Kansas City Royals – 2013 Season Preview

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Projected Record: (80-82)

The Royals have been an up and coming team for a few years now. They have had the positional talent come up through the minors and have had a bare pantry of pitchers. This offseason, GM Dayton Moore tried to stock that pantry up by making a few moves. He traded their top positional player (Wil Myers) and their top pitching prospect (Jake Odorizzi) to the Tampa Bay Rays for 2 experienced Major League starting pitchers and brought in RHP Ervin Santana for a minor league bullpen arm.

Lineup

Potential is what this lineup is all about. After a couple very shaky and injury plagued seasons in 2009 and 2010, left fielder Alex Gordon has blossomed into a hitting machine. Over the last 2 seasons his slashline is .298/.372/.478 while averaging 97 R, 48 doubles, 18 HR and 80 RBI. His OPS+ was 140 in 2011 (good for 9th in the AL) and 125 in 2012. More importantly for the Royals, he only missed 1 game last season. They need this guy at the top of their lineup to get their offense going.

At shortstop for the Royals is Alcides Escobar. He’s another player who has come into his own over the last couple years since he came over to the Royals in the Zach Grienke trade in December 2010. Escobar definitely has some holes in his overall game. In 2012 his -12.0 UZR was 20th in MLB. For some context, that was just ahead of Derek Jeter’s -15.2. Not very good. Thankfully for Royals fans, his offense is improving. He has raised his batting average and on base percentage each of the last 2 years. He brought his OBP up from .288 in 2010 to a non-embarrassing .331 in 2012. He’s also increased his stolen base output year over year. He was 5th in the AL with 35 stolen bases in 2012. He stole at a high percentage too, 35-40 in stolen base attempts. You can expect that his average will come down from his .293 AVG in 2012, but I don’t expect it to dip back down to the .250 range from 2011. PECOTA projects Escobar for a .270/.304/.366 slashline. I think that Royals fans would take that from their SS.

Moving on down the lineup, we come to the juiciest player on the Royals. The 23 year old, big lefty first baseman Eric Hosmer. He exploded into the big leagues in 2011 when he hit 19 HR, and has a slashline of .293/.334/.799 in 128 games. Everyone expected huge things from Hosmer last year, and they were disappointed. Hosmer struggled mightily out of the gate last year. He hit .188 in March and .218 in May. He started to straighten things out in the summer months and then petered out in September, hitting .179. The question for Hosmer is, can he regain his “monster” status or will his production level out to where he becomes a mediocre major league first baseman? I think it’ll be closer to the monster. But, I don’t think he’s ever going to hit 30+ HR or for an average much higher than .280. He’s a quality player but I think last year helped me temper my excitement and expectations.

Next on the list of former top prospect is Billy Butler. It occurs to me that Billy Butler is the new Edgar Martinez. Now before you climb through your computer with a trident in hand, let me explain. For roughly equivalent periods in their career they have similar statistics.

Edgar Martinez
RHRRBISBBA
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
7111491.302
9814520.307
100187314.343
204130.237
Billy Butler
RHRRBISBBA
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
7821931.301
72291072.313
7419952.291
72291072.313

Now, can Country Breakfast do it for 18 season? I don’t know. But I think he’s a similar player and will fill the role of professional hitter very well for Kansas City for years to come.

I have to admit, I have a major crush on Royals catcher, Salvador Perez. He burst into major league baseball late in 2011 and posted a .331/.361/.473 slashline over 39 games. He came into spring training poised for a full season breakout and then lost 67 games due to left knee surgery to repair his meniscus. I wondered if Perez would come back from the injury and slog through the remaining games in the 2012 season. But he did much more than that. He hit .301/.328/.471 with 11 HR and 39 RBI in the last 76 games of the season. The main flaw in Perez’s offensive game is that he doesn’t get on base enough. Last year he had a walk percentage of 3.9%. There were only 4 other qualifying players who had a walk percentage under 4%. If Perez doubled his BB% in 2012 he would have raised his OBP from .328 to .379. If Perez can work on his approach at the plate and have a little more patience, it will pay serious dividends for the Royals.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas, Jeff Francouer, Lorenzo Cain and the platoon of Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella round out the starting lineup. I’m not in love with any of these guys. Moustakas’ glove is more impressive than his bat. Francouer posted the worst WARP (-3.0) in MLB last season, so he can only go up from there. Lorenzo Cain was a fantasy sleeper last year, but got hurt early on and then failed to really impress upon his return. And I’m not sure Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella are replacement level put together.

I think the bottom of the lineup is a flaw, but the top half will make up for the impotency of the bottom 3 in the lineup.

Pitching

The Royals pitching has recently been their bugaboo. The addition of top level starter James Shields immediately boosts their rotation. Shields has logged over 200 innings for the past 6 seasons. His ERA has fluctuated greatly over the last 3 years (5.18 in 2010, 2.82 in 2011 and 3.53 in 2012). His FIP has stayed fairly steady throughout his career (3.86 for his career). His 2011 season shows that Shields can dominate. He followed up 2011 with another solid season last year striking out just under 1 batter per inning pitched.

Alongside Shields in the Royals rebuilt rotation is midseason acquisition Jeremy Guthrie, off season additions Ervin Santana and Wade Davis. Rounding out the rotation is veteran Bruce Chen. The Royals also have former top draft pick Luke Hochevar who could compete for a spot in the rotation. The Royals will also have reinforcements coming off the disabled list as the season progresses. RHP Felipe Paulino and LHP Danny Duffy both are recovering from Tommy John surgery last year and are expected back sometime in the middle of the season. I doubt the Royals are counting on either guys to log major innings but both will only prove to strengthen a pitching staff that has become quite deep.

In the bullpen the Royals have closer Greg Holland and setup guys Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera. Holland had a strong season last year, converting 16 of 20 save opportunities. You don’t love the 1.37 WHIP in 2012, but he does also bring 12.2 K/9.

Fantasy Outlook

Alex Gordon is going in the 7th round (ADP of 64.6), according to MockDraftCentral.com. I think he’s a good value there and would take him over the other OF around him on the list. I’d take him ahead of Matt Holliday (52.94) and Yoenis Cespedes (47.46).

Eric Hosmer I’m not sure if he’s a post hype sleeper ro not, but I’m still staying away from Hosmer. Someone will pay way more for him that I will. He’s too risky for me.

James Shields just keeps on logging quality seasons. Expect 200+ innings and 200+ Ks.

Greg Holland Is not an elite closer, but he does bring elite strike out ability. Pick him up late in the draft and take 30 saves to the bank.

Conclusion

I like how the Royals have built their team. I’m just not sure that they have a superstar on the squad. If they did, I think the players they have in place would be a super solid supporting cast, but without that star power, I don’t see the Royals doing too much damage in a weak AL Central.

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