Mar. 15, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Billy Butler (16) grounds out during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
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I started <3ing the Royals a few years ago when things were looking really, really bad. The way I see it, the bandwagon is always best to jump on when it's at it's emptiest. It doesn't get much emptier than the Royals.
Things started to finally look up however when they stopped being polite and started being real... as in getting real prospects. Sure, they sign a Jason Kendall or a Yuniesky Betancourt every once in awhile, but overall this is a team on the rise. How much of a rise is yet to be determined, but they should at least have a few hitters that can provide excellence to your fantasy lineup. The pitching is another story. (That link was literally another story.)
Let's just dive into one of my favorite non-Mariner baseball teams, the Kansas City Royals.
Best Hitter: Eric Hosmer
Your work's not done Eric (6% walk rate) but for a guy that should have been a college junior you just had a hell of a season in the minor leagues. Hosmer hit .293/.334/.465 with 19 HR, 78 RBI, 66 R and 11 SB in 128 games. He needs to walk more (He will) and he'll also eventually start hitting for more power. In this lineup, he'll eventually be one of the top clean-up hitters in baseball. For 2012, I expect 25 HR, 100 RBI and 100 R.
Alex Gordon had a career-year in 2011 and I expect almost the exact same production in 2012.
Best Pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez?
Goodness. Joakim Soria might have been the right answer before the bad news came through the wire. By now Kansas City was expected to have at least one good starter, but so far none of their SP prospects have panned out. They now turn to Sanchez as the "#1" until a younger guy steps up.
Sanchez pitched 101.1 innings for the Giants last year and struck out 102 with 66 walks and a 4.26 ERA. You like the strikeouts but he's never posted a BB/9 under 4 in his career. However, two years ago he struck out 205 batters and posted a 3.07 ERA with 13 wins. You'll take that but no guarantee he'll get that again.
Luke Hochevar is never going to be more than a #4 starter. Forget about where he was drafted. It's not happening.
Aaron Crow provided some value in the bullpen last year but you can't provide much value in the bullpen... period. Unless he takes over as the closer and I don't expect that. Is he a starter down the road? He wasn't that good as a starter in the minors in 2010.
There's always been a little bit of love for Bruce Chen, now entering his 14th season in the majors. Chen has pitched for 10 different teams and his tenure with Kansas City will now officially be his longest with any club. But he's a back-end starter.
Felipe Paulino is an interesting "buy really low" candidate if you're just looking for strikeouts.
I've been rooting for Danny Duffy ever since he retired, but he only had a couple of good starts last year and he had 20 starts.
There's just not much pitching to see in Kansas City unless you like watching car crashes.
Potential Breakout: Mike Moustakas
He hit .379/.412/.564 with 4 HR, 19 RBI, 12 2B, 14 R and 2 SB over his final 36 games. Small sample size? Sure but he was also a top prospect and there's plenty of reason to believe he'll hit .275 this year and drive in over 90 runs.
Potential Disappointment: Alex Gordon
He had a .358 BABIP last season, his first really good year in the majors and also went through more than one extended slump. I wouldn't overpay for Gordon.
Prospect Watch: Per BA
It was described as maybe the best single group of prospects in the history of... well, whenever people started ranking and follow prospects as vehemently as we do now. I'm speaking of course not about the 2012 Royals but the collection of 2011 Royals prospects that had KC and minor league fans drooling.
If the 2011 season wasn't a lesson in "you can't count on a damn thing from prospects" or "it's never as good as it seems" then I guess you'll never learn. That's not to say that prospect-watching is useless (I adore it with all of my heart) but always keep your expectations in check until a player performs at the only level that matters: the majors.
Mike Montgomery hasn't seen his stock fall much even though he posted a 5.32 ERA, he was only 21 in AAA and has above-average stuff. He still needs to work on his game and improve in order to help the Royals at the major league level.
Odorizzi could be a strikeout machine worth watching. Bubba Starling is at least three years away.
Of the top 10 last year, Hosmer, Moustakas, Duffy, and Crow all graduated. The first two look good to me and the latter two still have time to get better. (Crow didn't look bad but bullpen is bullpen.)
Wil Myers is still seen as a very good prospect, but injuries and struggles in AA have dampened his shine a little bit. Same story on Lamb. Chris Dwyer was just "not that good" in AA and is already 24. 2010 #4 pick Christian Colon was "okay" but needs some work. Herrera could be an elite bullpen arm as soon as later this year. Keep an eye on Yordano Ventura as well.
The 2011 farm wasn't all that bad actually, but they've yet to get help from the one place they desperately need it: pitching.
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