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2016 Team Previews: Kansas City Royals

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Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the World Champs.

Lorenzo Cain's breakout gave both the Royals and many fantasy owners a championship. What's in store for 2016 for this team?
Lorenzo Cain's breakout gave both the Royals and many fantasy owners a championship. What's in store for 2016 for this team?
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Kansas City Royals

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
Eric Hosmer 1B 667 18 98 93 7 3 9.10% 16.20% 0.297 0.363 0.459
Omar Infante 2B 455 2 39 44 2 2 2.00% 15.20% 0.22 0.234 0.318
Ben Zobrist 2B, OF 264 7 37 23 2 3 11.00% 11.40% 0.284 0.364 0.453
Mike Moustakas 3B 614 22 73 82 1 2 7.00% 12.40% 0.284 0.348 0.47
Salvador Perez C 553 21 52 70 1 0 2.40% 14.80% 0.26 0.28 0.426
Kendrys Morales DH, 1B* 639 22 81 106 0 0 9.10% 16.10% 0.29 0.362 0.485
Lorenzo Cain OF 604 16 101 72 28 6 6.10% 16.20% 0.307 0.361 0.477
Alex Gordon OF 422 13 40 48 2 5 11.60% 21.80% 0.271 0.377 0.432
Paulo Orlando OF 251 7 31 27 3 3 2.00% 21.10% 0.249 0.269 0.444
Jarrod Dyson OF 225 2 31 18 26 3 6.20% 16.40% 0.25 0.311 0.38
Alex Rios OF 411 4 40 32 9 0 3.60% 16.30% 0.255 0.287 0.353
Alcides Escobar SS 662 3 76 47 17 5 3.90% 11.30% 0.257 0.293 0.32
Christian Colon SS, 2B* 119 0 8 6 3 2 9.20% 14.30% 0.29 0.356 0.336

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Eric Hosmer 0.336 23.40% 52.20% 24.40% 15.10% 8.70% 18.00% 49.90% 32.10% 8.07
Omar Infante 0.255 21.00% 41.20% 37.70% 1.40% 9.10% 19.90% 56.80% 23.30% -2.01
Ben Zobrist 0.299 18.70% 47.80% 33.50% 10.30% 4.90% 16.70% 53.90% 29.40% 3.54
Mike Moustakas 0.294 18.80% 39.90% 41.40% 11.20% 7.10% 19.50% 49.20% 31.30% 5.58
Salvador Perez 0.27 20.70% 41.90% 37.40% 12.40% 9.00% 20.00% 56.00% 24.00% 3.03
Kendrys Morales 0.319 20.40% 44.90% 34.70% 13.50% 10.40% 14.30% 50.90% 34.90% 6.90
Lorenzo Cain 0.347 23.20% 45.50% 31.30% 11.20% 8.40% 13.40% 54.70% 32.00% 10.55
Alex Gordon 0.327 24.80% 37.60% 37.60% 13.00% 9.00% 19.10% 47.60% 33.30% 1.53
Paulo Orlando 0.291 22.30% 43.50% 34.20% 11.10% 11.10% 19.90% 48.70% 31.40% -0.73
Jarrod Dyson 0.296 23.40% 53.90% 22.70% 5.70% 6.70% 31.80% 48.80% 19.40% 1.70
Alex Rios 0.294 22.20% 39.80% 38.00% 3.30% 7.90% 14.50% 58.60% 26.90% 0.35
Alcides Escobar 0.286 22.30% 47.80% 29.90% 1.90% 8.30% 20.80% 58.80% 20.40% 3.16
Christian Colon 0.344 26.70% 44.40% 28.90% 0.00% 6.30% 24.20% 60.40% 15.40% -2.38

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

We have reached the World Champion Royals. Despite the fact that they won it all and had the best record in the AL, fantasy-wise, this team isn't as loaded with first or second-round talent as teams like the Blue Jays, Cubs, Astros, and others. They still have some reliable fantasy stars, but they also start a few guys that don't have much value at all.

First up is Eric Hosmer. This guy actually had a great fantasy season. He finished at #6 among first basemen on ESPN's player rater, ahead of Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera, to name a few. He doesn't have the power of most of those guys (not really close, even), but has just enough power that when combined with his good speed and excellent average, it makes him valuable. I've never been a fan because I like lots of power from my 1B slot and I can get average and speed at other positions, but that doesn't change the fact that he has good 5-category production. I see no signs of decline or looming regression and he is just 26, so 2016's numbers should be pretty close to 2015's. If you've got power at other positions like OF and 3B, you can often get a great value on Hosmer in drafts.

Ben Zobrist is now in Chicago and was covered in my A's preview. His departure is unfortunate because that means the terrible Omar Infante is their second baseman. Yuck.

Mike Moustakas learned to hit to all fields in 2015 after being a dead pull hitter and he improved in every way. If he can sustain this new style in 2016, I think he could easily produce similar numbers. There is nothing fluky about his power or average looking at his BABIP, hard hit %, flyball %, and other indicators. He was completely useless in most leagues in 2014 and now could be a top 15 third baseman for two years in a row if he keeps it up this year.

Salvador Perez continues to be an under-valued catcher. He is so consistent, plays more than most other catchers, and has pretty good power too. Looking at his hard hit %, which is very low and the fact that he set a career high in home runs last year, I'm going to put him at about 18 HR in 2016. Everything else should be about the same (including the bad OBP). I ranked him #4 in our staff catcher rankings, so that's how I think he should be drafted.

Kendrys Morales had quite the rebound season. He looked done in 2014 and then suddenly pulls out a vintage season? The only nitpick I might have is his high BABIP. Other than that, unless he pulls a 2014 on us again, he should be good to go for another year of fantasy relevance. He's now a DH in most leagues, but is still good enough to draft. He's one of only a handful of DH-only guys that you can say that about. I would take 0.010 to 0.020 off his average, take away a few RBI, and keep the HR at about 22 for 2016's projection. If he was a first baseman, I would probably rank him around #14.

Lorenzo Cain had the best fantasy season of all the Royals, believe it or not. He was the #5 OF in ESPN. Let that sink in for a minute. He was the #29 OF in 2014. That's quite a jump. He turns 30 this year and just set a career-high in homers. While his BABIP was very high, he's always had high BABIPs, so that's not a concern. I looked for some obvious reason to doubt his career year and regress his power or average or steals, but I couldn't really find it. The slugging % was so much higher than his previous average that I think that will come down, but his average should be right near 0.300 again and I think he could hit 14 HR. He could get 28 steals again, but speed declines quickly with age so I might knock that down to 25 steals in my projection. Put it together and you still have a top 20 OF, but maybe not a top 5 option in 2016.

Alex Gordon is a tough player to value in fantasy. He is consistent, but doesn't dominate in any category and is just above average in a few categories. He fades into the background like beige walls. He was #90 on ESPN's 2015 OF player rater, but he missed lots of time and just didn't rack up the counting stats. In a healthy 2014 season, he finished at #27. The more I look at his 2014 stats, the more I think that would be my prediction for his 2016, so you should value him based on those numbers and a rank of about 27 among outfielders.

With the terrible Alex Rios' departure, right field now belongs to Jarrod Dyson/Paulo Orlando. Dyson has elite speed and Orlando showed surprising power and little else in 2015. I don't expect Orlando to be relevant in fantasy this year, but Dyson is very interesting. If he can at least hit as well as Billy Hamilton, he could get to 40-50 steals. He can't hit lefties, so he probably will sit in those games, but he still has value with steals at such a premium. Against righties, he is a career 0.266/0.329/0.367 hitter, which would be a great outcome over a full season in 2016, if he could pull it off. Here is the best source of cheap speed in 2016 drafts. If you wait on steals and get first basemen and power outfielders or guys like Cano at second, Dyson (and to a lesser extent Kevin Pillar) can be ways to get your steals later in the draft.

Alcides Escobar is another player that I've never liked. He only offers two things of any value and everything else hurts your team. He gets some steals and he plays shortstop. His average is potentially a positive, but his power and OBP are awful. For what it's worth, he was #19 on ESPN's shortstop player rater, but that's more a consequence of the shallow-ness of the position and the rarity of steals. I know SS is a wasteland and at least he contributes steals, but I personally avoid him, even if I understand why some do draft him.

Prospects potentially debuting in 2016: Raul Mondesi, Jorge Bonifacio. Raul Mondesi is a good SS prospect that might debut in 2016 if something happens to Escobar. He is like Escobar in that he doesn't walk much and has very good speed. Scouts say he has 15 HR power, so he could become a rich-man's Escobar by 2017 or 2018. I don't think he gets the call until September, but you never know. He's got 70-grade speed and that should be his best fantasy asset. Bonifacio is the younger brother of the great(?) Emilio Bonifacio. He is likely to debut at some point this year, but doesn't have enough fantasy upside (basically league average tools) to be worth a stash. That outfield already has four worthy candidates, so his playing time would require some injuries.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Wade Davis RP 67.1 0.94 2.29 3.07 0.79 0.2 92.20% 38.40% 11.60%
Jason Frasor RP 23.1 1.54 4.08 4.72 1.67 0.329 90.40% 47.10% 8.00%
Ryan Madson RP 63.1 2.13 3.09 3.32 0.96 0.249 82.10% 55.00% 13.10%
Kelvin Herrera RP 69.2 2.71 3.44 3.82 1.12 0.249 78.10% 44.70% 13.00%
Luke Hochevar RP 50.2 3.73 4 4.19 1.28 0.298 76.50% 37.20% 10.20%
Greg Holland RP 44.2 3.83 3.27 3.78 1.46 0.319 72.40% 49.10% 14.60%
Joe Blanton RP 41.2 3.89 3.59 3.21 1.2 0.311 74.50% 48.40% 11.10%
Brandon Finnegan RP, SP 24.1 2.96 4.74 3.98 1.19 0.213 85.30% 58.70% 9.30%
Franklin Morales RP, SP* 62.1 3.18 3.52 3.99 1.16 0.277 73.90% 49.50% 7.20%
Edinson Volquez SP 200.1 3.55 3.82 4.26 1.31 0.29 73.10% 46.00% 9.50%
Jason Vargas SP 43 3.98 4.3 4.74 1.35 0.297 75.00% 40.80% 7.70%
Yordano Ventura SP 163.1 4.08 3.57 3.6 1.3 0.307 72.50% 52.20% 10.40%
Johnny Cueto SP 81.1 4.76 4.06 4.13 1.45 0.343 70.80% 42.60% 8.70%
Chris Young SP, RP 123.1 3.06 4.52 5.33 1.09 0.209 80.70% 25.50% 9.40%
Kris Medlen SP, RP 58.1 4.01 4.13 4.31 1.27 0.282 68.10% 49.70% 8.60%
Jeremy Guthrie SP, RP 148.1 5.95 5.62 5.11 1.55 0.315 69.60% 34.40% 6.30%
Danny Duffy SP, RP* 136.2 4.08 4.43 4.64 1.39 0.298 75.80% 38.80% 8.40%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Wade Davis 17 18 31.10% 8.00% 20.90% 61.40% 17.70% 7.66
Jason Frasor 0 2 17.30% 14.40% 12.70% 56.30% 31.00% -0.93
Ryan Madson 3 20 23.40% 5.70% 20.10% 54.60% 25.30% 2.32
Kelvin Herrera 0 21 22.40% 9.10% 18.60% 56.70% 24.70% 1.78
Luke Hochevar 1 6 22.90% 7.50% 18.90% 56.80% 24.30% -0.51
Greg Holland 32 0 25.40% 13.50% 22.90% 50.00% 27.10% 3.23
Joe Blanton 2 0 23.30% 4.10% 20.00% 42.40% 37.60% 2.95
Brandon Finnegan 0 0 21.20% 13.10% 25.00% 45.30% 29.70% 0.46
Franklin Morales 0 8 15.90% 5.40% 21.10% 52.30% 26.60% 0.79
Edinson Volquez 0 0 18.20% 8.50% 15.90% 53.70% 30.40% 4.05
Jason Vargas 0 0 14.80% 6.60% 19.60% 44.10% 36.40% -0.48
Yordano Ventura 0 0 22.50% 8.40% 14.70% 55.50% 29.80% 3.27
Johnny Cueto 0 0 16.00% 4.90% 18.90% 52.40% 28.70% 5.98
Chris Young 0 2 16.60% 8.60% 18.50% 48.10% 33.40% 1.31
Kris Medlen 0 0 16.50% 7.40% 20.80% 53.60% 25.70% 0.17
Jeremy Guthrie 0 0 12.70% 6.60% 18.00% 51.40% 30.60% #N/A
Danny Duffy 1 2 17.40% 9.00% 18.90% 51.70% 29.50% 0.57

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

This rotation loses Cueto to San Francisco, which is a big hit. I covered him in detail in my Reds preview, so check that out for more. I didn't know then that he would be in SF, but I did say that a big ballpark in the NL would help him quite a bit, so things are looking up for him.

Yordano Ventura becomes the sort-of ace of this staff, although their depth chart lists Volquez as the #1. Ventura's poor ERA and WHIP hide what was actually a good season. His FIP, xFIP, swinging strike %, and ground ball % were all above average. His K%-BB% was also very good. Put that together and I think Ventura drops his ERA quite a bit this year. I think a 3.4 ERA is very attainable, with good strikeouts to go with it.

Volquez is kind of the opposite. Despite a good ERA, his underlying stats say he was a clearly below-average starter last year. His xFIP, K%-BB%, and hard hit % all point to looming regression. I would peg him for an ERA near 4 in 2016.

I covered Ian Kennedy in my Padres preview, so there is lots to read about him there. Now that I know he will be in the spacious KC ballpark, this is one of the best locations for him and I would bump his ERA down 0.1 or 0.2. I think he gets a nice boost as a flyball pitcher in this home park (like Chris Young), but don't go making him a top 30 starter or anything.

Chris Young remains an ageless, high-strike throwing, 86-mph fastball wonder. He beats his terrible FIP and xFIP every year, but is a huge risk for "blow-up" starts where he gives up 5-10 runs in 4-5 innings. His hard hit percentage shows just how hard hitters hit his slow fastball when they do make contact. He's good at keeping the ball high in the zone, but man, he is just so risky with few strikeouts, so many flyballs, and no velocity. In deep leagues, maybe he will continue to put up good seasons despite all the risks and could be worth a rotation spot, but I will probably stay away again. Shallower leagues can stay away.

I don't see enough in the other starters to cover them here.

The bullpen is pretty clear. Wade Davis is a top 3-5 closer that has an elite track record for several years now. There's not much else to say about him. Kelvin Herrera is now the setup man and was actually out-pitched by Ryan Madson last year because he took a step back. A fully-healthy Luke Hochevar might also factor into the middle relief. I think Herrera will be ok, but that xFIP and FIP worry me a little. The other two will be there to step in if he does struggle. I don't believe Herrera is quite as elite a middle relief option as he once was, but he should rack up tons of holds on this team.

Kyle Zimmer is the only pitching prospect I want to mention. He has ace "stuff", according to scouts, but shoulder problems have held him back. He has a 70-grade fastball, 65-grade curve, and 60-grade control. That's a great package and makes him immediately relevant in fantasy when/if he gets called up this year. This rotation is bad near the bottom, so there won't be anyone in his way. Keep an eye on him to see if he is doing well at AAA and might be called up because you will want to grab him when you can.

Breakout

Yordano Ventura

Like I said above, I like what I saw from his peripheral stats in 2015 and I think he could take a big step forward this year. Jarrod Dyson would be my second choice.

Breakdown

Edinson Volquez

As I detailed a few paragraphs ago, there are red flags everywhere in his 2015 stat line and regression is coming for this man.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!