1) Eric Hosmer
This one’s too easy. One of the front-runners for 2011 A.L. Rookie of the Year, Hosmer is easily the Royals’ most exciting player to watch going into 2012. This year, he hit .293 with 19 Homeruns, 27 doubles, 78 RBI’s, and a .799 OPS. He did all this while only playing in 128 games. His defense was stellar and his baserunning turnEd Heads because of his size (6’4” 228 lbs). He is the complete package and it will be interesting to see what he can do in a full 162 game season.
2) Offense, Offense, Offense
While starting pitching is the biggest concern this offseason, the lineup looks set in stone. There could be a few order changes here and there, but the players should remain the same. The only thing that could be different is if Melky Cabrera gets traded and Lorenzo Cain replaces him.
This is what this offense’s 2011 MLB Ranks look like:
Runs Scored: 10th
On-Base Pct: 8th
Slugging Pct: 7th
You would have to think that these numbers should only go up considering nobody in the lineup will be over 28 going into 2012.
3) Jeff Francoeur’s Arm
Seriously, how much fun is it to watch this guy? Frenchy is always wearing that grin that looks like it came straight off an 8-year-old’s face during a little league game. You can tell he genuinely loves playing the game and doing it for the Kansas City Royals.
His arm strength is nothing short of unbelievable and he has shown it throughout his 6 years (yes, only 6) in the league. If you aren’t pumped every time Francoeur gets the chance to throw out a runner then its pretty likely that you don’t like the sport of baseball.
4) Alcides Escobar’s Glove
It sure was nice to have a daily human highlight reel at the most important defensive position that isn’t called “catcher.” Rarely did a game go by without Escobar making one of those “Wow, did you see that?” plays in the field.
His glove saved more games in 2011 than most fans would realize and he will only be 25 at the beginning of next year. His ceiling is sky-high.
5) Salvador Perez’s Arm/Glove Combo
Speaking of amazing defense, what about Salvador Perez? He made an instant impact behind the plate picking off runners at first and third in his major league debut. He was also close to completing a catcher’s hat-trick by missing a pick-off at second base by about an inch. No other Royals catcher picked off a runner (did they even attempt one?) and Perez’s glove work was easily tops in the organization.
He will still only be 21 on Opening Day 2012 and it’s safe to say he isn’t too far away from winning a Gold Glove. Look for his pickoff numbers to increase from here on out.
6) Mike Moustakas’ Bat
Throughout Moustakas’ professional baseball career, he has struggled while moving up levels in the Royals’ farm system. He proved that to be no different when he jumped from Triple A to the Majors in early June. He went through major hitting droughts and his batting average got as low as .182 in the middle of August.
He ended the year with a .263 average, after having a tremendous September. He hit .352 for the month and recorded 4 HR’s, 6 doubles, and 8 RBI’s in the last 14 games of the season. His learning period is over and 2012 should give him a fresh start.
7) An Opening Day Lineup Kansas City can really get behind
2011 Opening Day Lineup
2012 (Projected) Opening Day Lineup
Alex Gordon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Billy Butler DH
Eric Hosmer 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Mike Moustakas 3B
Johnny Giavotella 2B
Salvador Perez C
Alcides Escobar SS
Looks a lot better, huh?
8) The “Old Vets”
Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Luke Hochevar, and Joakim Soria have been the only impact players that have been on the team since 2007. They all debuted in Kansas City during that year and are still major pieces going into 2012.
The leadership they have shown on and off the field were a major reason the youngsters made such big strides in 2011. Barring any trades, it will be fun to watch their continued success within this organization.
9) The “New Arms”
Aaron Crow, Greg Holland, and Danny Duffy highlight the young pitchers who will continue to make an impact in 2012. Crow had a slow finish but was still the Royals’ representative at the 2011 All-Star Game. He could find his new home being in the starting rotation rather than the bullpen next year, which would help fill a huge need for Kansas City.
Holland was the best bullpen pitcher this year and should be the anchor of next year’s bullpen as well. He was the guy to get the Royals out of late-inning jams and is expected to continue his role as “fireman” next year.
Duffy should only get better next year. He will provide the rotation a solid 3 or 4 starter, as he has the most electric stuff on the staff.
10) More filled seats at “the K”
If the last homestretch of the 2011 season is any indication of what 2012 will be like, Kauffman Stadium will be a brand new environment. Over the final 8 home games, there was an average of over 25,400 people. That includes two Tuesday games, and two Wednesday games, while the team was 20 games out of first place.
Expectations haven’t been higher since Dayton Moore arrived, and the fans are ready to have a contender. Kauffman will maintain a solid average throughout the season, as long as the team is winning. If that’s the case, all fans under the age of 25 will experience Royals’ games like they never have before.
11) New player walk-up songs
Let’s be real. At the beginning of the season, it was pretty cool hearing/watching Alex Gordon walk up to the plate to Drake’s “Over.” I’m not gonna lie, every time I hear “I Wanna Rock” or “Take Me Home Tonight,” I think of Jeff Francoeur. Billy Butler’s “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean didn’t exactly get me pumped up, but it seemed like a song that “Country Breakfast” would sing at the top of his lungs in his car (or most likely truck).
By September though, these songs definitely wore out. It’s time for new, hopefully better, walk-up songs. It’s time to put 2011 in the rear-view mirror. Who has any suggestions for new player walk-up songs?
And last but not least…
12) The 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City
Kansas City hasn’t been the center of the baseball world since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. The Royals haven’t hosted the All-Star Game since 1973.
The All-Star festivities will bring new life to Kansas City and especially bring attention back to the Royals. Baseball hasn’t been the top sport in this town since the 80’s, but the tide could be turning.
With these 12 reasons listed above, how could you not be excited for the Royals’ future?