Overall Assessment: The Royals spent a number of years developing prospects. Many of the position players panned out but the pitchers have not. This forced them to trade their top position prospect Wil Myers for two pitchers who can help them now in a decimated starting rotation. Many have called this a quest for mediocrity. With the AL East weaker than in past years and most of the teams balanced enough to trade wins and losses and the AL Central one of the weakest divisions in baseball the Royals saw this as a short window of opportunity to make the playoffs. If they fail the trade will be criticized, if they make the playoffs it will be hailed. If not for a fluke season when they finished over .500 the Royals would also be competing for the Pirates for longest losing professional franchise at 19 consecutive years. Dayton Moore was hired in 2006 to provide Kansas City with a winner. Most teams would not hire a GM who told them he had a six year plan for getting a team above .500, much less make the playoffs. This will probably be his last year at the helm if he does not produce a winner.
Hot Stove Season: The Royals have done a lot to help their starting rotation. Their first move was to claim Chris Volstad off waivers from the Cubs. When the Angels knew they did not want to pick up the option on Ervin Santana’s contract the Royals got a bargain by trading Brandon Sisk to acquire him then picked up his $13 million option. They also claimed another potential starter off waivers from the Rockies in Guillermo Moscoso, who like Volstad had an ERA higher than any mountain in Kansas City. After Jeremy Guthrie declared free agency they resigned him, and to make room for him on the 40 man roster had to designate Chris Volstad for assignment, who declared free agency. The Royals then made their big trade, acquiring two potential starting pitchers in Scott Shields and Wade Davis for one of the top prospects in baseball in Will Myers and two pretty good pitchers in Mark Montgomery and Jake Odirizzi. The Royals development of pitchers will be questioned if Montgomery lives up to his potential. The Royals have also made some interesting free agent signings of players to minor league contracts in the likes of George Sherril, Miguel Tejeda, Willy Taveras, Dan Wheeler, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Blaine Boyer and Chad Tracy. All these players appeared on major league rosters last year or had some success with major league teams a couple years ago. Their most recent move was to claim George Kottaras off waivers from the Athletics. He will be used as depth in case of injury to their starting catcher Salvador Perez.
Strength: They have some young players in their lineup who have a lot of upside. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler are the cream of their prospect crop from a couple years ago. Butler drove in 107 runs and Gordon mashed 51 doubles. Salvador Perez was hurt for a good portion of the early year but shows a lot of potential behind the plate, hitting .301 and throwing out 42 percent of those baserunners trying to steal against him. Alcides Escobar is a smooth fielding shortstop who is starting to learn to use the bat. He was also a centerpiece in the Zach Greinke trade. While they didn’t have great years last year a lot is still expected of corners Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. If both have the years expected of them the Royals should score a lot of runs. They also have three starting pitchers in Ervin Santana, Scott Shields and Wade Davis who they didn’t have last year. That means fans may not have to see a start from Luke Hochevar, which may be a good thing.
Weakness: Lorenzo Cain is unproven in center field and Jeff Francouer had a poor year last year. Will Myers was their big depth behind them should either struggle but the Royals traded him. So now they have to cross their fingers and hope those positions turn out okay. The bullpen will rely on Greg Holland, who has not yet proven himself to be a consistent closer like Joaquim Soria, who missed last year because of an injury and then left as a free agent. If Holland fails they can turn to fireballing Kelvin Herrera.
Top Position Prospect: With Will Myers gone that tag will have to go to their 2011 number one pick Bubba Starling. He is one of those players with a full set of tools that include, speed, power and plus throwing arm, but he must learn how to use them. He must also learnto make better contact, striking out 70 times in 53 games last year in his first season.
Top Pitching Prospect: Royals drafted Kyle Zimmer with the first pick in 2012. He heaves the fastball in the mid-90s. The last picher the Royals drafted number one was Aaron Crow and he has done well in the bullpen. As a college drafted pitcher Zimmer should move quickly.
Watch out for: Last year John Lamb pitched a few games in the Rookie Leagues. That is because he was recovering from a blown elbow. Prior to that he was considered the Royals top pitching prospect. He has yet to recover his fastball but the Royals have the depth to be patient with him this year.
Rookie of the Year Prospect: Christian Colon may have to rely on an injury to one of the middle infielders to get an opportunity, but the Royals 2010 first round pick is their best option at second base.
Projected on Paper Finish: While the AL East will knock each other silly the Royals will get to face weaker AL Central teams with an improved pitching staff. This should be enough to win the second wild card spot, but they probably will get no further than that.2ec5