I'm just posting this to render my opinions and expectations of how the Royals may fare this season. I'll go over offense, defense and pitching.
The Starting Rotation. Stable. My hunch is that we're going to have three starters we can depend on to give us quality starts and two who will be question marks. I think by the end of the year, Zack Greinke will emerge as our obvious ace. I think he'll start the season as the #2 starter and during the brief part of the season where he'll be matched up against other teams' #2s, he'll succeed and thrive. I think that by season's end, Zack will be good for 15-18 wins and will sport an ERA in the low 3s. I think Gil Meche will drop off a bit this season, but mainly from a slow start, but I think he'll come on strong later in the season and will be good for 13-16 wins himself with an ERA in the high 3s. I think Kyle Davies is the guy to watch this season. I don't know where Trey plans to use him in the rotation, but I think he should be our #3 guy and I think he'll be the most improved starter this season. His major league track record prior to last September was rather dismal but the guy was phenominal in September 2008. Kyle always performed well in the minors and I think the kid has put in the effort to improve himself to where his minor league success will now be realized in the majors. I'm going out on a limb and say that he'll be good for as many wins as Meche this season. I think he'll get his ERA under 4 as well. The last 2 spots in the rotation concerns me alot. I'm afraid Brian Bannister is more like the 2008 version than he is the 2007 version. He's likely to start the season in the rotation, but I'm skeptical as to whether or not he'll be deserving. I think an optimistic scouting report would have him at 12 wins and an ERA around 4. To me, I think he's a sub .500 pitcher with an ERA in the mid 4s. Luke Hochevar is the wild card. He was a stud as an amateur, but since drawing pay for his services....not so much. In my opinion he was rushed to the major league level. He could be as good as I think Kyle Davies will be this year, but unlike Davies, Luke hasn't "gotten it" yet. As for Horacio Ramirez, I don't quite get why the Royals tendered him a contract with the intent of making him a starter. His major league numbers as a starter kind of show us why he was used in the bullpen last season. He was effective as a situational lefty in our pen last year, but he's had some difficulty in his starts so far this spring. It hasn't been all his fault though, as he's been the victim of crappy defense in two of his spring starts. I only hope that if he is announced as a starter before we move north at the end of spring training is because he's earned it and not because "he's a lefty". Other options....Heath Phillips, a minor league free agent signing has been very impressive in all of his spring training assignments. Trey Hillman has taken note of this. Phillips is also a lefty, but they signed Ramirez for more money, so they'll probably have more patience with Horacio and Phillips can be sent to Omaha and likely will be, but if Phillips continues to impress he may force himself into the rotation. Carlos Rosa has also been very effective so far this spring, but hasn't gotten in as much work as Phillips. Rosa has very little AAA experience and should probably start the season in Omaha, but he should also be on speed dial once there is an injury or a poor performance out of a #4 or 5 starter early in the season.
Bullpen. Good. Although we traded away last years set-up man Ramon Ramirez, Juan Cruz is entirely capable of stepping into Ram Ram's spot and being every bit as effective. Ron Mahay is back and is doing fine this spring. Since we paid Kyle Farnsworth to a God awful 4.5 million he'll be in the bullpen, but hopefully he'll be relegated to the seventh inning or pitching as a situational righty. I think Cruz is the better right handed pitcher for the set-up role. Robinson Tejeda, Joel Peralta, Doug Waecter, Lenny DiNardo, and Jimmy Gobble are competing for the other 4 spots in the pen. If Horacio Ramirez loses his bid for a starting role, he may be thrown into this mix as well. Overall, I think we have one of the best bullpens in the AL Central thanks to our anchor, Joakim Soria.
Line-up. Good. Its been a long time since I've said that. I think Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney were all Royals the last time I could say that. Going top to bottom, we have a true stolen base threat leading off for us this year with Coco Crisp. I expect 20-25 stolen bases from him as well as around 10 homers and hopefully he can produce a .350 OBP or better, although that may be asking too much of him. Mike Aviles is for real. I don't know if we can expect him to hit .325 over an entire 6 month season, but I think he can hit .300 and sock 15 homers. I think we can all live with that. David DeJesus is now where he belongs, in the #3 spot. He doesn't have the power you desire in the #3 hole, but he's been a great hitter with RISP. His RISP of .419 led the majors last year. If he bats #3 and his RISP drops 40-50 points, he'ld still be a good #3 hitter and he should be able to hit 13-15 homers. Jose Guillen will most likely start the season as the clean-up hitter. He hit 20 HR last year and drove in 90, but I'm not sure he'll have those numbers again. He seems to have alot of little nagging injuries all the time and I'm not sure he's any better than the .260 hitter he was last season. My guess is that by mid-season he'll be our #6 hitter. Mike Jacobs has been brought in to be the "slug" that Trey Hillman covets. The slug is there and if he can hit 32 playing for Florida, he can do the same here. Hopefully Kevin Seitzer can help Mike with his pitch selection and make him appreciate contact hitting a bit more. He'll be backed up by Butler and Gordon, so its not imperitive that he homers every time at bat. I think Seitzer's tutelege will be perfect for both Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. Butler already has a nice line drive swing and Seitz needs to keep Billy in that mode. The big boy has plenty of power to get his fair share of jacks without trying to pull pitches. Butler has the hitting talent to be the highest average hitter on the team as long as his lust for power doesn't get in the way. Butler could go 25/.300 as early as this season if he stays stays focused on just hitting the ball hard to the center of the field. I think Billy will be ready to take over the clean-up spot by mid-season. I can say pretty much the same about Gordon as Butler, except I think Alex will hit for a bit more power and a little less average. I think Alex will hit around 25 homers this season and raise his average to at least .280. Miguel Olivo appears to be the #8 batter this year. Olivo does two things, he hits the ball hard or doesn't hit the ball at all. Seitzer could help this guy out alot as well. Olivo can only hit fastballs. He's kind of like Serrano in the movie "Major League". I expect Olivo to hit nearly 20 homers but I don't expect him to hit over .260. I tend to think Alberto Callaspo will probably get the nod to start at second base this season. Hopefully he can hit .300 like he did last season, because he doesn't have enough speed to be much of a stolen base threat and he still hasn't hit his first major league homer yet. I predict he will hit his first dinger this year. Callaspo is still a pretty dangerous hitter, nonetheless as he's probably the best contact hitter in the line-up.
Bench. John Buck, Willie Bloomquist, Mark Teahen, Ross Gload, Tony Pena. Thats 5 players. I figure we'll break camp with 12 pitchers and I listed the 9 in the line-up so only 4 of the 5 I listed above will break camp. One of those 5 will have to go and it can't be Buck because he's the only one who can catch. Teahen just signed for $3.5 million, so I doubt if they're cutting him loose either. Gload and Bloomquist are both under contract for over $1 million this year and can play multiple positions. So I think either Teflon Tony is the odd man out or the Royals will trade either Teahen or Gload.
Infield Defense. Below average to poor. The right side of our infield is scary bad. Both Butler and Jacobs are below average in both fielding percentage and range. Although Ross Gload stacks up well against the league in fielding percentage at first he's also below average in range. Alberto Callaspo is well above average in fielding percentage but well below average in range. Alex Gordon also has been below average in fielding percentage as well, although he does possess better than average range. In Mike Aviles 4 months of service he's above average in both fielding percentage and range, so the fact is that Mike Aviles is our best defensive infielder. I'll bet that surprises most of you. Aviles' fielding percentage is also superior to Pena's so I really don't see a reason to have Pena on the team.
Outfield Defense. Above average. Defensively, David DeJesus is outstanding as a left fielder. His fielding percentage and range as a left fielder are both superior to his contemporaries. Coco Crisp is also an above average center fielder. He'll need to cheat a bit towards right field as Jose Guillen is lacking in range. Guillen has an above average arm and although Crisp doesn't have the reputation for a strong arm, his assists numbers as a center fielder is above average.
Things that could turn our season into a disaster. An extended injury to Gil Meche, Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria or Mike Aviles.
Things that could turn us into AL Central champions.
- No extended DL stints to key players
- Brian Bannister returns to 2007 form
- Luke Hochevar proves why he was a first round pick
- Royals trade Mark Teahen for a minor leaguer and use the saved salary to sign Pedro Martinez to an incentive laden contract.
- Pedro returns to his pre-injury form.
- Alex Gordon makes the AL all-star team.
Anticipated record. 83-79. Either comfortably in third or edge our way into second.