Ian Kennedy, Joakim Soria
Johnny Cueto, Ben Zobrist, Ryan Madsen, Alex Rios
The Royals only added Cueto and Zobrist in July, but it still could be seen as big losses. Especially considering that Kennedy is the only out of house replacement. Zobrist was especially key due to the fact that he could play a variety of positions. It kept the wheels from falling off when Alex Gordon went down to injury, and gave them depth and a boost in the hitting from the infield. Soria is a nice addition, but what is lost is that Greg Holland, who is a free agent still, will not be retained. Injury and poor play in 2015 proved that Holland is replaceable, and Soria could certainly do the replacing. However, it obviously doesn’t fill all that is lost, and the Royals did little to upgrade elsewhere.
Projected Playoff Lineup
- Alcides Escobar
- Mike Moustakas
- Lorenzo Cain
- Eric Hosmer
- Kendrys Morales
- Alex Gordon
- Sal Perez
- Reymond Fuentes
- Omar Infante
What will keep the Royals relevant will be the defense in their lineup. Escobar, Cain, and Perez are all top tier defenders for their position, all of which are extremely important to have good defense in. Cain in addition, is coming off of a year in which he hit .300 and stole 28 bases. To add to that, Moustakas, Morales and Perez were all able to come up with over 20 home runs a piece. Gordon added 13 in 104 games, and Hosmer added 18. Gordon dealt with injury, which gave him low quality production, and now at age 32 it cannot be a given that he will get back to his all-star caliber play. However, the lineup is solid and has good distribution of youth, talent and defense from top to bottom. It would be tough to count the Royals out of competing for another year.
The Royals have survived without a strong rotation in the past, but this may be their worst one in the past three years. Volquez is at the top after a strong showing in the playoffs, but we are talking about a 33 year old pitcher, who in three of the last five years posted an ERA over 4, and twice posted one over 5. He isn’t a guy to miss a lot of bats, and doesn’t have strong command either. Kennedy is the off-season addition and is similar to Volquez when looking at his last five years. He has more strikeout potential, and posted a 2.88 ERA in 2011, but he is now 31 and is coming off of a year where he was the fourth or fifth most consistent pitcher for the Padres. Ventura has all of the upside at 24, but in two MLB seasons has shown some glaring flaws. Aside from being a hothead, he throws extremely hard, almost too hard for his body, and it seems to fatigue him, and either have him miss a couple of starts, or go through a down stretch as the season wears on. He also has command issues, and gives up a decent amount of walks. It is hard to say whether he can control his arm, but he certainly has the time to grow into a guy the Royals can trust moving forward. To round it off is Young, who was impressive last year, but only made 18 starts, and is now 37 years old. Medlen only made 8 starts last year, and seemingly hasn’t been healthy since 2012. The lineup was able to push through a suspect staff last year, but with no improvement and only more questions, there has to be a sense that this thing will catch up to them.
The pen should be similar to last year, and should be able to hold up parts of the rotation for a while. To start, it is nice when most starters will only have to go 6 innings, with a shutdown 7-8-9 after the addition of Soria. They also have arms in the middle to long relief to come in and ease the rotation. It obviously cannot be every night, but it is a big help when you think as a starter that no matter how you perform, the backend can come in and clean things up.
On the whole, the Royals shouldn’t be much worse than last year. They did get a huge monkey off of their back, and it would be no surprise if they didn’t get out to the hot start of last year. Still, their offense and fielding in the lineup as well as their pen are what got them to the MLB elite, and those are still here. There are enough questions however to see the Royals fall back, and with less to prove they may let the division be closer than last year. It is too tough to trust their pitching, and personally I just see a year in which thing do not go perfectly to plan, where last year seemed to be a story book end.
2nd in the AL Central