Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Overall – 64 points (28th MLB, 12th AL)
Starting Rotation – 26 points (24th MLB, 11th AL)
Line-Up – 25 points (30th MLB, 14th AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 13 points (T-23rd MLB, T-13th AL)
Offseason Additions – Jose Guillen, Ron Mahay, Yasuhiko Yabuta, Brett Tomko
Offseason Subtractions – Emil Brown, David Riske
Biggest Strength– GM, Dayton Moore
The Royals have no chance this year, and have been one of, if not the, worst franchises in the MLB for the past decade. In 2006, Moore left the Braves, where he was a very close confidant of John Schuerholz, to become the GM of the Royals. At the time, Moore was considered one of the best evaulators of talent in the league and was high on the Red Sox list of people of succeed Theo Epstein when he quit for a couple months. Everything I’ve read about Moore says that, while it may take a good while, he can return this club to where they were in the 80’s. It will take several solid drafts to do so, but the first steps are being taken.
Biggest Weakness– Starting Rotation
The Royals actually should have a decent bullpen this year, but it’s unlikely they will be taking the ball with the lead very often. Gil Meche had a surpringly good year last year, and some expect Zach Greinke to make a full comeback this year, but after that, it’s up in the air. In the 4-5 spots in their rotation, names are being thrown around like Kyle Davis, Brandon Duckworth, and even, I’m not even kidding, Hideo Nomo. Once you get past 1-2 in their rotation, they aren’t going to be winning a lot of games.
Key Player(s) in ’08– Alex Gordon and Billy Butler
They are not the keys to the success of the Royals this year, because “success” and “Royals” aren’t happening together this year. Rather, these two players are key to the mental well-being of the fan base. They are to the Royals what Utley and Howard were to the Phillies and Reyes and Wright were to the Mets. They are 2 extremely talented young players, who could either be the start of a core of a playoff-caliber team, or 2 hot prospects who fizzled in the majors. The 21-year old power hitting Butler (pictured above) tore his way through the minors leagues and made an impact on the club last year, with 52 RBI in just 329 ABs. Gordon, 24, was heralded as the next George Brett in spring training last year, but failed to impress under the pressure in the regular season hitting .247 with 15 HR and 60 RBI. Big years out of these two players will give Royals fans the only thing they can cling to right now, hope for the future.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Zach Greinke
Greinke is one of the most interesting stories in baseball. He came up from the minors as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball in 2004 and put together a fantastic rookie year, posting a 3.97 ERA in 145 IP, at age 20. The next season, Greinke imploded both physically and mentally. He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball and had a 5.80 ERA. When Spring Training 2006 rolled around, he announced that he was not going to play baseball that year, due to emotional/depression issues that had hampered him the year prior. After seeking, and getting the help he needed, Greinke returned in 2007 to post a solid year (3.69 ERA in 122 IP). This season will be his first full season since his emotional issues began. The now 24 year old right-hander could be poised for a breakout season, and may give the Royals a true ace to go with their 2 young hitters.
Outlook/Prediction– 5th Place, AL Central. The Royals are a prime example of the argument that teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are bad for baseball. They have no way of keeping up with the payrolls that those other teams can muster and unless they draft perfectly, it is nearly impossible to keep pace. In the NFL, a fan of a team like the Royals could be optimistic because the salary cap, schedule adjustments and high-impact draftees give the fans reason for hope every year. With the Royals, this is a fan base that hasn’t had reason to hope for many years now, and its a downward spiral when the revenue stops coming in from ticket sales. Hopefully, Dayton Moore can draft some future stars and the Royals can undergo a turnaround similar to the Tigers of a couple years ago.