There are two very contrasting conclusions one could draw from the Royals' first-round selection Monday in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The first is the negative, and it was (naturally) my original feeling in the moments following the organization's decision to make Cal State Fullerton shortstop Christian Colon the fourth overall selection in the draft.
In the days leading up to the first-round Monday, there was much speculation the Royals were already working out a deal to make University of Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal their selection. The only question was whether the temptation to take Chris Sale, a hard throwing left-handed pitcher from Florida Gulf Coast, would ultimately prove too great to pass on.
Then, of course, the news came. The Royals had selected Colon. Reports surfaced that the organization steered away from Grandal only after - you guessed it - negotiations on his potential signing bonus broke down.
My immediate thought there was obvious: It's impossible to believe this team has improved since the Herk Robinson and Allard Baird days if they're still drafting players based on signability. If the Royals believe Grandal will become a more productive big leaguer than Colon, and still selected Colon because of money issues, then, folks, we're dealing with the same set of issues that initially plagued the franchise in the mid-90s after founder Ewing Kauffman passed away.
It's also interesting, and hopefully just a coincidence, that Colon happens to play a position of need for the big league club. The Royals are starving for a major-league ready shortstop in their system, and they project Colon to be at that status quickly.
The problem there is that it's usually a mistake to draft for need. The consensus is, in almost any sport, it's a better strategy to draft the best overall players instead of reaching for a quick solution to fill holes on the roster. If a team tends to generally select the best overall players, by the time those players are ready to compete at a high level, trades and injuries help smooth things out and balance the roster.
Obviously it's easier said than done, but you get the idea. Drafting for need usually leads to having less overall talent on your roster in the future.
It's also very odd that GM Dayton Moore has completely flip-flopped on his initial draft strategy when he took over the Royals. He made it clear the emphasis would be on drafting high school players who are bigger projects but have much higher potential. He followed through on that in 2007 and 2008, making Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, both power-hitting high school hitters at the time of their selections, the Royals' first-round picks in each of those drafts, respectively.
Then, last year, the philosophy seemed to change a bit, when the team chose Mizzou pitcher Aaron Crow with their first-round selection. Monday, of course, they chose Colon, making it two consecutive years their first pick was a college player.
What's more telling is that as of Tuesday evening, 24 of the Royals' 29 picks so far in this year's draft were college players.
The intention is clear. Moore's goal in this year's draft is to compliment the impressive wave of talent in the minor-league system, headed by Moustakas and Hosmer, in hopes that a mostly home-grown roster is on the field and winning games by 2013 or 2014.
I can't say it's healthy for Moore to be putting all his eggs in this talent-wave's basket, so to speak. He has preached that the goal is to have wave after wave of talent, each ready to replace the existing one in each level of the organization. He says it's the only proven way for a professional baseball team to compete and win for an extended period of time in a small market.
You have to wonder if Moore is sacrificing the team's long-term future to save his job in the very-near future.
Yet, still, it could work, and this is the positive conclusion one must ultimately form from the Royals' draft selection Monday. This team is slowly forming what might be one of the most impressive minor-league systems in all of baseball. With the drafting of Colon - and the team says they wanted Colon all along - there will potentially be one less glaring hole on a team three years down the line that should be winning.
The sudden emphasis on drafting college talent also shows how close the organization believes they are to winning. It is, finally, no longer a five-year (endless) plan of drafting and developing and eventually failing. The Royals want players who are close to being major-league ready because better days are coming, and they're closer than ever.
Both arguments certainly hold water. It's definitely easier to focus on the negative, given the painful mistakes the Royals' organization has made over the years. Of course, on the contrary, it didn't hurt that just a couple hours after the team drafted Colon, I flipped on the television just in time to see him go three for four with two doubles in support of a victory for his Titans in the College World Series.
If there ever comes a time Colon finds himself in a more impactful game with his new team, we'll know it was a good pick.