Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate for a play made against shortstop Alexei Ramirez (not pictured) during the sixth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

AL Central Research Part 1: Kansas City Royals


Kansas City Royals Looking to Build on Solid 2013 Season

The Indians will have their hands full this year in the AL Central. The Tigers look to be contenders once again. The Royals should be in the mix as well after a sensational 2013 season. Even the Twins and White Sox, despite their flaws and current rebuilds, should prove to be a tough opponent on most nights.

With that in mind, I reached out to the editors of the other AL Central team sites here on the Fansided network and asked them some tough questions about their respective teams. I figured, what better way to gauge how well the Indians might do this year than to do a little research on their primary competitors. I asked each of them a series of questions hoping for some honest and insightful answers. I can’t thank each of them enough for their time.

To kick things off in part one of our preseason opposition research, let’s take a quick look at the Kansas City Royals and what David Hill from Kings of Kauffman had to say. You can also follow him on Twitter, @m1sterdave.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals

Aug 8, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the eighth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Lineup:

  1. Norichika Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  4. Billy Butler, DH
  5. Alex Gordon, LF
  6. Salvador Perez, C
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  8. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  9. Alcides Escobar, SS

Projected Starting Rotation:

Closer:

Prospect Most Likely to Make a Difference:

Wahoo’s on First:  The running story line for the Royals over the past few seasons has been how young and talented they are. Last season they really seemed to put it all together but not before they dug themselves into a huge hole first. Do you think this is the year where it finally clicks and they make a push for the postseason?

David Hill: At this point, I actually think that the Royals are in roughly the same place they were in last season. While I expect the offense to be greatly improved, there is likely to be regression amongst the pitching staff, especially Jeremy Guthrie. If the Royals pitching staff outperforms expectations, it could be a season to remember in Kansas City. However, at this point, I think they fall just shy of the playoffs again.

Wahoo’s on First: What additions have the Royals made that you are excited about? What subtractions have you worried?

David Hill: The addition I’m most excited about is Norichika Aoki. He gives the Royals something they have not had in a long time – a legitimate leadoff hitter. Nothing against Alex Gordon, but he profiles better in the middle of the lineup. Aoki brings an element of speed that the Royals have not had atop the order in some time and can get on base at a solid rate.

The subtraction that has me most concerned is Ervin Santana. The Royals feel like they are a starter away, and Santana could have been that pitcher.

kansas city royals

Sep 23, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) pitches to the Seattle Mariners during the 1st inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Wahoo’s on First: After James Shields, the rest of the Royals starting rotation doesn’t exactly instill a ton of fear, especially if they’re going to lose Ervin Santana. What about Yordano Ventura? Will he make the Opening Day roster and if so what can we expect?

David Hill: Ventura is an interesting pitcher. He’s being told to go into Spring Training with the belief that he has the fifth starter’s spot, and someone is going to have to take it away from him. Then they sign Bruce Chen and apparently promise him a spot in the rotation. Where does Danny Duffy fit in? Or Ventura, for that matter?

I would start Ventura in the rotation at the start of the season, provided he does not get shelled during Spring Training. He has the most upside of any of the true candidates for the rotation. If he gets a rotation spot at the start of the year, an ERA in the mid to upper threes and around 150 strikeouts would seem to be a fair expectation.

Wahoo’s on First: Mike Moustakas had a rough go of it in 2013. Do you think that was just a fluke year and can he turn it around or was it a troubling sign of things to come? Didn’t the Royals have high hopes for him?

David Hill: The biggest problem with Moustakas has been his issues against left-handed pitching. He has ‘hit’ at a .222/.275/.332 rate against lefties in his career. However, he has been working on his swing this offseason, spending time with Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol in the Venezuelan Winter League. The Royals also traded for Danny Valencia, who can hit left-handed pitching. If need be, the Royals may devise a platoon at third.

Moustakas was a highly touted prospect, but the Royals have a couple other prospects coming up at third base. This may be one of his last chances to prove that he can be the player they thought he was before Hunter Dozier and/or Cheslor Cuthbert claim the spot for themselves.

Wahoo’s on First: What’s one move you wish the Royals would have made, or one area you wish they would have better addressed this off-season?

David Hill: The one move I wish the Royals would have made is to bring back Santana. Jason Vargas would be a nice addition – if he was the third starter. The Royals need another top of the rotation arm, and Vargas just is not that. I would not be surprised if the Royals fall just short because of that lack of a true number two starter.

Wahoo’s on First: As someone who follows a another team in the AL Central, what do you make of the Indians heading into 2014?

David Hill: I put Cleveland in the same boat as the Royals. I think they are essentially in the same spot they were last year. However, since I think the Tigers took a step back, the gap between the three is lessened. The Indians should be a playoff contender once again, and could even wrest control of the Central away from Detroit.

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Tags: Alex Gordon Billy Butler Cleveland Indians James Shields Yordano Ventura