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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians (44-38) @ Kansas City Royals (38-41)

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Say what you will about the Kansas City Royals – they went for it this year, even if it was somewhat ill-advised. For years now they’ve been rebuilding, putting together the “Best Farm System Ever” with high draft picks and bad records, but they haven’t been able to get over the hump. So even if it meant mortgaging their future in right field and in the middle of the order, they went for it and acquired a legit front line starter. It’s emboldening for a fan to see a move like that, even if Wil Myers is hitting 900 foot home runs, but the problem is, it hasn’t quite worked out. They’re in third place coming into the series with the Indians at 38-41. It has to be at least a little frustrating.

Their pitching has been out of sight this year, first in the American League in ERA, and it’s not just James Shields. Jeremy Guthrie, who the Indians will see, has been brilliant, and Ervin Santana, he of the one-run no-hitter against the Tribe a couple years back, holds a 144 ERA+ and even if he’s still giving up a lot of home runs he’s cut his rate nearly in half from a year ago. For once they can pitch, and you’d think that would make this team a force.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The offense has collapsed though, or near enough. They’re not quite White Sox-ian but they sure could use Wil Myers right now. They just dumped Jeff Francoeur, just about the worst offensive player in baseball and installed homegrown product David Lough full-time in right. He’s hitting .314/.336/.471 and in 677 games in the minors has an .808 OPS. His .263/.333/.263 against lefties in the Majors is a bit disconcerting, but it’s better than Francoeur in every way, so he’s an improvement, regardless of how much.

While the Royals young guys haven’t developed as much as some pundits had hoped to this point, it would still be a mistake to sleep on the Royals offense. They’re a respectable sixth in batting average at .259, but as a team their .313 OBP and .378 slugging percentage are 10th and 15th in the AL. So yeah, the numbers aren’t there. But all the same I’d take Eric Hosmer for as long as they have him in cheap control. While he’s roughly league average on the year with a 103 OPS+, he’s been hitting the ball with authority the last couple weeks. In the past 25 games coming into Tuesday he’s hitting .300/.349/.560 with six homers. Whether he’ll peter off is the question, but the guy is still only 23. There’ still time. If the Indians could swing him, hoodwink Dayton Moore a bit, that’d be great.

I really do like some of the young guys on the team and I think that a couple of them are going to be fine players. Sometimes I feel like we look at prospects like Hosmer or Mike Moustakas and think he’s going to be the next Mark Texieira before Yankee Stadium destroyed his swing or the next Evan Longoria, and while that might be true that isn’t the only place they could end up. If  guy like Moustakas ends up averaging .280/.340/.420 for his career with a good glove, he’ll be around for 15 years and it’ll be considered a  great career. He might even have a couple All Star seasons under his belt, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be on the Royals for it, especially considering he’s 24 and if they don’t make the playoffs Moore will be gone and a new guy will want to make moves. Shoot, look at Gordon – he was a bust of busts, before he started hitting 45 doubles a year. Maybe it’ll all come together for the Royals, but if history is any indication they’ll be a farm team for the big boys (and hopefully Cleveland on the sly) once again. I don’t have a ton of expectation for this team.

With how Jason Kipnis has been hitting ball, Asdrubal Cabrera‘s return without missing a beat, and now the possibility of Mark Reynolds turning it around with a couple solid at-bats in Chicago, I like the Indians chances of putting runs on the board. But for real, Nick Swisher, how about you get to it. He does have an .836 OPS the last week, maybe his shoulder is fine. Some breathing space coming into this weekend against the Tigers would be nice.

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