Usually when people watch minor league baseball they are watching because they want to see the next wave of highly talented prospects that quite possibly could become perennial all-stars. However, not every player in minor league baseball is considered a top prospect and there are even some players that are too old to be considered prospects. Now I am not saying that minor league baseball players that are older are not valuable and neither am I saying that you have to be an older player to be a role player. What I am saying is that not everyone can be the “up and coming superstar”. It’s just reality, and that is where role players make their worth. They know their role and they play it to the best of their ability no matter the circumstance.
A few examples of some role players within the Royals Farm System would be guys like Alex Liddi, Terrance Gore, Parker Morin and some former Royals minor leaguers by the name of Brayan Pena, Irving Falu, Manny Pina, and even Paulo Orlando (although he was at AAA Omaha this year for a while).
Alex Liddi is 29 years old and currently with AA Northwest Arkansas where he is batting .251/.307/.809 through 279 at-bats. Liddi made his major league debut in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners. Liddi then went on to play within the Orioles, White Sox, and Dodgers organizations and is now in his second stint within the Royals farm system. At the age of 29 Liddi is by far no longer considered a prospect, but he does provide some organizational depth while still providing a good deal of production for Northwest Arkansas. The best case scenario for Liddi would be to catch a hot streak and make a push to join the Royals roster post-deadline, assuming they are sellers at the deadline with Moustakas, Merrifield, etc.
Terrance Gore is 27 years old and currently with AAA Omaha where he is batting .201/.291/.538 through 134 at-bats. Many people remember Gore as the so-called “little brother” to Jarrod Dyson as both him and Dyson stole many bases during the Royals 2014 and 2015 World Series push. Since 2015 Gore has mainly been with Omaha with a few short stints in Northwest Arkansas and Kansas City. Going forward the best case scenario for Gore would be to continue to improve at the plate and become a reliable outfielder. In the past, Gore has only been called up for his speed and ability to steal bases, but with the Royals not looking to be contending for a while Gore may not be needed at the MLB level. With this being said I would not be surprised if one of the teams interested in Moustakas, Merrifield, at the deadline would like to take on Gore simply for his abilities to be used in the playoffs.
Parker Morin is 26 years old and currently, with AAA Omaha where he is batting .272/.311/.671 through 114 at-bats. Morin most is the youngest one between him, Gore, and Liddi which leaves a bit more room for him to still develop but at 26 years old the development stage of his career is closing. While splitting time with Cam Gallagher he has managed to put up relatively great numbers considering he batted .167/.187/.437 in 72 at-bats last year. However, there is still some hope for Morin as he may be in a position to have a shot at making it to Kansas City if the Royals decide to part ways with Salvador Perez at the trade deadline, although it is unlikely. The best case scenario for Morin would be to take over the backup catcher position once the Royals decide to part ways with Drew Butera which could be anytime in the next few years. If Morin were to win the backup catcher position he would have to beat out fellow teammate Cam Gallagher who already has some MLB experience.
While the players I listed above are currently battling through the minor league season there are a few previous Royals players that I must mention that definitely fit the title of role player. The names that immediately come to mind are Irving Falu, Paulo Orlando, and Manny Pina. These three players are a great example of what can happen when players stick with it through the grind of the minor league baseball season year after year while still being older than majority of the other players. Manny Pina probably has had the most success of the three listed as he is now the starting catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Pina was once within the Royals organization as he was mainly a catcher for Omaha and Northwest Arkansas. Pina was seen more as a player the Royals used for depth in case Salvador Perez was ever hurt. Paulo Orlando could have very easily given up on baseball after being in minor league baseball for nearly 9 years before making his Major League debut. Irving Falu was used mainly as a utility player while with the Royals and their minor league affiliates, but as he has bounced around the league a bit he has found himself still playing the game as he is now 35 years old and with the Washington Nationals AAA affiliate Syracuse Chiefs. Some more names that could fall under the title of role player are Clayton Mortenson, Casey Kotchman, Allan de San Miguel, Dan Anna, Steven Tolleson, and JC Boscan.
All in all, these are the players that are simply trying to play the game they love for as long as they can. None of these guys are a Crash Davis of some sort, but they do bring the character and everyday mindset to the ballpark that a professional baseball player should. Role players can be very beneficial for an organization as they not only provide depth but they also bring some leadership skills that are very valuable to their younger teammates at all levels of the minor leagues. I can only imagine that if you are a young prospect that happens to make it to the AA or AAA level, being able to speak to a teammate who has been in the big leagues would be very beneficial. There are a lot more players within the minor leagues that never make it to the MLB, but yet there are some great stories about them. One player, in particular, is Mike Hessman, who set the home run record for American based minor league baseball with a total of 433 home runs. Going forward I believe the Royals should be open to taking chances on players that fit the role player description. Rosell Herrera has had much recent success in the last few days with the Royals and he was once a top 100 prospect that the Cincinnati Reds must have lost faith in. There are many players out there that tend to never break through but that does not necessarily mean that the potential is lost. In the end, the role players are what help form a great team and the players that understand and perfect their roles usually find themselves having success.