The Royals have won back-to-back American League Pennants and a World Series. Can they add to this chapter in history and be remembered as one of Major League Basesball’s all-time dynasties?
The 2015 Kansas City Royals what only three teams had done since the turn of the century. They won back-to-back pennants, joining the 00-01 New York Yankees, the 08-09 Philadelphia Phillies, and the 10-11 Texas Rangers.
This is a testament to a few things. First and foremost, this showcases the ability of Dayton Moore and the front office to build a team with staying power and not just a one-year wonder. Second, this proves how much parity Major League Baseball has developed since the introduction of the luxury tax. The 1990s were dominated by the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves, two teams who consistently were among the top of the league in payroll. Finally, it also showcases how much the dynamics of the game has changed. In the 1990s, the Yankees were built with strong starting pitching and power hitting lineups. Now teams are following the model of the Royals, speed, great defense, making contact, and a very strong bullpen.
All this translated is that it is extremely hard to duplicate the high-level of success the Royals have been able to achieve the past two seasons. The last team to make three straight World Series were the New York Yankees from 1998-2001. In baseball’s divisional era (1969-present), here are the teams who were able to make three straight World Series:
1969-1971 Baltimore Orioles
1972-1974 Oakland Athletics
1976-1978 New York Yankees
1988-1990 Oakland Athletics
1998-2001 New York Yankees
Can the Royals join these great teams? The answer is…yes! The Royals have seven of their nine starters from last year’s World Championship team returning and they really didn’t lose a whole lot in free agency.
The biggest question going into spring training is who will replace Ben Zobrist? Zobrist was a concrete number two hitter who was solid in the field. The favorite to replace Zobrist would be Omar Infante. Infante’s time with the Royals has been marred by injuries and uninspiring numbers at the plate. However, there is talk that perhaps Christian Colon could end up being the second baseman. Either way, it’ll be hard to replace Zobrist production in the lineup as neither Infante or Colon would be thought of as number two hitters.
The other spot to fill is in right field. This will be a little easier to fill with the departure of Alex Rios, who was plagued by injuries and a down season, both at the plate and in the field. The Royals answer to Rios currently is Jarrod Dyson. Dyson doesn’t have a lot of power, but, he does have a ton of speed and he is good in the field. The risk is that he has never been a full-time player and it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up over a 162 game season. The Royals also have Paulo Orlando, who performed well in the absence of Rios and Gordon during their injuries. A potential dark horse for the position could also be Bubba Starling. The highly touted prospect had performed very well in the Arizona Fall League, however, he has never played above Class AA and has a career .245 batting average in the minors. However, Starling will more than likely starting in AA and move to AAA later in the season. He could be a potential September call-up.
The pitching staff added Ian Kennedy to the rotation. The former twenty-one game winner should be a serviceable middle of the rotation guy. Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez will fill out the top three. The big question is who will fill out the final two spots? There are currently three (maybe four) pitchers battling it out for two spots. Chris Young provides a calm and steady presence in the rotation. However, he does have endurance problems and has shown that he wears down as the season progresses. The hope is that, with a full spring training behind him, that will help. Danny Duffy has a lot of promise as a power lefty. However, time is running out on him to prove he can be a consistent member of the rotation. Kris Medlen showed a lot of promise in his return to baseball last season after his second Tommy John surgery. The question will be how will he hold up over the course of the season? The dark horse will be Kyle Zimmer. Zimmer has a lot of promise all while battling injuries and early setbacks in the minors. However, Zimmer has never pitched above Class AA. More than likely, Zimmer will start in AAA Omaha, but, if he has a spring training like Yordano Ventura had in 2014, he may force the Royals’ hand to put him in the rotation.
The rest of the American League Central has improved. Minnesota improved last season and they look to improve on that. The White Sox added Brett Lawrie (that’s right, Royals fans, as if you needed more of a reason to hate the White Sox) and Matt Latos to a very talented team. The Indians just seem to be the team that, when it all comes together, is going to be very tough to beat. The Tigers added Jordan Zimmerman and Justin Upton. The Central should be a tough division, but, they’re all still chasing the Royals.
The Royals return the core of their talent and the best bullpen in the league just got better with the return of Joakim Soria. The outfield defense actually got better this offense. If Omar Infante is healthy, his defense up the middle should pick up. The Royals are still the team to beat in the Central.
This season will be fun to watch as the Royals look to make themselves a legitimate dynasty.
PECOTA. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With our collective excitement about the Kansas City Royals at arguably an all-time high, these predictions put out by Baseball Prospectus each year have become quite a lightning rod. In 2013, the boys in blue rounded their first big corner towards success ... Read more