As spring training is ramping up and the fever for baseball builds in this championship town, three things are certain:
1. the players t-shirt games will be strong
2. Projections again will be unable to measure defense, intangibles and chemistry and
3. Pre-season prediction articles will be all the rage.
Well I can’t pull off a v-neck motivational athletic shirt, and I never put stock in PECOTA projections when it comes to KC. What I can do is share my gut feelings and ideas for this coming season before even one inning in spring training takes place. So what follows are rambling musings and my predictions for a season spent defending the well earned crown.
The national narrative will again unjustly be that the Royals are the “Bad Boys” of baseball.
I never thought I would see the day watching those lifeless, heartless Royals teams of 2004-2009 that we would be the most hated team in baseball. Winning does that for many teams. But the way the Royals of 2014 and 2015 win just irks the hell out of opposing teams. When you play the Royals, its death by a thousand paper cuts. It has to be aggravating to be speeding along to a 3-1 lead heading into the fifth inning then it comes to screeching halt when the Royals piece together a 3 run half inning with 3 singles, a walk, a fielder’s choice, an error and then another single. And they do it Every. Single. Night. And they do it cheering and laughing the whole way. So teams play them and they get chippy. Outside the bizarre Trout/Ventura stare down the Royals were never the true instigators of the bench clearings last season. Brett Lawrie, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir and Chris Sale all ramped the bitterness up. The Royals just NEVER backed down from the fight.
Nothing will change this season regarding this. Brett Lawrie and Chris Sale are still in the division and the Blue Jays are, well the Blue Jays and even Houston may have a bone to pick after the post-season last year. Many teams will be looking to push the Champs and the Royals will most definitely push right back. With smiles.
The Royals will win the Central with their biggest threat again being the Tigers, not the Indians.
Many national pundits believe it will be a long battle between the Royals and Indians with the Indians on top. They cite the young pitching and Francona being what helps Cleveland over-take the Royals. However, the Indians problems of 2015 were not solved this off-season. Lack of consistent offense was an issue last year and Mike Napoli will not solve that. And the defense, oh my the defense for Cleveland was historically bad. Cleveland wants to win a division but are bound and determined to do it with weaknesses that no other team in the division have. The Tigers however were only de-railed last year by injuries. They appear healthy to start this season and I believe pose the greatest threat to the Royals in the division. They have the future Hall of Famer, a solid pitching staff and a fantastically deep line-up. It is going to be a race to 88 wins to take the division.
Kris Medlen will assert himself as a true #2/3 starter
Dayton Moore’s track record for finding quality pitching has been so strong, and Medlen may end up being the ultimate feather in his cap. Coming off Tommy John surgery the second half of last season, Medlen posted a not so terrible 4.50 ERA. However most of the earned run damage came in just two of the eight starts he made. Pull those starts out and Medlen had a 2.33 ERA. Over his his career his ERA is 3.06 with a 40-22 record. He is only 30 years old. Medlen before his injury issues was a legit #1 starter in Atlanta. If he stays healthy during this contract year he could very well be the #2 starter for this team come post-season.
Danny Duffy will not be a Royal at the trade deadline.
At the trade deadline last year the Royals gave up ton of minor league talent and organizational depth. If they need a piece this coming season come deadline time, it will likely come from a position of strength and Duffy’s name could be discussed the most at the major league level. The Royals should remain apprehensive about moving Mondesi and Zimmer won’t bring much in return with his injury history. That leaves a very young, high upside Duffy as the one pitcher to move. Hoch, Gee and Tim Collins all will fill substantial roles in the pen and Duffy may struggle to find his niche.
Alex Gordon will have his best season offensively of his career(Balboni is in trouble).
This probably is my biggest stretch, but here we go. Alex Gordon will break Steve Balboni’s embarrassing team season home run record of 36. I have no science, no advance stat to back this up. Just a hunch. I think the injury last season may have open A1’s eyes to the kind of player he will need to become moving forward. I think a good comp for Gordon in his 30’s will be Carlos Beltran who became much more a high slug guy later in his career. My best bet of a Gordon stat line for this coming season is .272 37 dongs and 89 RBI’s. Now with that said, much of this is assuming Gordon is hitting 2nd in the order. If he gets dropped down to 6th the protection will not be there and he won’t see pitches to approach this stat line with only Salvy, Omar and Dyson/Orlando hitting behind him.
Soria, Herrera and Davis and the gang will be the most dominant pen in modern baseball.
I think many have forgotten that Wade was NOT the closer the entire season. And before he was Holland struggled. And even with that the 2015 Royals pen was regarded as one of the best ever along with the 2014 version. Add Tim Collins, Danny Duffy(½ season) and Luke Hochever and the Royals have the makings of something truly once in a generation.
Omar will assert himself as deserving 2nd baseman
This is another one that may fall on deaf ears but i think a healthy Omar will be a solid 2nd baseman for the team. Omar has not been healthy for much of his tenure with the team and even with that Ned was willing to overlook the offensive deficiencies because of his reliability defensively and chemistry with Esky. If Omar is strong and feeling good, it will take an incredible spring by Christian Colon to bump him from the starting role. Plus Colon gives Ned more versatility off the bench were Infante is pretty much locked up at 2nd base and not a viable option as a utility guy. With that said i think Omar actually earns the spot and puts up a season stat line of .265 6 homers and 50ish RBI’s while playing very good above average defense.
The Royals will win AL and rematch the Giants.
When all said and done I believe this team is wired to defend. They have already found a way to use projections to motivate them and play the disrespect card and that is ready to played again. This first weekend they have said all the right things and all the guys have come to camp in shape and ready to play and defend. Dayton had good offseason bringing in Ian Kennedy to eat innings and holding this core group together. The Giants look primed to keep with their even year history of success. My initial prediction is the Royals finish with a 94-68 record and play the Giants in the World Series.
The Kansas City Royals have agreed to a two year deal with former Atlanta Braves starter Mike Minor. According to Jeffrey Flannagan, the deal is worth worth $7.25 million guaranteed, with a third year mutual option. He will make $2 million in 2016, $4 in 2017 ... Read more