If you think I'm harsh on Royals management, you should hear what I've said about the Chiefs' brass over the years. But at least Clark Hunt had the good sense to send Scott Pioli packing before he could make any moves of consequence following last season. Nearby, Dayton Moore is scratching and clawing to keep his job. I knew he would use coaches and scouts as human shields to save his job. I never imagined he'd use amateur athletes as a means of self-preservation.
The longer Moore is left in place, the more long-term damage he will inflict on the Royals. It's like when you check into a hotel room. It's not your room. It's just a place to stash your belongings, sleep and try to figure out the local channel listings. You throw your suitcase on the coffee table. You toss your clothes over chairs. You discard of food containers and wrappers on the nearest flat surface when you finish eating. You feel no shame in leaving soggy towels or soiled sheets on the floor. Someone else will clean up your mess after you check out. Well, right now Dayton Moore is using his perch atop the Royals front office as a hotel room. He doesn't care how many of his moves might cripple the franchise three years from now when instead he could be making moves that would benefit the franchise in 2015 and beyond. He's just trying to position himself for re-election in 2014.
With the No. 8 selection in the 2013 first-year player draft, the Royals selected Hunter Dozier, a shortstop out of Stephen F. Austin. They passed on prep outfielder Austin Meadows, the best available player according to Baseball America, which ranked him No. 5 overall.
The positive's from Dozier's scouting report: he's athletic, the ball "jumps off his bat," and he possesses good reactions in the field as well as a strong arm. The negatives: he'll almost certainly have to move off shortstop and, in a down down down year for college bats, he was described as not being "among the few elite college bats in this class." BA summed up the pick as follows:
"This is the first off-the-board pick. Dozier has a good bat, but we ranked him as the No. 39 pick in the draft and expected him to creep into the back of the first round. The Royals probably have a cost-saving deal in place to add another big player later in the draft."
Keith Law, who I respect more than most scouts, had this to say:
Law had Meadows ranked No. 4 overall on his draft board.
Of course, the verdict on this pick won't be final until three or four years from now. But the last time Moore made such a selection with his first round draft pick, the Royals wound up with a college infielder who took until his fourth season in the minors to become a full-time player at Triple-A. And he didn't stick at shortstop either. And he may not see the majors until his fifth professional season. If ever.
Just like the James Shields trade, this pick simply wreaks of desperation.
What were the benefits of drafting Dozier, who was compared to Jeff Kent during MLB Network's draft coverage? First and foremost, he'll almost certainly sign for a discounted rate compared to the slot money assigned to the eighth pick. Also, because the Royals were so kind as to draft him some 30 picks before he was projected to go, he should sign his professional contract almost immediately. Realistically, the Royals don't need Dozier to stick at shortstop like they needed Christian Colon to develop as a shortstop (prior to the Zack Greinke trade). Lastly, in the best of all worlds, he'll move through the system swiftly and either pressure Mike Moustakas or mercifully replace him.
What do I think will happen? I'm confident the first two scenarios will play out. The last, though, remains to be seen and I'm skeptical to say the least. The only glimmer of hope I see in Dozier is the St. Louis Cardinals (an organization that knows what it's doing) were rumored to be interested in him so if he's good enough for them, maybe there's something to this kid.
But I'm more concerned by what the Royals said by passing on Meadows. In doing so, Moore couldn't have made it any more obvious he's simply building a campaign to hang onto his job for another year. As a high school outfielder, Meadows would not be a fast mover through the system, most likely. But his upside is undeniable as he entered the season as the No. 1 prep player on most draft boards. Dozier, on the other hand, has a much lower ceiling, but perhaps a higher floor and, given his age and experience, could advance past Single-A ball this year and allow Moore to parade him as a success going into 2014.
What's more, if Moore were to take Meadows, it would have only highlighted his mistake in drafting Bubba Starling fifth overall in 2011. As someone who doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, I don't think Moore would have been comfortable with writers connecting those dots had he taken Meadows.
Some analysts who were critical of Moore's first pick, backed off when the Royals selected Indiana State southpaw Sean Manaea with the first pick of the Competitive Balance Round, No. 34 overall.
At one point, Manaea was thought to be a Top 3 pick until he experienced shoulder and hip issues and was eventually shut down for the remainder of his college season. He was expected to demand a hefty draft bonus, so the drafting of Dozier first likely freed up the money to afford Manaea.
So some writers I've read have spun it as the Royals still getting a Top 10 talent to go with Dozier, who would have been a sound pick in the Competitive Balance Round.
Not me. I'm not giving Moore a pass for this.
First of all, Moore had no way of knowing Manaea was going to last. He may have had the foresight to have pre-draft deals in place with Dozier and Manaea so he would know if he could sign both, but that would require an immense leap of faith to make that assumption. The Royals most likely lucked into Manaea, who BA ranked tenth overall, falling out of the first round.
You can only consider it good fortune that Manaea fell to No. 34 if you actually believe he'll pan out. He's beginning his professional career with injury concerns and has a limited track record against top college competition (The hype surrounding him originated during last summer in the Cape Cod League, but he's from a small school and, based on this draft, there weren't many big bats even at baseball powerhouses). And even if he is an exceptional prospect, he'll still have to be developed properly and there's no evidence the Royals under Moore's direction are capable of doing so.
Besides, doesn't it seem a little sad to consider Day 1 of the Royals' draft a success for no other reason than Moore's second pick made up for a questionable first pick? To me, a good draft is one in which a team gets the most out of all of its picks and maximizes its opportunity to acquire elite talent, which just so happens to come earlier in the draft than later. What would have been so bad about getting Manaea AND Meadows? Maybe it would have taken most of the Royals' draft budget to sign the duo, but I'll take two potential Top 5 picks and let the chips fall where they may.
So Moore may have fooled the national media. He may have fooled ownership. But he hasn't fooled us. He's trashing the hotel room and the maid service can't arrive soon enough.
Fire Dayton Moore
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