The Kansas City Royals have been in the basement of the AL Central for a long time. They have picked near the top of the draft for the last decade, but it never translated into Major League success. Some of their top picks have worked out (Alex Gordon) and others did not develop into All-Star level talent (Luke Hochevar).
Kansas City had their first season over .500 since 2003 and their best overall season since 1992. The young talent is the reason why they are having success. Building through the draft is the only way a small market team can contend today.
Will Mike Moustakas have a breakout season? Can Jason Vargas adequately replace Ervin Santana in the starting rotation?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Kansas City Royals.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 86-76
Key Additions: 2B Omar Infante, OF Norichika Aoki, SP Jason Vargas, 2B Danny Valencia, RP Clayton Mortensen, RP Jon Rauch & OF Jimmy Paredes
Key Losses: SP Ervin Santana, 2B Chris Getz, SS Emilio Bonifacio, OF David Lough, C George Kottaras, RP Will Smith & RP Luke Hochevar (Tommy John surgery)
Interleague Schedule: NL West + St. Louis Cardinals
Projected Starters: Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Norichika Aoki & Billy Butler
Projected Starting Rotation: James Shields, Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen & Danny Duffy
Closer: Greg Holland
Fantasy Sleeper: 3B Mike Moustakas – He falls under the ‘post-hype’ sleeper category. He was once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, but has yet to put it all together in the Majors. Nearly every fantasy owner has owned Moustakas at some point over the last three years. He is one of the most added & dropped players in baseball. He struggles to hit lefties and could fall into a platoon with Danny Valencia, but I don’t see that in his future. He has looked great this Spring. He is worth a late-round pick and could turn into an above average backup fantasy corner infielder. Also, I’m really high on Eric Hosmer (again) and Norichika Aoki. The Royals have plenty of players who will fall a round or two later than where they should go. Kansas City has been bad for so long that having a bunch of Royals on your team isn’t ‘sexy’. They are on their way up and are now a solid Wild Card contender.
Prospects To Keep Your Eye On: SP Yordano Ventura & SP Kyle Zimmer – Ventura and Zimmer are the top two prospects in the Royals farm system. Ventura made his Major League debut with three starts late last season. He looked good and depending on how Danny Duffy pitches this Spring, has a shot to start the season in the rotation. Zimmer is the #1 prospect and is projected to be the future ace for a long time. The Royals have issues developing elite pitchers and they are handling Zimmer with kid gloves. He’s on a 150-inning limit, but the organization wants him to get work in the Majors. He could eventually turn into a 200+ strikeout pitcher with a plus curveball and slider as his out pitches. Keep an eye on Zimmer when he is called up. Miami’s Jose Fernandez won many fantasy roto leagues last year and Zimmer could be worth a pickup, even with a low inning limit.
Team Analysis: The Royals finally got over the .500 hump. They had a 14-win improvement thanks to surprising seasons by pitchers Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen. I certainly didn’t expect the efficiency those two pitchers had start after start. Santana left for a big payday, but they signed Jason Vargas to fill his spot. Eric Hosmer bounced back from a poor 2012 campaign. He took a leap and hit .302 with 17 homers. He also showed he has some speed with 11 steals. I expect another leap, albeit small, but he is an elite hitter and could find himself on the All-Star team. I expect Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas to also keep improving. The AL Central will be difficult to win this season. Detroit is a step above the rest of the division. Most of the Central will be out of the race by June. The Royals are the only team that could keep it close. They will be in the Wild Card discussion, but they are still a starting pitcher away from being a real threat. Zimmer and Ventura could help push this team into the playoffs in 2015.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 82 (Prediction: OVER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 86-76 (2nd AL Central)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.