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Thursday, February 17, 2011

MLB Preview: Kansas City Royals

After visiting Baltimore and Houston, we turn our sights on another team that I'll wager about 1,000 pesos you can't name more than 3 players in the starting lineup. Before looking earlier today, even I missed a couple. But now, having studied up, I am fully prepared to educate you on the promise and poise of the Kansas City Royals.

Oh, the promise and poise of the Royals. This is a team that hasn't been to the postseason since they won it all in 1985. 26 not so good seasons. Kind of like trying to root for the Pirates. Ha! They haven't been over .500 since 2003, when they overachieved to 83-79. They've lost star after star in David Cone, Kevin Seitzer, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, and now Cy Young winner Zack Greinke and All-Star David DeJesus.

The Royals have become the definition of hapless franchise. A small market team with small minded ownership has yet to find that happy balance between youth and experience that has netted a bit of glory for other small market teams like the A's and Twins. Instead, the team keeps reloading on youth and failing to develop, quickly losing fans and support. Could this be the season for them to turn it around?

In a word, no. I wouldn't bet on it anyway. But, there are bright spots that Royals fans can look at to prove that maybe, just maybe, it's time for the Royals to recapture the magic of Brett, White, Wilson, Saberhagen, Leibrandt, and Quisenberry.

Leading the charge is DH/1B Billy Butler (.318, 15 HR, 78 RBI, 45 2B). This guy has quietly become one of the best hitters in the game over the past few years. Guess that's what happens when you play in Kansas City. He was signed to a four year contract extension a few weeks ago. He's there to stay, and hopefully to build around. Kila Ka'aihue is another young, exciting player that will eventually go to another team, or fizzle. He hit 8 HR in 180 AB last year. Not great, but he does have some pop. Melky Cabrera had a down year in Atlanta in 2010, but showed promise before that (13 HR, 68 RBI in 2009), and at 1.25 million, he's a cheap gamble. The Royals also added Jeff Francouer (13 HR, 65 RBI) who brings another veteran presence to the clubhouse. Speaking of veterans, the salty Jason Kendall still has catching duties, and I still stand by him as one of the best defensive backstops in the game.

After all that, the lineup gets interesting. Chris Getz is a ex-White Sox prospect passed over by Gordon Beckham. Aleides Escobar was disappointing last year for the Brewers, but still had enough upside and speed to be worth a Greinke. Alex Gordon, when healthy, might actually be the best piece of this team. Mike Aviles was a nice surprise last year, batting .304. But he needs to get the rest of his production numbers up.

So, the lineup is not stellar. How about the pitching? Subpar at best. Their best last year? Bruce Chen (12-7, 4.17 in 23 starts). Not very impressive. The rest of it doesn't get much better. They lost Greinke and replaced him with the great Vin Mazzaro, (6-8, 4.27) and Jeff Francis (4-6, 5.00). Luke Hochevar (6-6, 4.81) may be the ace of the staff. Then it's rounded out by Kyle Davies (8-12, 5.34), the only current pitcher on the Royals roster who made it through over 150 innings last season. Fortunately, they have one of the best closers in the game in Joakim Soria (43 SV), but they have to get the ball to him with a lead.

It's a bit grim, but here are your 2011 Kansas City Royals:

C Jason Kendall
1B Kila Ka'aihue
2B Chris Getz
3B Mike Aviles
SS Alcides Escobar
LF Alex Gordon
CF Melky Cabrera
RF Jeff Francoeur
DH Billy Butler
SP Luke Hochevar
SP Kyle Davies
SP Vin Mazzaro
SP Jeff Francis
SP Bruce Chen
CL Joakim Soria

Best Case Scenario:
Look, I'm sorry Royals fans, but this just isn't your year. However, we could see a lot of improvement. The young guys begin to develop and grow as people believed they would. Butler becomes a superstar. Francoeur and Cabrera contribute some pop. Francis returns to his 2007 form, Hochevar and Mazzaro become established pitchers, and the Royals hand enough leads to Soria to not be a doormat once again. They finish with momentum, earn their first .500 season since 2003, and look forward to an off-season where they start adding pieces to make a run at the 2012 division crown.

Worst Case Scenario:
Sad thought: this is what's been happening for the past 7 years. The offense just can't get going and Yost gets fired after they go 5-20 to start the season. Ka'aihue is sent back down to the minors. Gordon gets hurt again. Escobar is not the answer at shortstop, and proves he was not worth Greinke. Francis can't recapture the magic, and the stress on the rest of the pitching staff is a bit too much to bear. Francoeur gets traded to Milwaukee. Butler still has a great season, but he can't do it himself. Fortunately, the Royals don't have too many more pieces to trade away, so they get to regroup with what they have.


  1. If I didn't care about the Kansas City Royals before, I definitely don't care about them now.

    Thanks Eric.

  2. Entirely unrelated:

  3. Wilson's beard is OOC. And Posey is man defined.