Sabtu, 18 Februari 2012

Season Preview; Part Five: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals
2011 Record: 71-91
Pythagorean Record: 78-84
Games out of first: 24

2011 Recap:
In 2011, the Royals team objective was progress from Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, among others. After debuting on May 6th, Hosmer quickly showed progress, emerging as one of baseball’s top rising stars. Mike Moustakas, after a dreadful first few months, showed the Royals fans some much needed excitement after finally showing progress. In his last two months, he had a .805 OPS, and in the last month of the season he had a 166 wRC+, and a .227 ISO. This along with solid seasons from veterans Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur made this the Royals most successful season, record wise, since 2008. As a team, the Royals didn’t compete in 2011, but their 2011 objective was a success. Their pitching was terrible. From their starters, they had a below-average ERA, FIP, xFIP and SIERA. If they want to compete next year, they’ll need their pitching to come through.

Top performers by WAR (B-Ref for hitters, Fangraphs for pitchers):

1. Alex Gordon, 5.9
2. Melky Cabrera, 2.9
3. Jeff Francoeur, 2.7
4. Felipe Paulino and Jeff Francis, both with 2.6

Offseason Overview:
The Royals improved slightly by acquiring Jonathan Sanchez from the Giants in exchange for Melky Cabrera. If he can remain healthy, he may be just what the doctor ordered for the pitching-light Royals. Sanchez’s year last year was cut short by an ankle injury, which, doctors’ hope will not be recurring. They also strengthened their bullpen by signing Jonathan Broxton to a low-risk deal. The Royals also signed Kevin Kouzmanoff to a minor league contract. They did a little bit to improve their pitching, when they traded for Sanchez, but their offseason as a whole could have been better with the signing of another veteran pitcher.

Notable Additions:
Jonathan Sanchez
Yunieski Betancourt
Jose Mijares
Jonathan Broxton

Notable Subtractions:
Melky Cabrera
Jeff Francis
(Most likely) Jason Kendall

Projected Lineups:
LF, Alex Gordon
2B, Johnny Giavotella
1B, Eric Hosmer
DH, Billy Butler
3B, Mike Moustakas
RF, Jeff Francoeur
C, Salvador Perez
CF, Lorenzo Cain
SS, Alcides Escobar

This is a very nice lineup that is also very young. I don’t see one specific weakness in the lineup, minus inexperience throughout the lineup. If we see continued progress from Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, Giavotella and Escobar, along with solid seasons from Butler and Francoeur, this lineup should be able to cause some trouble for the rest of the league. Last year, without full seasons from Hosmer, Moustakas and Perez, they still had a 102 wRC+, which should improve with full seasons from the aforementioned players.

Projected Rotation:
SP, Luke Hochevar
SP, Jonathan Sanchez
SP, Bruce Chen
SP, Aaron Crow
SP, Felipe Paulino

Herein lies the problem, their rotation, is, to say it in the kindest way possible is terrible. This may be helped by the eventual arrival of Mike Montgomery and Jake Ordorizzi, but they are prospects, and Montgomery in particular struggled last year. The rotation may be helped by acquisition Jonathan Sanchez; however, it is still extremely below average. Felipe Paulino has shown some talent, last year he had a 3.74 xFIP, and a 2.42 K/BB. Overall, I’d say that this is their biggest weakness.

Signifigant Relievers/Bench players
RP, Joakim Soria
RP, Greg Holland
RP, Jonathan Broxton
C, Chris Getz
SS, Yuniezki Betancourt

Roster Strength:
Young offensive talent;
Their average batters age is 25.8, along with their team 102 wRC+ and a 44.8 wRAA. They have a really talented offense, that is still really young. The offense will get even better as the young talent progresses and reaches their potential. Hosmer, Moustakas and Perez will be a solid core for a few years, before the next wave of prospects comes up.

Roster Weakness:
This is their biggest weakness, by far. They have an below average bullpen, who had a 3.96 xFIP, and a 3.66 SIERA. Their best hope for the rotation is Montgomery rebounding from his bad season last year, and succeeding immediately in the majors. While it is very possible for him to rebound, it’s very unlikely that he’ll immediately make an impact.

2012 Outlook:
The Royals will almost definitely improve in 2012. Solid seasons from Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur and one of their veteran pitchers, along with the continuing progress from their young players, should have them hovering a little above .500 for the season. Unfortunately, as much as they can improve, the Tigers added a five win player in Prince Fielder, and are likely running away with that division.

Potential Breakout Players:
Salvador Perez; With Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer already broken out, he’s a safe choice for breakout candidate. Last year he had a 127 wRC+, along with a .361 wOBA, in a 39 game period. Many reports I’ve seen has classified Perez as a great defensive catcher, along with a quality contact bat and gaps power. If he can have an above-average season for the Royals this year, they should have an above .500 record.

Potential Bust:
Bruce Chen; Last year Chen had a “solid” year ERA-wise, but it doesn’t accurately portray his actual season. Last year he had a 4.68 xFIP, and a 116 xFIP-, along with a 4.63 SIERA. He’s also getting up there in age, and the Royals signed him to a two year, 9 million dollar contract, which, is an overpay for that type of production. He’s also getting up there in age, at 34 and 35 in June. If the Royals expected him to be an anchor in their rotation, they will likely be disappointed.

Prospects with potential to help in 2012:
Mike Montgomery: While Montgomery struggled last year, he is still highly regarded by most scouts and they project him to be in the majors at some point in 2012. His control was a major issue in 2011, posting a 1.87 K/BB along with a career high BB/9and BB%.

Jake Odorizzi: The gem of the Greinke trade, he has four average to above-average pitches, with his best being his low to mid-nineties fastball that has a tremendous amount of sink on it. His other pitches include an average changeup, an above-average slider and an inconsistent curve ball, that can be plus but, as I said, it’s inconsistent. Many scouts believe that he’ll be knocking on the door come mid-2012, and once there, he could make an impact.

Projected Record: 83-79
Projected Finish: 2nd
Projected MVP: Eric Hosmer (5 WAR)

Final Word:
Don’t overlook the Royals this year. They’re going to be improved due to the development of their young talent, and the overall weakness of their division. Though they’ll finish a distant second, I don’t see anyone other than the Tigers in that division who are definitely better than them. Overall I’d say look out for the Royals in 2013, but they won’t compete for the playoffs very late into the 2012 season.

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