Wait, did I just see the Royals on ESPN? I have caught myself thinking this more already than any other season in recent years. Dayton Moore and the Royals have finally gone all in for this 2013 season. With a huge trade for James Shields, the Royals were finally able to go from being one of the worst starting rotations in the history of the MLB to one of the better rotations in the AL. To go with a better rotation, they Royals have offensive threats that could contribute to a rare winning season.
The biggest X-factor this season is health. The Royals have invested so much this season, so if James Shields or Salvador Perez gets injured, fans can kiss this season goodbye. Concerning health, the major statistic I see is which starter pitches the most innings. Last year, the starters went just six innings too often. Though the bullpen was dominant, the relievers were typically worn out. The Royals trade for Shields has given Kansas City a workhorse. It has also given the Royals and Ned Yost options for their rotation and bullpen.
The starting rotation is bound to be better this year than last, but by how much? As I said earlier, the inning the starters consume will show the specific talents the Royals have in the bullpen. Right now, here is how I see the starting rotation shaping out:
1. James Shields: 15-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 223 Ks, 58 Walks in 227.2 Innings
2. Ervin Santana: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 133 Ks, 61 Walks in 178 Innings
3. Jeremy Guthrie: 8-12, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 101 Ks, 50 Walks in 181.2 Innings
4. Wade Davis: 3-0, 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 87 Ks, 29 Walks in 70.1 Innings
5. Luis Mendoza: 8-10, 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 106 Ks, 59 Walks in 166 Innings
Remember when I said they Royals will have options this season? Well, what should the Royals do with Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen? I have always been a huge believer that the best way to motivate and get the best out of players is through pure competition. I hope Ned Yost has made it clear that no one’s starting spot is a lock. Mendoza has been pitching extremely well so far this offseason and spring training. While this does not matter too much, it does show that he is coming in ready to compete for a job. This season, the Royals will have something they have not had since they traded away Zack Greinke. The Royals will once again have a pitcher with whom they will expect a win no matter what in James Shields. “Big Game James” actually thrives off of pitching in games against the best teams and will get his opportunity in the Royals opener against Chicago White Sox. Plus, Shields will bring playoff experience to the staff.
The Royals’ bullpen has been the strongest part of the team because of young prospects coming in and producing immediately. Greg Holland and Aaron Crow are the “Leaders of the Relievers”. Both can come in with confidence that they will get the team out of any jam. The 5 players below are current locks on having a spot in the rotation due to how they have fared in the majors so far. Holland will close and Crow will be the set-up man just like last year. With Luke Hochevar being put in the bullpen, the relievers are starting to form a complete group.
Greg Holland: 7-4, 16 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 91 Ks, 34 Walks in 67 Innings
Kelvin Herrera: 4-3, 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 77 Ks, 21 Walks in 84.1 Innings
Tim Collins: 5-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 Ks, 34 Walks in 69.2 Innings
Aaron Crow: 3-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 65 Ks, 22 Walks in 64.2 Innings
Louis Coleman: 0-0, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 65 Ks, 26 Walks in 51 Innings
Nate Adcock, Will Smith and Everett Teaford are all fighting for one spot in the bullpen and it will most likely be this way the entire season. Will Smith did a better job than most expected last year as a starter but did not perform at a high enough rate to retain his role in the rotation.
The Royals will not intimidate opposing pitching staffs with their power, but will with their ability to run the bases, hit for contact and situational hitting. The biggest difference from last year to this year’s offensive attack is having Salvador Perez healthy. Along with Perez, look for Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to carry the load for this lineup For the most part, Gordon and Butler have been consistent. I expect Butler to finally jump into the thirty home run club and be the sole member from the Royals. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could both take major strides this year as well. Hosmer should benefit immensely from playing with the USA team because he gets to see how the best players prepare themselves on a daily basis. I do not expect Perez to hit in the .300’s but around .280 mark. Though the Royals may lack strength in power, they more than make up for it in their athletic youth.
Alex Gordon (LF): .294/.368/.455, 14 HR’s, 72 RBI, 93 Runs in 161 Games
Alcides Escobar (SS): .293/.331/.390, 5 HR’s, 52 RBI, 68 Runs, 35 SB’s in 155 Games
Eric Hosmer (1B): .232/.304/.359, 14 HR’s, 60 RBI, 65 Runs, 16 SB’s in 152 Games
Billy Butler (DH): .313/.373/.510, 29 HR’s, 107 RBI, 72 Runs in 161 Games
Mike Moustakas (3B): .242/.296/.412, 20 HR’s, 73 RBI, 69 Runs in 149 Games
Salvador Perez (C): .301/.328/.471, 11 HR’s, 39 RBI, 38 Runs in 76 Games
Jeff Francoeur (RF): .235/.287/.387, 16 HR’s, 49 RBI, 58 Runs in 148 Games
Lorenzo Cain (CF): .266/.316/.419, 7 HR’s, 31 RBI, 27 Runs, 10 SB’s in 61 Games
Chris Getz (2B): .275/.312/.360, 17 RBI, 22 Runs, 9 SB’s in 64 Games
Come September, I expect the Royals to finish at 79-83. Lorenzo Cain’s health will be crucial as this team aims to achieve a winning record. With major injuries to any of the starting lineup, the Royals winning chances diminish because they do not have the depth to plug another player in without a great drop off. Furthermore, the Royals do not have the pieces or money to make trades to improve the roster in the middle of the season. The Royals are all in this year and pitching will tell the story for the Blue Crew.
The Kansas City Royals announced that the club has reached an agreement on a multi-year contract with Alcides Escobar. The contract starts with four guaranteed years through the 2015 season, then club options for the following two seasons: 2016 and 2017. The contract is designed to pay him $1 million this year and $3 million in each of the years 2013-14-15. The club options are for $5.25 million in 2016 with a $500,000 buyout and $6.5 million in 2017 with a $500,000 buyout.
The 25-year-old Escobar had his first season with the Royals in 2011 after being obtained in a six-player trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010. The defensive standout tied for the Major League lead with playing in 158 games at shortstop with 459 assists and 271 putouts. The defensive minded Escobar had a .254 batting average with 21 doubles, 8 triples, 4 home runs. In addition, he set his career-best 26 stolen bases, becoming the fourth shortstop in Royals history to steal 20+ bases in a season. He started extremely slow with the bat last year but turned his fate over in the later half. Escobar hit .286 from June 7 through the remainder of the season. Escobar has worked extremely hard this offseason to improve on his average. He will never hit .300 but if the average can get around .280 he and the Royals will be thrilled. When watching Escobar, one can not love how he carries himself. He displays knowledge and love for the game with his glove and determination with his bat. One great aspect to the signing of Escobar is that he has proven his durability.
Now that Escobar has been inked for the future, the Royals currently turn their attention to the injury of newly signed Salvador Perez. Perez partially tore his meniscus. He is expected to be out for 12-14 weeks. He may be held out until the All-Star Break. This injury brings cringes to any former catcher because they realize how important a catchers knees are. The Royals will be slow with pushing the return of Perez. Expect to see Brayan Pena more then planned to give Perez’s knees a break throughout the season. Furthermore, Dayton Moore has been looking around through free agency for a catcher. A possible candidate is Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. Pudge hit only .218 with 2 home runs. Another possible but unlikely option would be Jason Varitek What he does bring is excellent leadership and tremendous defense. There are other options to fill Perez’s shoes but for now Pena is the answer.
While fans want Eric Hosmer to be the next Royals signed to a long-term deal, I expect Alex Gordon to be next on the list because of the numbers he managed to put up last year. The two sides have tried to find a suitable contract this past offseason but were unable to meet each others wants.