Don't Write Off the Royals -they could be a Dark Horse Contender
Written by Jonathan Leshanski
Published: 10 April 2013
There seems to be some method to the Kansas City Royals' madness. Over the offseason the Royals transformed their team, adding big time pitching by acquiring James Shields, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis. Many look at these pitchers and wonder just what Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore was thinking.
What Moore was thinking was that these moves transform this team from a team that was 18 games under .500 last year to a contender this year. That might seem outlandish. After all the Royals haven’t finished over .500 since 2003, but in fact the moves make sense. Not just for this year but for next year too.
Now it seems a reach to believe that the Royals could actually beat the Tigers for the divisional title, but in a depleted American League, where the Yankees and Red Sox are down, the Rangers are fading and the uncertainty of the Orioles, it might not be such a stretch to think that a Royals team improved by 15 games could actually find themselves in the Wild Card mix. After all who else is there? Just the Jays, Rays, A’s and the aforementioned teams -- none of whom are sure things.
And if the Tigers underperform like they did last season -- winning just 88 games -- maybe it’s not quite so outrageous to think that maybe the Royals could make a run at the division title too.
Of course the Royals have to actually improve, but the upgrade to the pitching is significant. James Shields has elite type skills though he’s never actually managed to take that final step to elevate him to that level, Ervin Santana used to be a decent No. 2 option, posting sub 4.00 ERAs in three of the last five seasons. Wade Davis took tremendous strides forward last year, albeit as a reliever, adding speed to his fastball and pounding the strike zone like he never had before. Throw in the returning Jeremy Guthrie, who is a more than adequate third or fourth starter and the Royals may actually have a staff that matches favorably with any team in the division save the Tigers.
Between these four pitchers, the Royals should be able to build on last season's 4.30 ERA and improve it significantly. The offense is primed to step forward too. Youngsters Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakis should all improve and have big potential, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are dependable producers, Alcides Escobar and Jeff Francour are solid enough and Jarrod Dyson offers a bit of upside.
That offers the team quite a bit of hope going forward. If that potential is realized this season the Royals could be a dark horse contender. But if it’s next season that will be OK too. This team isn’t built to be a one year wonder.
While there is no assurance that the Royals will actually become contenders, they’ve already improved. This will be the best team that KC has fielded in more than a decade. For a change hometown fans will see meaningful baseball and a have a reason to come out and root for the hometown nine.
Clearly there is method in Dayton Moore’s plan, not madness.