After Royals first basemen Billy Butler signed his four year deal, he said he believed in this team and felt the playoffs were just a couple of years away. I’ve sluffed off the comment and didn’t even report it, however, maybe Butler knows what he is talking about.

Baseball America, the authority on minor league prospects, has rated the Kansas City Royals farm system as the best in all of baseball in the soon-to-be-released 2011 Prospect Handbook. The question will be can they develop that talent and get it to gel at the same time without trading half of their prospects away?

“The Royals have one of the deepest and most talented farm systems in recent memory,” said Jim Callis, Executive Editor at Baseball America. “It’s unusual to see a system with three stud hitters like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers, or four quality lefties like John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer, and the Royals have both. To show how highly we regard the Royals system, we ranked it No. 1 before the Zack Greinke trade, which netted more top prospects.”

Seven of the Royals’ top 10 prospects will be in Major League Spring Training camp next month in Surprise, Ariz. The group includes first baseman Eric Hosmer (ranked #1), third baseman Mike Moustakas (#3) and left-handed pitcher John Lamb (#4).