Eric Hosmer (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Is it possible that the Kansas City Royals’ time has come and gone? For the past few seasons, things have been looking up in Kansas City as their young players began to reach the major leagues and realize their potential. However, that road has been bumpy and the results have been mixed. The Royals tried to accelerate the process by dealing top prospect Wil Myers for James Shields to solidify the top of the rotation before last season, but the jury is still out on that move.
Prediction: 3rd Place American League Central
Additions & Subtractions:
The moves that should make an impact on the Royals for this season are the improvements they made to the top of their order. The acquisitions of outfielder Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante are not exciting by any stretch, but they are prudent moves for a team that looks to take the next step. Aoki will bat leadoff and will be followed in the order by Infante, which gives Kansas City two proven professional hitters that know how to get on base. The power output should be minimal from both players, but they can hit between .280 and .300 in their sleep and Aoki should close in on 20 stolen bases. And that is all that will be asked of them, get on base ahead of the middle of the order.
There was also some movement in the middle of the rotation as Ervin Santana is out, and Jason Vargas is in. Neither are more than middle of the rotation innings eaters, but there will be some drop off to Vargas to whom Kansas City committed four years and $32 million to.
This is a team that is top heavy. The Royals pitching staff is built around James Shields at the top of the rotation and Greg Holland anchoring the ninth inning. Both should have no issues repeating their 2013 campaigns but with Shields headed for free agency after the season, this could be a situation to watch depending on how the first few months of the season goes.
The same goes for the middle of the order core of Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Alex Gordon. All three are home grown players who are beginning to come into their own and live up to expectations. However, the concern, especially regarding Butler, is the lack of power.
The middle of Kansas City’s rotation is filled with solid, dependable veterans in Jeremy Guthrie, Vargas, and Bruce Chen. While all have a proven track record, none stand out to me as shut down pitchers that could carry a team. The best you can say about this group is that they will keep the Royals in the game and give their offense a chance to win.
The other piece of Kansas City’s young core was Mike Moustakas. The third baseman was supposed to form a dynamic duo with Hosmer, but it has not occurred yet. This is likely his last real chance, and so far this spring, Moustakas has had success. If he is able to carry that into the season, then the Royals’ fortunes could improve.
A strong spring earned Yordano Ventura a rotation spot as the fifth starter, but he has the potential to slot higher. There is no reason why he should not supplant pitchers such as Chen this season.