As we head into the 2013 MLB season, the AL Central is one of the most intriguing divisions in baseball. The Tigers look like a juggernaut but showed weaknesses at times last year. The White Sox were good for a while but faded at the end. The Indians spent money to get better but still need some pitching. We’ll profile those teams later this spring, but today our focus is on the one other team in the division the Kansas City Royals.
Is this the year the Royals get things turned around with their young lineup and re-stocked rotation? To help us get a grasp of what KC is doing and how we should plan for our fantasy baseball teams, we’re joined today by Michael Engel the lead editor at Kings of Kauffman, the Fansided blog devoted to covering the Royals.
To help us get ready for fantasy baseball drafts and the upcoming season of fantasy hardball goodness, Michael answered the same nine questions we posed to each Fansided blog heading into the coming season. For other entries in our “Starting 9″ series click here.
1. Did your team do a good job this offseason?
A lot of that depends on who you ask and their opinion of the James Shields trade. I waver on the Ervin Santana acquisition, as I’ve always liked him, but his 2012 was bad. I like Jeremy Guthrie and I’m intrigued by Wade Davis, but not getting Wil Myers into the lineup hurts. I think he’s going to be a beast once he gets into the majors.
The Royals did what they’d set out to do, though. They improved their starting rotation.
2. Who is the key player to your team’s success this year?
Eric Hosmer. The Royals expect strong production from him and last year, he didn’t have it. The offense still finished towards the bottom of the rankings last year, and Hosmer’s struggles were a big reason why. If he repeats those struggles, it doesn’t matter who’s pitching.
3. Who is a position player many people may not know about who is going to have a breakout season?
The Royals have had so many young players get hyped up as they’ve risen through the farm system I’m not sure if there’s a sleeper, but if he can stay healthy, Lorenzo Cain could be a .270 hitter with 10+ homers and speed to get 20+ steals. He’ll probably hit around 6th or 7th in the lineup so he might get more opportunities to drive in runs that way. But he has to stay healthy.
4. What starting pitcher is going to have a surprisingly good season?
Ervin Santana, but it’s only a hunch. Being that bad either means he’s going to fall off a cliff or that he’s bound to snap back to his normal levels. With some luck, he might end up being a little bit better than normal.
5. How does your team’s bullpen look going into this coming year especially at the closer position?
Closer is strong. Greg Holland is a nasty guy. He’s throwing in the mid-90s and has a hard slider as well that strikes a lot of batters out. If he doesn’t keep the job for whatever reason, though, the Royals have Kelvin Herrera behind him. Herrera’s my favorite reliever on the team and hits the upper 90s with his fastball, then comes back with a tumbling changeup that’s hard on lefties and righties. He strikes out batters and gets a ton of ground balls. Love that guy.
6. Who do you think is the most “over-rated” player on your team?
Is it too obvious to say Jeff Francoeur? Maybe that’s moreso from a baseball front office perspective…
Alcides Escobar may see regression in his batting average, and he’s not a guy with a lot of power, so if someone’s seeing him as a cheap sleeper option, they may be disappointed. He isn’t very disciplined at the plate, so he doesn’t get on as often as he could and could have that tendency exploited.
7. Are there any rookies that will impact the team from the beginning of the season or as a midseason call-up?
I wish I could say Wil Myers…
Most of the Royals big prospects are already up, so impact rookies are hard to find, though Will Smith is a name to keep an eye on. I doubt he still qualifies as a rookie, but he’s close enough to me. He has great poise on the mound and if it weren’t for Luis Mendoza, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen being out of options, he’d probably be a strong candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a matter of seeing how John Lamb, Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura do in the minors. Lamb is working back from some late Tommy John rehab last year, Zimmer’s entering his first full pro season and Ventura’s got some buzz as a September callup hopeful, but all three are starting at Double A (Zimmer possibly at High A) and it’s hard to see them rising through two levels by midseason.
8. What would be considered a successful season for your team?
After trading away three big prospects and another decent one for James Shields and Wade Davis, they have to get to .500 at least or something went wrong. They can’t trade away that much talent and finish in the mid-70s in wins again.
9. What exciting things do you have coming up on your site this season?
We just brought on three new writers to join an already strong team. I’m hoping to get more in-depth minor league coverage on the site, and our podcast has a lot of interesting guests coming on or in the works over the next few months.