Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 Preview: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals
(2012: 72-90, 3rd Place AL Central)
(2013: FC Prediction, 2nd Place AL Central, Wild Card Berth)

The Royals in the playoffs? Are you guys nuts??!!??  Well, this prediction is more a product of our extremely simple point system in compiling our rankings than it is us thinking the Royals will make the playoffs.  But hey, why not, the Royals are definitely improved.  After trading for James Shields, and perhaps overpaying, the Royals have an improved pitching staff and the progression of the young guys should definitely help.  

The Royals are definitely better, but are they good enough to make the playoffs??  Truth is, unless their young guys get a lot better, the Royals are still probably one high end pitcher and another bat away from contending, but with the talent they have, these young guys could make some noise.  

Let's take a look at these youngsters:

After acquiring James Shields, he automatically steps in as the ace of the staff.  He should help solidify the rotation and make the rest of the guys around him better.  Jeremy Guthrie is back and is the number 2.  After a great run with the Royals last year, he looks to carry over that success into 2013.  Ervin Santana joins the club and hopes that a change of scenery from Los Angeles will help him be more consistent.  Santana should fit in nicely and with his stuff, he should make a decent number 3 for the Royals.  Wade Davis also came over in the Shields trade and he looks to take advantage of the opportunity he has.  Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar will compete for the number 5 spot, with the advantage going to Chen; one because he is a lefty, and two Hochevar is a notorious underachiever.

The Royals bullpen is young, talented, and full of guys who throw HARD.  After Joakim Soria left for Texas, Greg Holland will be the new closer.  Holland throws extremely hard and has a nasty breaking ball.  Aaron Crow was once a highly regarded pitching prospect, but he has settled into his setup role nicely.  Crow should be a lights out 8th inning guy for the Royals.  Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, and Louis Coleman should also get some quality innings.  This Royals pen is very young, but I can see them being among the league's best by years end.

The Royals best pitching prospect is definitely right-hander Kyle Zimmer.  The 2012 first round pick throws hard and has great command, with the possibility of having 4 solid pitches.  Zimmer however, is not ready for the big leagues.  He was a college pitcher though, so he should be on the fast track, perhaps being ready by middle to late 2014.

The Royals are very young and very talented in the lineup.  Mike Moustakas is at third.  He started hot last year but cooled off later in the year.  I look for Moustakas to take a big step forward this year.  Shorstop Alcides Escobar should steal for bases, field almost everything, and maybe provide some doubles and triples.  He won't hit for a high average, but he serves a purpose.  Second baseman Chris Getz is probably the weak link of the lineup, but he is good with the glove as well.  First baseman Eric Hosmer struggled mightily last year, but he is way too talented to repeat his numbers from last year.  Hosmer should hit around .270 with close to 25 home runs and 90 RBIs.  He is a big time run producer and should take a big step this year.  

Catcher Salvador Perez is an unreal talent.  He is a very good hitter who should hit for average and power, but that's not where he's at his best.  Perez will give Yadier Molina a run for his money as best defensive catcher in baseball.  Not only can Perez call a good game and block everything in sight, but he has an absolute cannon for an arm.  I watch a lot of baseball, and Perez to me has the strongest arm behind the plate in baseball.  DH Billy Butler hits everything he sees.  Butler consistently hits for average, power, and is a big time mainstay in the Royals lineup.  

In the outfield, from left to right, the Royals have Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, and Jeff Francouer.  Gordon is a solid left fielder and an absolute doubles machine.  The guy doesn't have a ton of power, but he shoots both gaps with regularity.  Cain is very speedy and a great defender.  If he can hit for a higher average, he will be a big time player for the Royals, but it's not something I really see happening.  Francouer is one of the biggest fan favorites, but not in Kansas City, in Oakland, where he has been known to buy the entire right field bleachers pizza during games.  He is the only guy in baseball who has a cheering section while he is on the road.  However, it is not because of his play.  Jeff has a cannon for an arm, but he needs to pick it up with the bat to stick in right.  

For hitting prospects, the Royals top dog is Bubba Starling.  Their 2011 first round pick required a big bonus to keep him from playing quarterback at the University of Nebraska.  He is a big time athlete and does pretty much everything well, but nothing great.  Starling should be a quality outfielder for the Royals for years, but he probably won't be ready until 2015 or 2016.

A couple relievers are quality guys like George Sherrill and Dan Wheeler, but the guy with the best shot to make this team is outfielder and first baseman Xavier Nady.  Nady was good in a backup role for the Diamondbacks last year and the Royals could use a backup at both first and in the outfield, giving Nady the perfect opportunity to make this team.

We have them in the playoffs, but that's most likely just because of the point system we used in our rankings.  The truth is the Royals are still probably a year away from making some noise.  While they have a lot of young talent, and that talent should take a step forward, their rotation just isn't good enough.  There is no way they can compete with the Tigers, but with the rest of the AL Central not very strong, they do have a chance.  If they can overtake the White Sox, against whom they've had a ton of success in recent years, the Royals might be able to sneak into the playoffs due in part to a weak division.

No doubt the guy here is Jeremy Guthrie, no explanation need, just trust me.  Follow him @TheRealJGuts