30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals`

Posted: March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

royalsThe Kansas City Royals haven’t smelled postseason baseball since they captured their first championship in 1985. Twenty-eight long, dreary seasons culminated with their highest win total since 1989 a year ago. At 86-76, the 2013 Royals barely missed the playoffs under Ned Yost. They’ll look to take the next step in 2014 by capturing their first playoff berth since this writer was merely a figment of somebody’s imagination.

The Royals possess a very talented, young, and capable lineup led by Eric Hosmer (.302-17-79) and Billy Butler (.289-15-82). Only one player in Kansas City’s regular starting lineup a year ago was over 27 years of age, so it’s likely that players like Hosmer, Butler, Mike Moustakas (.233-12-42), and Salvador Perez (.292-13-79) will improve on what were already some gaudy numbers. Alex Gordon (.265-20-81) returns as the veteran of the group, and offseason acquisitions Omar Infante (.318-10-51) and Nori Aoki (.286-8-37) promise to reinvigorate the top of the Royals’ young order.

Kansas City’s pitching staff, headlined by key 2012 offseason acquisition James Shields (13-9, 3.15) is deep and uber-talented. The team returns Shields, Jeremy Guthrie (15-12, 4.04), Bruce Chen (9-4, 3.27), Danny Duffy (2-0, 1.85), and Wade Davis (8-11, 5.32). Despite losing Ervin Santana, the team replaced their #3 starter by landing free agent lefty Jason Vargas (9-8, 4.02). The former Angels’ starter should round out a rotation capable of garnering not only a playoff berth. But, postseason victories thereafter.

The Royals’ strength might just be in their bullpen, where Greg Holland (2-1, 1.21, 47 sv), Kelvin Herrera (5-6, 3.86), and Aaron Crow (7-5, 3.38) all returning. The most significant loss for the Royals this offseason might have been their most recent, as reliever (and former #1 overall pick) Luke Hochevar (5-2, 1.92) will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.

Key Acquisitions

2B Omar Infante (Tigers)
OF Nori Aoki (Brewers)
LHP Jason Vargas (Angels)

Key Losses

2B Chris Getz (Blue Jays)
OF David Lough (Orioles)
OF Jeff Francoeur (Indians)
RHP Ervin Santana (Braves)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

OF Nori Aoki – .284-7-44
2B Omar Infante – .290-9-49
1B Eric Hosmer – .290-18-79
DH Billy Butler – .289-19-89
OF Alex Gordon – .271-17-75
C Salvador Perez – .287-14-67
3B Mike Moustakas – .253-14-54
OF Lorenzo Cain – .256-7-48
SS Alcides Escobar – .261-5-50

RHP James Shields – 12-10, 3.57
LHP Jason Vargas – 9-11, 4.33
RHP Jeremy Guthrie – 9-11, 4.55
LHP Bruce Chen – 8-9, 4.38
RHP Danny Duffy – 4-5, 4.28

RHP Greg Holland – 4-2, 2.18, 37 Sv

Outlook

With their finest performance in two decades a year ago, the Kansas City Royals proved that they were beyond their putrid run of infamy that encompassed the entirety of the 1990s and 2000s. Finally, after decades of high draft picks, the Royals hit on some major talents. Their willingness to part ways with super prospect Wil Myers to acquire James Shields may have been met with skepticism at the time. But, Shields’ role as the ace of the staff is unquestioned, and his ability to lead by example at the top of the rotation was key in Kansas City’s renaissance.

royals2Now, the question becomes: Can they take the next step? As mentioned, the Royals haven’t made the postseason since the Reagan administration. That’s a long lineage of pure failure to break in just a few seasons. But, Kansas City might just do it. The Royals have a talented lineup that, if playing to their potential, should be better than everyone in their division besides Detroit. The offseasons pickups of Aoki and Infante were critical, as they cemented talented contact hitters at the top of the order to be driven in by the big bats in the heart of the lineup. There’s no doubt that Kansas City has the offensive potential to make some serious noise.

Their rotation is strong at the top. But, has some question marks with regards to depth. Duffy was strong in his slim audition a year ago. If he wins a spot in the rotation out of camp, one may want to keep an eye on him. Davis fell off a cliff in his first year outside of Tampa. But, his career numbers suggest a bounce back is in order. At the top, few are better than Shields and the supporting cast around him is good enough for Kansas City to seriously contend for a role in October.

If the offense plays like it should and the pitching staff can stay healthy, Kansas City is a very likely candidate to win one of the American League’s wild card berths. I foresee the Royals winning between 86-92 games, continuing their return to the realm of respectability.

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