Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Kansas City Royals


The Kansas City Royals came off two straight trips to the World Series by having a disappointing 2016 season marred by injury.  Do the Royals have one more run in them with their current core?

My 2016 Predictions
2nd in AL Central, WILD CARD, lose in ALDS
The Royals will trade for a starting pitcher before the Trade Deadline.

2016 Results
81-81, 3rd in AL Central
It's really hard to do what the Royals did in 2014 and 2015.  Taking two straight trips to the World Series, winning one, and almost winning another is one of the greatest runs in recent baseball memory.  In 2016, the stars finally stopped aligning for the Royals.  Some key injuries derailed their chances at a third straight trip to the top of the American League.  With that said, a .500 record is still a step up from the depths the Royals have been over the last couple decades.

Additions / Subtractions
The Royals were fairly active over this offseason.  They traded speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson to the Mariners for starter Nathan Karns, as well as traded closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler.  (That brings the "Big Three" bullpen arms that helped make the magical run down to one.)  In free agency, they went out and picked up slugger Brandon Moss and starter Jason Hammel.  The biggest news from the Royals' offseason was the reason Hammel needed to be signed.  Tragedy once again struck the game of baseball as Royals' ace Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican.  With a team as homegrown as this one, a tragedy like this really hit the Royals' organization hard.  His absence in the clubhouse will be felt more than just his production on the field.

Most Important Hitter
Alex Gordon
One of the bigger storylines for the Royals entering 2017 is the fact that many of the mainstays of the current team have their contracts up at the end of the season.  Salvador Perez has already been re-signed, but the story is Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Mike Moustakas can't all stick around for what they are worth.  The oldest and most established member of the Royals' core, as well as the first one the team committed to, is Alex Gordon.  At 33, he is starting to see some decline in his production, but he needs to have a rebound season after a terrible 2016.

Most Important Pitcher
Danny Duffy
An unexpected surprise for the Royals in 2016 was the emergence of Danny Duffy.  He went from swing pitcher, getting time in the bullpen and making a spot start or two, to being the ace of the staff.  Now with the death of Yordano Ventura, Duffy is the closest thing the Royals have to a established starter in their prime.  They need him to pitch like he did down last season if the Royals want to have any chance of succeeding in 2017.  Throughout the run they have been on, the Royals have always struggled to have a dominant rotation despite their dominant bullpen.  Duffy showed potential to be that dominant ace they have been looking for.

Player to Watch
Matt Strahm
Complicating the dilemma facing the Royals next offseason is the fact that their farm system is fairly bare.  They are one of the few teams with the distinction of having no prospects in baseball's top 100 prospects.  Their best prospect, Matt Strahm, got a good taste of the big leagues last season logging 22 innings with a 1.23 ERA out of the bullpen.  The Royals aren't sure yet if he will stay in the bullpen or if he will eventually be a starter.  Either way, he will be a player to keep an eye on throughout the season.

2017 Prediction
2nd in AL Central
This might be the last ride for this current core of Royals' players, but there is just too much talent around the league for them to make the playoffs as the roster currently sits.  Their rotation has declined, and their bullpen is not as formidable as before.  Their lineup is back in tact, but without the pitching, they are probably going to come up just short once again.

Fearless Prediction
Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas will be traded mid-season.
Like I said, the Royals will not be able to re-sign all their stars.  Some are going to walk away from Kansas City at the end of the season for greener pastures and deeper pockets.  By the Trade Deadline, the Royals will most likely decide which they are keeping and which they are going to let walk.  They have already signed Salvador Perez to an extension, an obvious choice.  Of the remaining three, my guess is the next priority will be Eric Hosmer.  If that is the case, that means Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Mike Moustakas will probably be left out.  The Royals will quickly realize they will rather get something for these guys instead of letting them walk at the end of the season.  This might be their chance to rebuild the farm system and find their replacements.  I doubt they will trade all three, but two out of the three would be realistic.  They will ride that fine line between contending and rebuilding the last few months of 2017.

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