The Royals had a quiet offseason, acquiring only non-impact players like Mike Jacobs, Coco Crisp, Willie Bloomquist and Kyle Farnsworth. But they have a solid core of young players in Zach Greinke, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. Will is be enough to push the team over .500?
2008 regular season finish: 75-87
Kauffman stadium - You can always come for the view.
Rank: Fourth in the AL Central, 13.5 games back
Home field: Kauffman Stadium
3B Willie Bloomquist (Signed from Seattle Mariners)
CF Coco Crisp (Acquired from Boston Red Sox)
RP Kyle Farnsworth (Signed from Detroit Tigers)
1B Mike Jacobs (Acquired from Florida Marlins)
SP Horacio Ramirez (Signed from Chicago White Sox)
SP Jamey Wright (Signed from Texas Rangers)*
Lost the Crown
CF Joey Gathright (Signed with Chicago Cubs)
2B Mark Grudzielanek (Unsigned)
RP Leo Nunez (Traded to Florida Marlins)
RP Ramon Ramirez (Traded to Boston Red Sox)
RP Oscar Villarreal (Signed from Houston Astros)*
* - Signed to a minor league contract
It may come as a surprise to many, but the Kansas City Royals finished fourth in the American League Central last year. Their run at respectability came on the arms of Zack Greinke and Gil Meche at the top of the rotation and Ramon Ramirez, Leo Nunez and Joakim Soria at the end of the bullpen. However, the Royals dealt Ramirez and Nunez, signing only Kyle Farnsworth to replace them. That is not a tradeoff many fans were hoping for.
The offense is up in the air, now. General Manager Dayton Moore made a big fuss about the merits of on-base percentage, but then he signs Willie Bloomquist to a two-year deal and trades for OBP albatross Mike Jacobs. Both moves raise more questions than they answer.
Strength – Youth
As with any small-market team, youth is a big part of the Royals’ season. Greinke is approaching the prime years of his career, while Meche has yet to reach the decline years of his. Combine that with Luke Hochevar, a No. 1 overall pick some years ago, and lights-out closer in Soria, and the Royals have some reason for optimism.
Alex Gordon, a recent top-five pick, worked on retooling his swing this offseason, which should drastically improve his numbers this year. The talent for him to be a David Wright- or Evan Longoria-type hitter has been there; it’s only a matter of Gordon reaching his ceiling.
Weakness – Depth
The AL Central is an entirely winnable division, but it doesn’t seem as if the Royals have enough of anything to pass either the Tigers, whose pitching should be healthier, or the Indians, whose offense should be healthier. After Greinke and Meche in the rotation, there are questions about the true form of Kyle Davies and Brian Bannister.
Offensively, is Jose Guillen going to hit enough to justify his big contract? Is Billy Butler going to take another step in the development of the power hitter he has shown to be throughout the minor leagues?
LF David DeJesus
SS Mike Aviles
3B Alex Gordon
1B Mike Jacobs
RF Jose Guillen
DH Billy Butler
2B Mark Teahen
C Miguel Olivo
CF Coco Crisp
Brian Bannister / Horacio Ramirez
What to do with Joakim Soria? Soria is one of the best closers in the majors, as his dominant numbers from last season suggest. However, Soria came through the minor leagues as a starting pitcher, and the Royals may be sage to give him a look in that role. Once the Royals fall out of contention down the stretch, they should give him a few starts to see how well hitters respond to his stuff a second or third time around and see whether he can maintain his arm angle. Do the Royals see Soria as a Jonathan Papelbon or a Joba Chamberlain? It makes sense for them to try him out in both roles.
The Royals should stay around the 75-78 win range they moved into last season. The team features enough youth that a progression should be expected. It probably won’t be enough to push them into contention, however. Still, Kauffman Stadium is receiving a huge facelift this offseason and maybe games there won’t be so awful for the home fans.