Your 2012 AL Central Champs
Earlier this week as I was drowning in the sarcasm and negativity from my fellow Royals bloggers, I made a decision to make sure this week’s article was positive. It’s hard to imagine a Spring Training going much worse than 2012 has gone for the Kansas City Royals, so I thought I should offer up a little Kool Aid for a fan base that may be growing hesitant to partake. Of course, Dayton Moore kind of beat me to it now didn’t he?
The Alex Gordon signing makes three in just over a month for Moore and all of them have surprised me by how little they’ve cost. This means Dayton Moore is either a master negotiator or Kansas City is truly a place these guys want to be. Either would be great news for the Royals, but I tend to believe the latter is more of a factor. Whatever the motivation, we are now assured that the core of this team will be together for the foreseeable future. We have superb defense at short and catcher, developing power at the corner infield positions, solid production from a corner outfielder and (still) the second best farm system in all of baseball according to Baseball America. The rest of the AL Central ranks 20th (Minnesota) 23rd (Detroit), 29th (Cleveland) and 30th (Chicago). The future has never looked brighter in Kansas City, and I mean never.
That being said the Kool Aid Drinker, like many of you I assume, is tired of waiting. I’ve had illusions of grandeur with no payoff for far too long and I’m ready for some results. When I say “results” I mean playoffs; when I say “ready” I mean expect. And I mean now. How?
The Superstar- This offense will score a ton of runs in 2012, of that I have no doubt. Even with Chris Getz or Yuniesky Betancourt sieving at bats… even with Humberto Quintero or Brayan Pena clogging the bottom of the order. They will score runs because for the first time in a decade they have a legitimate top and middle of the order. More to the point, they will score runs because of Eric Hosmer. Before I started at I70 Baseball, I had my own little blog and I wrote this about Hosmer. The kid is destined to be a star and there is no reason to think a regression is coming in year two. With Billy Butler (whom I expect to have a career year in 2012) behind him teams will no choice but to pitch to him, which will result in Hosmer breaking Steve Balboni’s embarrassment of a home run record. I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it now officially. Hosmer is going .335-37-132 and winning the MVP. Think that is ridiculous? No player has ever had a rookie season like Hosmer’s and not won an MVP eventually.
Country Breakfast- There are countless articles on the web telling you how Billy Butler is in the best shape of his life and it’s about damn time. Butler is the quintessential “see ball, hit ball” hitter and I guess because of that he always thought his pudgy frame served him just fine. I was always concerned that the current wave of Royals prospects would see Butler’s approach and adopt it, turning us into a cheaper and less talented version of the Boston Red Sox. Thankfully, it seems that Hosmer and company have reversed my expectations and motivated Butler to hit the weights. It is not possible to state the importance of Billy Butler producing behind Hosmer’s big bat, and no one should know that better than Butler himself. He knows what it’s like to be a star up-and-coming hitter with no protection. Of course, Butler still isn’t exactly a grizzled veteran himself, he turns 26 in a little over 2 weeks. In other words, he’s entering his prime. Billy Butler will have a career year in 2012, putting up .351-26-115 and winning his first batting title. I admit I may be a bit off on this one. I see Butler as a right handed hitting Carl Yastrzemski, and Butler could very well mimic Yaz’s 1967 season in which he went .326-44-121. For those of you rolling your eyes, Yaz had never hit more than 20 home runs coming into that year.
Luke Hochevar- I said it before and I’ll say it again, Cool hand Luke is going to break out in a big way in 2012. I really think he’s the kind of guy that may not do well playing out the string on another 90 loss season but may thrive when things are really going well. He has what should be an excellent defense behind him, and he’ll get to face terrible lineups in Chicago and Minnesota along the way. I’m not predicting anything silly like a Cy Young, but I think 15 wins and a sub 4 ERA is well within his reach.
The Competition- The White Sox and Twins are flat out terrible; the Royals should win 25-28 of those 36 games. The Indians, in my opinion, are overrated and will struggle to win 72 games. That leaves us with the Tigers, who I think are this year’s candidate to be the most disappointing team in Major League Baseball. There is absolutely no way that Justin Verlander duplicates what he did in 2011, none. I think he’s due to regress in a major way, if not fall to injury. He’s thrown nearly 900 innings the past 4 seasons combined, and not less than 200 in the last five. I think that streak gets broken in 2012. Of course, the Tigers pitching isn’t what scares people, right? It’s that lineup. Well, I ain’t scared. It didn’t take long at all for Miguel Cabrera to take a ground ball off the face, who knows what injury is next. Even if he doesn’t, we’ve already talked about the massive letdown Prince Fielder is about to experience. After those two, what’s left? Austin Jackson? He’s got over 350 strikeouts in 2 seasons. Brennan Boesch? Your Kila Ka’aihue impersonation isn’t fooling anyone. Delmon Young? Please. This lineup just isn’t that scary, and there defense will be atrocious. This is not a 100 win team, and it may struggle to be a 90 win team.
At this point you’re either extremely excited, or wondering what I’m smoking…or both. Regardless, jump on the Kool Aid Drinker bandwagon now! 93 wins and an AL Central title from now, it may be too full.