AL Central Preview: Kansas City Royals

Here’s the final installment in this series of previews of the Twins’ AL Central Division rivals. Today, we talk about the Landed Gentry down yonder in Kansas City.

How many years now have we been hearing about how great the Kansas City Royals’ prospects are? Seems like forever.  Last season, we finally got to see some of that talent on the field at the Big League level. And what did we see? I guess you have to give the Royals credit for crawling out of the AL Central Division cellar, but that may have been due more to just how bad the Twins were than any improvement by the Royals.

Still, the Royals are getting better and you have to hope baseball fans in Kansas City recognize it and start showing up at the remodeled Kauffman Stadium in greater numbers. As it stands, at least there should be one guaranteed sell-out in KC this season, with the 2012 All-Star Game being hosted there. Kauffman has always been one of my favorite MLB stadiums so I’m glad they’re getting this opportunity to showcase the great job they did of fixing the place up.

And who knows, maybe this is the season a few of their young stars emerge to the point where the Royals get more than just token representation on the AL squad.

Last Year:

Record: 71-91

Standings: 4th place AL Central by 24 games behind Tigers

Playoffs: None. Their last playoff appearance was in 1985 (Ouch)

Players of Note Lost: OF Melky Cabrera

Players of Note Added: P Jonathan Sanchez, P Jonathan Broxton, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, P Jose Mijares

M*A*S*H unit: Unless you count the potential for Jose Mijares to eat one or two of his team mates, the Royals appear to be entering Spring Training in remarkably good shape health-wise. (Actually, if there’s one place where one probably should not poke fun at food-related injuries, it is almost certainly Kansas City… not after the close call their mascot Sluggerrr had with the justice system following a nasty hotdog incident last year.)

Outlook: If I were a Royals fan, I’d have really liked to see the club go out and get Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. That would have been a great way for ownership to tell the fan base, “we’re not just BSing about this any more, we think we can be good!”

I guess they figured bringing in Jonathan Sanchez should be enough to convince fans that they’re serious. The other new Jonathan (Broxton) should prove helpful out of the bullpen, as well. On the other hand, they also added Jose Mijares. While I’m tempted to say Mijares will offset any improvement Broxton might bring, the truth is that Mijares probably could prove to be a major contributor as a LOOGY out of their pen.

At some point, all of these hitters that the “experts” have been raving about as they worked their way up through the Royals organization are going to start scoring more runs, right? Maybe, in a season that’s shaping up to be a pretty mediocre year for most of the other AL Central teams, this will be the year that Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Alcides Escobar score runs in bunches. If so, and if they get some pitching, maybe those runs will translate in to wins.

That’s a lot of “maybe,” but I think it may just happen.

I’m obviously hoping the Twins’ fortunes turn this year and they mount a serious challenge to the Tigers. But if they don’t, I think the Royals may be the AL Central team most likely to do so. I’ll predict KC wins at least half their games this season and with a little luck, a few games more than that. Anything above .500 could be good enough for runner-up status in this Division.

– JC