The slogan “Our Time” should have been saved for next year because this team will not be competing for the playoffs. The Royals start the season as the youngest team in the majors once again. The existing number of youths means growing pains to come. Eric Hosmer will be the leader on the field, but guys like Jeff Francoeur and Bruce Chen will be leading the team in the clubhouse. There will be problems with such a young team, but it appears that the Royals are a close group.
Bruce Chen – Chen will be starting his first Opening Day. Chen has been the best starting pitcher for the Royals the past two seasons. His control is what he relies on. Also, the 88 MPH fastball, which somehow manages to give hitters trouble all season long, allows him to paint the corners of the plate.
Luke Hochevar – Hochevar looks to finally turn the corner. The former number one draft pick has been looking to turn the same corner for 4 years. Last year, he would pitch extremely well until the fifth inning. Then, he would give up 5 runs and lose the game. Hochevar has frustrated fans because he has yet to pan out as expected.
Jonathan Sanchez – After losing Francis, Dayton Moore decided to trade Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez, who adds a new dimension to the rotation. The thing Sanchez does best is striking out hitters. Sanchez managed to finish the 2010 season with a record of 13-10. He also pitched a no-hitter in the same year.
Louis Mendoza – The 28-year-old Mendoza, looks to build on after a strong spring training. He posted a .54 ERA in five starts this spring. Mendoza and Duffy will be competing for a job after Felipe Paulino returns from the DL. Mendoza is known as a contact pitcher which will work well with a solid defense behind him.
Danny Duffy – I plan on seeing a great deal of improvement from Danny Duffy in his second year. Last year’s experience will pay huge dividends when Duffy is pitching against the same players he saw. Duffy could use some mental development.
Jose Mijares – Mijares was signed by the Royals this off-season. Mijares posted a 3.81 ERA and 36 K’s with the Minnesota Twins. He will assume a lefty specialist role in the bullpen.
Kelvin Herrera – The rookie will try to prove himself worth the call up. Herrera is one word, filthy. He can reach 100 MPH and has a nasty changeup in his back pocket. Herrera will put up numbers close to Greg Holland last year. He is a boom or bust player with an extremely high upside, which will be shown through flashes. Herrera looks to prove that as a rookie; he can dominate hitters as he has done all spring long.
Tim Collins – The 5’ 7” Collins has always had an uphill battle because of his height, but now he has proven that he can overcome the “small” road block. Collins fastball can reach the mid 90’s. Collins will surprise hitters with the movement of his off-speed pitches.
Everett Teaford – Teaford will join fellow lefties Tim Collins and Jose Mijares as Ned Yost opted to bulk up on lefties to start the year. Teaford pitched well this spring and will be used in the long relief/mop-up duty.
Aaron Crow – The Royals were planning on Crow competing for a spot in the starting rotation, but he will remain in the bullpen. This is ultimately good for Aaron Crow. The former All-Star will be a solid arm for Ned Yost to call upon.
Jonathan Broxton – Jonathan Broxton is the newly acquired reliever from the Dodgers. Weighing in at 300lbs, I assume he will enjoy the Kansas City barbeque. Last year, Broxton was injured with a bruised elbow, which held him out for nearly the whole year. Dayton Moore appears to be a genius now since Soria is shut down for the year. Broxton gives a fantastic arm to the bullpen.
Greg Holland – Holland looks to prove himself as a legitimate closer. Holland has the stuff to be an All-Star caliber closer. I expect him to rack up 28 saves. Holland has been lights out during this spring training similar to his performance last year. He posted a 1.80 ERA last year. Holland will not be as great compared to last year, but he will do just enough to get the job done. Holland will use his mix between his fastball and wicked slider to close out the final three outs of the game.
When we take a look back at the Royals 2011 season, the major struggle was with the starting rotation. Numerous analysts called the rotation the “worst in baseball”. The Royals managed to have a terrible ERA 4.44, which slotted at 27th worst in the league. They are also ranked 27th in quality starts with only 75. The all-important WHIP stat is not much better. The Royals come in at 26th with a 1.41.
All stats are projected.
1. Alex Gordon LF .288 22 HR 75 RBI
2. Lorenzo Cain CF .279 12 HR 20 SB
3. Eric Hosmer 1B .287 22 HR 88 RBI
4. Billy Butler DH .299 21 HR 94 RBI
5. Jeff Franoeur RF .270 17 HR 78 RBI
6. Mike Moustakas 3B .269 15 HR 77 RBI
7. Brayan Pena C .260 5 HR 32 RBI
8. Chris Getz 2B .247 24 RBI 17 SB
9. Alcides Escobar SS .259 44 RBI 22 SB
Mitch Maier OF .243 3 HR 18 RBI
Jason Bourgeois OF .267 20 RBI 18 SB
Yuniesky Betancourt Utility INF .260 6 HR 30 RBI
Humberto Quintero C .241 2 HR 19 RBI
Dayton Moore has worked hard this off season to sign some important hitters for the future. Escobar, Perez, and Gordon have all inked long-term contracts. Chris Getz is clearly the worst hitter in the line up. Getz will be replaced by Johnny Giavottela at some point during the season and when he does, the Royals will get better at bat. A .305 career minor league hitter with a 9.7 percent walk and 87.7 percent contact rate, Giavotella exceeds his .247 rookie-year batting average suggests. Brayan Pena and Huberto Quintero will be splitting time as they try to minimize the loss of Salvador Perez. The locked up catcher, Perez, hopes to return around the middle of July.
Lorenzo Cain has completely dominated spring pitching. Cain is hitting .371 during spring training. He is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball. Along with his hitting, Cain gets phenomenal jumps on balls in center field. His great range and arm compliment his instincts. Cain roams center field as well as former Royal, Coco Crisp. Furthermore, Alex Gordon looks to build on the great success he had last year. Gordon will remain in the leadoff position as he has all spring long. The key for Billy Butler will be to finally getting his power numbers up, as the Royals expected, when they signed him to a long term deal.
The best this team will finish is 82-82. I realistically see the club at 78-84. While the future is extremely bright, 2012 is not the season where the Royals break out. When viewing the division, the Royals should be happy to finish in second place. This team could be poised to make a run until the All-Star game just as the Pittsburgh Pirates did last year. While the starting rotation improved with Sanchez, the rotation is still subpar. Eric Hosmer is the best player for the Royals without question. This team has two X-factors, Mike Moustakas and Danny Duffy. If Moose can find his power stroke, then the line up could take the next step in being dangerous. Duffy will need to use his experience he gained last year to work out tough situations.