We are slowly approaching Spring Training 2012 when the Kansas City Royals start arriving on February 20th in Surprise, Arizona. The Royals will be looking to improve on their 71-91 record from last year and hope to challenge for the division title this season. Kansas City certainly will have a better chance, this year than the past few seasons, at pushing the rest of the AL Central for the division title with its young and talented core of players beginning to make their impact on the major leagues.
As the Royals roster is constructed currently, I see this team in the 75-83 win range. This is mainly due to the starting rotation and that the team is still very young. The 2012 Royals team will look similar to 2011 with only a few changes:
- Melky Cabrera was traded for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez
- Lorenzo Cain will be the front runner for the center field opening
- Sanchez replaces Francis in the rotation
- Bruce Chen accepted less money to return to rotation
- Yuniesky Betancourt returns to Kansas City as infield depth
- Kevin Kouzmanoff was recently brought in on a minor league deal for depth at third base
- Jonathan Broxton was signed as another weapon to bridge the game to Soria.
The Royals lineup and bench will have a good balance of veterans and young players and manager Ned Yost will continue to try to get to most out of every player to have a sniffing chance at the division crown. If opening day was today the Royals lineup should look something like this:
- LF Alex Gordon
- 2B Johnny Giavotella
- 1B Eric Hosmer
- DH Billy Butler
- RF Jeff Francoeur
- 3B Mike Moustakas
- C Salvador Perez
- CF Lorenzo Cain
- SS Alcides Escobar
This is all pre-spring training and there is plenty of time for things to develop and change. I would imagine Yost will go with 14 position players and 11 pitchers but he certainly could use the extra pitcher with the current Royals rotation. It will be interesting to watch how the bench battles develop – one or two reserve outfielders and two or three reserve infielders.
Now, let’s compare the Royals rotation and closer situation to the rest of the AL Central:
|1||John Danks (8-12 4.33)||Ubaldo Jimenez (10-13 4.68)||Justin Verlander (24-5 2.40)||Luke Hochevar (11-11 4.68)||Carl Pavano (9-13 4.30)|
|2||Gavin Floyd (12-13 4.37)||Fausto Carmona (7-15 5.25)||Doug Fister (11-13 2.83)||Bruce Chen (12-8 3.77)||Francisco Liriano (9-10 5.09)|
|3||Phil Humber (9-9 3.75)||Justin Masterson (12-10 3.21)||Max Scherzer (15-9 4.43)||Jonathan Sanchez (4-7 4.26)||Scott Baker (8-6 3.14)|
|4||Chris Sale (2-2 2.79)||Josh Tomlin (12-7 4.25)||Rick Porcello (14-9 4.75)||Felipe Paulino (4-10 4.46)||Nick Blackburn (7-10 4.49)|
|5||Jake Peavy (7-7 4.92)||Derek Lowe (9-17 5.05)||Jacob Turner (0-1 8.53)||Danny Duffy (4-8 5.64)||Brian Duensing (9-14 5.23)|
|CL||Matt Thornton||Chris Perez||Jose Valverde||Joakim Soria||Joel Zumaya|
It should be clear that Detroit and Cleveland are a definite 1 and 2 in terms of pitching with Kansas City, Minnesota and Chicago battling for third and beyond. The Royals bullpen was a surprising strong point last season and should be solid once again. Kansas City can certainly claim to have the top bullpen or #2 in the AL Central right now just based on last year’s numbers and player histories.
In order for Kansas City to have any shot at a division title run a few things need to happen: the bats need to continue to improve on last season with another year of experience under their belt, the bullpen to dominate with everyone returning along with new flame-thrower Broxton joining the crew, the rotation will need to prove the doubters wrong with quality starts keeping the bats in the game to get to the strong pen to close it out, and, of course, a little luck. Easier said than done, right? Hurry up spring.
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