Team Preview: Kansas City Royals

By: Josh Wasserman – Chief MLB Writer.

In the coming weeks leading up to Opening Day, FSLR will be previewing the 30 MLB teams and their respective chances for the 2014 season. Continuing with the AL Central, the Kansas City Royals start us off…

AL Central:
Day 6: Kansas City Royals
Day 7: Minnesota Twins
Day 8: Detroit Tigers
Day 9: Chicago White Sox
Day 10: Cleveland Indians

Kansas City Royals

2013 Record: 86-76 (3rd)
2014 Projected Record: 89-73 (2nd)

I just have a good feeling about the Royals this year. With a similar team model to the A’s, I think this will be the year they hold on for a wild card spot. But for a torrid final month from Cleveland, Kansas City could have seen themselves as the wild card champs last year. Even with Cleveland improving their pitching staff, Kansas City has a young, dynamic team that just needs the right sort of catalyst and the right sort of glue to carry them into the postseason. A few minor trades sprinkled throughout the offseason netted the Royals a handful of great role players, a strategy employed by the San Francisco Giants in their 2010 World Series run. An energetic lineup, a solid bullpen, and a rotation that will pull it together this year will see Royals fans rejoicing for their first playoff appearance since 1985.

Projected Lineup:
1) Norichika Aoki, RF/CF
2) Omar Infante, SS
3) Alex Gordon, LF
4) Eric Hosmer, 1B
5) Billy Butler, DH/Carlos Peguero, DH
6) Mike Moustakas, 3B
7) Salvador Perez, C
8) Johnny Giavotella, 2B
9) Lorenzo Cain, CF/Justin Maxwell, RF

​The Royals have been waiting a long time for their prospects to mature and this should be the year when they all finally pull it together. Eric Hosmer, one of the Royals’ most prized assets, is coming off his best year statistically speaking where he posted a career high .302 average, a career high 79 RBI’s, and a career high 34 doubles. He never had a bad year per se, it was just clear that he hadn’t fully developed year. He has passed his early plateau years and has jumped up to a significantly higher next level. Mike Moustakas has also struggled early on his career, but the way he has been tearing up Cactus League opponents this spring has Royals management excited for the regular season. Catcher Salvador Perez is coming off of a terrific 2013 campaign, bursting onto the scene to hit .292 with 13 jacks and 79 RBI’s. His presence at the bottom of the order will add a much-welcomed facet for the Royals’ run production. The rest of the lineup is new to Kansas City, looking to prove themselves after a disappointing 2013 year, or assure the administration of their 2013 stats. Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante, along with likely role player Danny Valencia, fall into the first group. Aoki had a pair of solid years in Milwaukee and should experience the same success in Kansas City, playing largely the same part he did with the Brewers. The starting shortstop job is up in the air right now but based on Infante’s Spring Training performance, it looks like he’s going to snag the role from Valencia. The speedy Lorenzo Cain falls into the group of failing expectations. Though he got the start often last year, the Royals have added plenty of possible step-ins in Justin Maxwell, Carlos Peguero, and Jimmy Paredes. Maxwell has turned heads this spring and Peguero has gobs of power as he showed in Seattle last year. With Billy Butler maintaining his phenomenal stats and Johnny Giavotella in that third category I listed, the Royals look to be in good shape, helping to comprise a good mix of contact, speed, and pop.

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Projected Rotation:
1) James Shields, RHP
2) Jeremy Guthrie, RHP
3) Jason Vargas, LHP
4) Danny Duffy, LHP
5) Bruce Chen, LHP

For the first time in a while, the Royals rotation looks respectable. Although his first year in Kansas City was subpar in comparison to his years in Tampa, James Shields is, in my opinion, one of the most exemplary aces in the league because of his durability, control, and workhorse strength. Always a bet to pitch 200+ innings a year, he will lead a rotation of youngsters and veterans. Having long been the ace in Baltimore, Jeremy Guthrie brought his poise and reliability to the Royals last year and put up good numbers by his standards. After Guthrie will most likely be Jason Vargas, now that Wade Davis, the left-handed stud who came from Tampa with Shields, has been returned to the bullpen following Luke Hochevar’s season-ending injury. Vargas is a consistently average pitcher who doesn’t amaze anyone with his stuff, but does a good job when he’s put in, averaging a 3.98 ERA over his past four seasons in the MLB. Envisioned as the next ace for the Royals, Danny Duffy has experienced a similar troubling road to that of Mike Moustakas. Duffy has the potential and the stuff, yet he has struggled in ways that he hasn’t been able to define, relatable to the issues of 2-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants. He has been given his opportunities this spring but has once again faltered. However, he says that it’s been due to a few mistakes here and there so he isn’t worried. He is a high reward if he can find his groove. Bruce Chen is another weak spot in the rotation and probably won’t remain a fixture in the rotation for the entire year. Time will tell if Davis will be brought back as a starter. On the whole, a solidly-anchored rotation could be the difference in the Royals’ October plans.

Projected Bullpen:
MR: Wade Davis, LHP, Tim Collins, LHP
SU: Aaron Crow, RHP
CL: Greg Holland, RHP

Greg Holland was close to untouchable last season, converting 47 out of 50 saves last year while posting a 1.21 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and a .170 BAA. The 27-year old flamethrower is the rock of an outstanding bullpen. Aaron Crow, an all-star in 2011, is a great setup man and if he hits a rough patch, 5’7” tank Tim Collins can take the reins. The shortest-measured pitcher in baseball, Collins showed that on the mound, regardless of his physical stature, he means business. Finally, with Wade Davis as a steady long reliever (his stats are even better as a reliever than as a starter), the Royals really have all the facets of pitching locked down. And last year proved their bullpen is consistent. As long as the starters keep the run tally reasonably low and the Royals grind out their runs, the bullpen will most often keep the lead safe and propel Kansas City to an even better year than 2013.

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