30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals

Posted: February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

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It has been quite a long time since Kansas City has reached the postseason. October baseball has avoided the Royals ever since their last World Series championship in 1985. As we approach three decades of mediocrity, Kansas City GM Dayton Moore has finally acted aggressively, shipping out multiple top-prospects in December to acquire Tampa Bay RHP James Shields. The move was a good one for the short term, as Shields has a $12 million team option for 2014 that the Royals are sure to exercise. However, Moore did surrender the team’s #1 prospect, OF Wil Myers, as well as some intriguing young arms in RHP Jake Odorizzi and LHP Mike Montgomery.

Having lost 90+ games each of the last four years, it remains unlikely that one starting pitcher turns the Royals into immediate playoff contenders. They will need their young, up-and-coming offensive stars to produce at a level that they have yet to reach. If guys like Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas emerge as bonafide All-Stars, the Royals could contend for the AL Central crown. If injuries and inconsistency continue to plague them, then 2013 will look an awful lot like a more pricey version of 1986-2012.

The Royals have tons of talent on offense, as mentioned. C Salvador Perez, who missed part of last season due to a torn-meniscus, returned to spark the Kansas City offense with a .301-11-39 line in just 76 games. He will be a key to this season more than any other offensive catalyst.

Five Year Review:
2012: 72-90
2011: 71-91
2010: 67-95
2009: 65-97
2008: 75-87

2012 Team MVP: DH Billy Butler: It saddens me to give this award to a designated hitter. But, there were not a lot of options on the 2012 Royals. LF Alex Gordon had a strong second half, finishing up with a .294 average and an .822 OPS. But, when your team starts 6-15 in April, one would expect your MVP to at least be performing throughout the entire season, not just portions of it. Butler has been the face of the lowly Royals for awhile now, which basically equates him to your most famous member of the witness protection program. At 26, Butler had his finest season to date, playing in 161 games and finishing with a career high .313-29-107 line, leading the Royals in all threee offensive categories. It was Butler’s fourth consecutive season with an OPS above .820, reaching his career high at .882. Butler will remain under team control through 2015, so Kansas City is hoping that 2012 will be the beginning of a run of 25+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons for the 2004 first round pick

2012 Team LVP: 1B Eric Hosmer: The Royals’ starting pitching was atrocious. But, when Bruce Chen is your opening day starter, what was to be expected? Hosmer, meanwhile, is a former #1 prospect who emerged in 2011 with a phenomenal rookie campaign. His sophomore season, however, was mired with prolonged slumps. After recording a .293-19-78 line in 128 games his rookie year, Hosmer fell to a .232-14-60 line in 152 games in 2012. The most mind-numbing aspect of Hosmer’s slump is that it appeared to be more about conditioning and preparedness than relative skill.

The 23-year old was relatively balanced from May-August. But, his April numbers (.188-5-13) and his September stats (.179-2-8), suggest that he just was not mentally prepared for the grueling haul of a 162 game season. If Kansas City is to contend, they will need Hosmer’s numbers to sync up with 2011.

Key Acquisitions:

 C George Kottaras (Milwaukee Brewers)
IF Elliot Johnson (Tampa Bay Rays)
RHP James Shields (Tampa Bay Rays)
RHP Ervin Santana (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
RHP Wade Davis (Tampa Bay Rays)

Key Departures:
OF Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays)
RHP Joakim Soria (Texas Rangers)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. CF Lorenzo Cain (.267-10-48-16 SB)
2. SS Alcides Escobar (.276-5-52-15 SB)
3. LF Alex Gordon (.272-18-75-10 SB)
4. DH Billy Butler (.298-23-93)
5. 3B Mike Moustakas (.255-18-74)
6. C Salvador Perez (.283-11-54)
7. 1B Eric Hosmer (.272-18-75-13 SB)
8. RF Jeff Francoeur (.258-12-51)
9. 2B Chris Getz (.269-1-27-14 SB)

1. RHP James Shields (13-12, 3.86)
2. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-11, 4.52)
3. RHP Ervin Santana (10-11, 4.62)
4. RHP Wade Davis (8-9, 4.22)
5. RHP Bruce Chen (7-9, 4.66)
CP. RHP Greg Holland (4-3, 3.25, 23 Sv)
SU. RHP Aaron Crow (3-2, 3.81, 2 Sv)

2013 Outlook:

On paper, Kansas City’s rotation looks like the best in the division. Only one pitcher that was on the opening day rotation last year remains this season (Bruce Chen). Meanwhile, the Royals added some power arms in Shields, former Angel Ervin Santana, and RHP Wade Davis, who came with Shields and Elliot Johnson in the December mega-deal.

Their offense is rife with young, potentially dangerous bats. If Moustakas, Perez, and Hosmer hit their primes in 2013, the Royals should finish right behind Detroit. If they show growing-pains like in the past, then they will be swimming with the Twins near the bottom of the division.

The biggest concern I have with the Royals offseason is that the pitchers that Moore acquired have proven that they struggle in Kansas City. Even against the lowly lineups that the Royals have trotted out there in recent years, Santana, Shields, and Davis have combined for a career 7-8 record with a 5.28 ERA in 20 GS (126.1 IP) with 16 HR allowed at Kauffman Stadium. Now, imagine them substituting that KC lineup with Detroit’s or New York’s.

If everything goes right, the Royals should with 85+ games. But, what in the recent history of Kansas City baseball suggests that everything will go right? I have the Royals improving dramatically from their previous efforts. But, the playoffs still seem out of reach. Kansas City will win between 77-83 games, competing for second-place in the AL Central.

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