Kansas City Royals open 2014 with hopes, expectations

After a 11-15 Cactus League campaign, the most anticipated season in years starts in Detroit March 31 when the Kansas City Royals face the Detroit Tigers.

Kansas City Royals Opening Day

Here’s the team the Royals will field on Opening Day:

Starting rotation:
James Shields will pitch Opening Day, followed by Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen.

With Shields entering the final year of his contract, he should pitch well if he stays healthy. Vargas had a good spring and it should extend into the regular season. Ventura was so impressive this spring, he’s now the third starter. Guthrie’s spring was a little shaky, but if he can pitch like he did last year, he should be fine. And Bruce Chen will do what he always does: keep the team in the game when he pitches. It’s not the best rotation in baseball, but if they can pitch into the later innings and not give up too many runs, they will give the Royals a chance to win.

Bullpen:
Greg Holland is the closer, along with Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman and Francisley Bueno.

The Royals bullpen was a little shaky this spring, giving up their share of hits, doubles and home runs. Royals skipper Ned Yost isn’t too concerned, saying the weather conditions of Arizona and the somewhat laid back atmosphere of spring training affected the bullpen. But with the loss of Luke Hochevar to Tommy John surgery, the bullpen lost an effective arm and it could be affecting the rest of the bullpen. The bullpen is usually the Royals strength and where the bullpen goes, so goes the Royals.

Outfield:
Alex Gordon (LF), Lorenzo Cain (CF) and Norichika Aoki (RF).

Gordon had a good spring, Cain was injury free and Aoki played well. If Alex Gordon plays like he does, Cain stays off the disabled list and Akoi gets on base, doesn’t strike out and plays solid defense, the outfield should be one of the Royals strengths.

Infield:
Mike Moustakas (3B), Alcides Escobar (SS), Omar Infante (2B) and Eric Hosmer (1B).

Moustakas is the bright spot of the infield, having a good spring and leading the team with 17 RBI and a .431 batting average. After a early injury in spring training, Escobar played well enough not to raise concerns like he did last season. However, Omar Infante is a concern. A nagging bone spur in his elbow limited Infante to eight games and 24 at-bats. The Royals aren’t sure if he’ll make it for Opening Day. If he doesn’t make it, it’s likely Pedro Ciriaco will fill in for Infante. Hosmer had a solid spring and that should continue into the regular season. If Infante gets over his bone spur and if Moustakas can play to his potential, the infield is in good shape.

Catcher:
Salvador Perez, Brett Hays.

Perez was a little banged up this spring with a palm bruise early on and getting hit in the head with a breaking pitch during the last game in Arizona. And the incident where Perez struck Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman in the face with a line drive shook him up a bit. Otherwise, Perez had a good spring and he should be ready to go. Oh yeah, Brett Hays is good to go as Perez’s backup.

Designated Hitter, Bench:
Billy Butler (DH), Jarrod Dyson (OF), Justin Maxwell (OF) and Danny Valencia (IF).

Butler had a down 2013 (for him), and he’s working on hitting more extra base hits and home runs this season. Dyson will provide speed on the basepaths and Maxwell should provide power off the bench. Valencia will be the utility infielder when Moustakas, Escobar and Infante need a rest, though his strongest position is third base.

Overall, the Kansas City Royals are a good team, but they’re not a great team. They can’t afford to have too many injuries and suffer crippling losing streaks like they did last season. They need to start strong out of the gate and have a good April to keep up with their main A.L. Central rival, the Detroit Tigers. If they can do that, it’s possible they could win 90 plus games and make the playoffs. If they don’t, it’s going to be considered a disappointing season.

Author: Jim Spurlock

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