|Kansas City Royals 2003 Preview||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 15, 2003
4th in AL central 32.5 games back.
It’s hard to know what to say about a franchise who finished this badly while sporting a 17 game winner. That pitcher - Paul Byrd - is gone, as is roughly $10 million in payroll. What is left are a large group of unproven youngsters and a few star players.
The Royals essentially have five proven bats in Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran, Joe Randa, Raul Ibanez and Michael Tucker. After that, it’s a fill in the blank kind of question. Most likely, we’ll see Brent Mayne, and Carlos Feebles make their returns, but offensively they are nominal factors.
There are several players who the Royals have great hope for in 2003. The first of these is shortstop Angel Berroa, who had an awful 2002 performing far below what the Royals expected from him based on his minor league history. A factor which may have changed the outlook for Berroa was an arthroscopic knee surgery last season, which may have turned him from a top shortstop to an also ran.
The other player who’d love to make the team is first baseman Ken Harvey. With first base already occupied by Sweeney, Harvey might have to settle for a shot at being DH. At 6’ 2” and 255 pounds, the guy looks like a power hitter. However, he had a mere 20 home runs last season at Triple A Omaha, and this was his best power season.
The Royals also picked up catcher Ronnie Paulino in the Rule 5 draft from the Pirates Triple A affiliate. Coming out of the draft he will have to stay on the Kansas City roster or be offered back to the Pittsburgh organization. He’ll likely back up Brent Mayne, but considering how Mayne has underachieved, Paulino could make a big splash in spring training.
It’s an ugly thing when your pitching staff only wins 62 games, but it sure seems uglier when your best pitcher, the one who won 17 of those games, walks out the door. What they are left with is a rotation of rookies and pitchers who did not even manage to win 5 games last year.
The Royals have focused on drafting pitchers in the first round over the last six seasons. Now it’s time to see how good their scouts and player development is. Their staff, as it looks right now, would consist of Runelvys Hernandez, Jeremy Affeldt, Darrell May, Miguel Asencio and Albie Lopez.
In addition to starting rotation questions, the question of who is going to close also looms large. All three candidates - Ryan Bukvick, Mike MacDougal and Jeremy Hill - are rookies, and the Royals have spoken about a closer-by-committee approach. However of the three, Bukvick may have the advantage based upon a fastball that approaches three digits.
Middle relief here is a corp of unknowns, rookies, and Rule V draftees. How they will shake out, and if they can help carry this team on days when the starters falter, is anyone’s guess. As the season develops, we’ll see who can help.
The Royals young starters will take a step forward. They’ll still lose a lot of games, and its unlikely they’ll see .500, but stranger things have happened. The offense will also sort itself out, and many of the questions about their young hitters will be answered. A lot of these guys really still belong at triple A, and they’ll head back for more seasoning and another shot in 2004 - on a team which could see .500.