemkes, the David Ecksteins, and people like that who are baseball players. Because you can have all the tools in the world, but if you don't have an awareness of the game and an instinct to play, you're not going to be successful Major League player.

It's nothing that is real innovative, I can tell you that. It's just simple baseball stuff, and I think a lot of times we overvalue ourselves as baseball people, when the game is pretty simple, really. You need pitchers that throw strikes, guys who can catch the ball, and hitters who can make things happen at the plate. Hitting a lot of times takes care of itself, but you've got to have certain things in your lineup. Two-thirds of your lineup better be able to get on base. They'd better be able score when they're on second base. They've got to be able to go first to third. If you ask them to hit and run, they'd better be able to make contact. If you want them to get a bunt down, they'd better be able to execute. And then maybe a third of your lineup are guys you set back and let them just swing the bat. You live with strikeouts, as long as there is production.

It's not some magic formula, or some fairy dust. But you know what you do? Continuity is the most important thing with developing a winning organization. The managers you have in your system are the backbone of your organization. They're the guys who keep the ship running. You listen to your people, and you try as a front office and a leadership team to do whatever you can to support the people in the field. You want to create that continuity. If guys feel like they're listened to, and they're appreciated, you're going to keep them longer.

RC: What do you think the future holds for Justin Huber?

DM: I think Hube has outstanding hitting ability and potential, and I think he's going to be a Major League hitter, and a productive Major League hitter. If I'm not mistaken, he's 23-years old. He'll turn 24 at some point this year, and play a lot of the year at 24-years old. I think he looks fine over at first base. When you've got good make-up, which he does, you've always got a chance, and I'd never count him out of anything. He's going to have to hit a lot, but he's got youth on his side, and he does have a chance to hit. He's an Australian player, and as he'll tell you, they don't play as much as kids do in the states. I look at Hube, and I see a guy that really and truly is probably in a development stage similar to a guy who just came out of college last year in the draft. And he's way ahead of it. He's won a Texas League batting title, he's played in the Futures Games, and he went and played winter ball this year, which is a big step. I've seen winter ball, and regardless of what type of success he had, just the overall experience is something that players can draw from, and it makes them stronger.

RC: Andres Blanco came into camp stronger this year, and he's looked outstanding at shortstop so far. Is there a chance that he could supplant Angel Berroa as the starting shortstop out of camp?

DM: Yeah, this game's about competition, and we've got to put the best team we can on the field each night. That's ultimately Buddy [Bell's] decision. We certainly talk about a lot of things, but Buddy and the staff are the ones living it. Day in and day out, they're closest to the situation, and they're paid to make those decisions. But absolutely, Blanco has played well. Angel has a lot of natural ability, and a lot of tools, and one thing I've learned is that you stay with the tools as long as you can. But at the same time, we've got to have consistency out of the middle of the diamond.

RC: Are there any other players in camp who have particularly impressed you this spring?

DM: I would say [Joakim] Soria has been very good so far. Luis Medina, who is a terrific scout, obviously felt that Soria had a good chance to make our team. It's different when a guy is pitching in A ball, or in his own environment – in this case, the Mexican League – and then he comes over to the Major Leagues. A lot of times, guys try to do more than they're capable of doing, but we haven't seen that with Soria. He maintains a consistent approach. He's not trying to do more than he's capable of, and it's working for him. He's looked good.

[Octavio] Dotel has been outstanding. We expected him to do well. Obviously, we paid him $5 million, so we expected him to do well, but you never know when a guy comes off an injury. He's ahead of schedule. I really felt that mid-May or June we'd start seeing a lot of the stuff we're seeing now, because it might take him a little longer. It's just spring training, but he's been very good.

And Gil Meche has just been absolutely outstanding. Just talking to a lot of scouts from other organizations that have seen him in the past, they've just been raving about him, and how much better he is right now than he was when they saw him last year. Who knows what will happen? But we feel good about it. We paid Gil Meche for what we think he's going to become. It would have been almost a monumental task at this point in time, with where we are as an organization, to sign guys that had done it consistently, and consistently, and consistently, and arguably had already peaked out. We couldn't get those guys. We had to go with old fashioned scouting judgment on what we think a player is going to become, and pay him accordingly to what we think he's going to become.

If we're right, people are going to say we're right – there are going to be more people coming out of the woodwork if we're right saying "ah, I knew he could do it all along, duh de duh de duh." And if it fails, they'll all say "well, it was a stupid thing." We knew that going in. The one thing you know is that if you're making decisions, people are going to have an opinion about it. Some people are going to be happy, and some people aren't. But we had to do what we had to do, and we aren't looking back.

Royal Curve Top Stories