Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Minnesota Twins Fan Previews the 2014 Kansas City Royals

As you are already aware, the Royals screwed up everything again last year, mortgaging their future by trading away the next Mickey Mantle for a number 5 starter and failing to make the playoffs for the 200th straight season.  Oh, you aren't familiar with exaggeration?  You must not read a lot about the Royals.  In reality, the Royals made the difficult decision to part with the very promising Wil Myers to acquire a very solid starter in James Shields.  That move, combined with a very savvy Ervin Santana acquisition, a very talented and dominant bullpen and some development from their young offense led to a 14-win improvement in 2013.  They missed out on the playoffs for the 28th straight season, but they finished above .500 for the first time since 2003.  Can they finally get over the playoff hump in 2014?

Key Acquisitions

"Key" Acquisitions

Gorkys Hernandez, P.J. Walters, Brandon Laird, Cory Wade, Danny Valencia, and Jon Rauch

Notable Losses

Ervin Santana, Felipe Paulino, Emilio Bonafacio, Will Smith, Jazzy Jeff, Jamey Carroll, and Carlos Pena

My favorite offseason move?

The Norichika Aoki trade was solid.  He's a solid hitter, solid defender and a solid runner.  Don't laugh, but I secretly like the Danny Valencia signing too.  Valencia crushes left-handed pitching and he and Mike Moustakas could form a pretty decent platoon.  Of course, if Valencia is at third and you're sitting behind first base, you could head home with stitch marks near your ear. 

More importantly, are they better than last year?

Offensively, yes.  Aoki will replace David Lough, who played well, but above his head.  Omar Infante will vastly outperform Chris Getz.  Danny Valencia can help too, as he'll crush lefties in place of Moustakas, who hit under .200 against lefties in 2013. 

Their pitching could be worse though.  Ervin Santana was great last year.  Jason Vargas just isn't as good as Santana.  Jeremy Guthrie was good too, but good luck figuring out why.  His ever-disappearing strikeout rate is troubling.  James Shields was fantastic last year, but he's not an Ace so no one is allowed to like him.  A lot rides on the young arm of Yordano Ventura, but we can talk about him later.

Awesome Name from the Organization

Sugar Ray Marimon

Former Twin Alert!

C'mon, it's got to be Danny V!

Depth Chart

James Shields
Jeremy Guthrie
Omar Infante
Jason Vargas
Mike Moustakas
Bruce Chen
Yordano Ventura
Norichika Aoki


I like their lineup.  The additions of Infante and Aoki should make a better overall lineup.  Neither player is truly special, but both are capable of league-average offense.  Infante is particularly important as the Royals have had a gaping hole at second base for quite some time.  Billy Butler and Alex Gordon are solid.  Eric Hosmer seemed to figure some things out last year.  Salvador Perez is a budding star.  Mike Moustakas took a huge step backwards, but hit .244/.295/.386 against right-handed pitching.  That is simply putrid, not a sopping mess of putrid (he hit .196/.256/.290 against lefties).  Danny Valencia has hit .329/.367/.513 against lefties in his career, so a platoon could work very well.  Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are...well, they're great defenders.  


Cain and Escobar join Perez as great defenders.  Moustakas is no slouch either.  Infante and Gordon are good.  Aoki will be fine and Hosmer can handle first.  The Royals have the best defense in the Central and it's not really all that close.  They might have the best defense in the Majors, although Tampa Bay's creative shifting boosts their numbers.  The Royals' defense might be one of the biggest advantages that they have over their biggest AL Central competitor, although the Tigers have worked to address their defense. 


I'm less excited about their rotation.  Adding James Shields was a fantastic move.  It's a shame that they had to trade Wil Myers to get him, but there's a cost to everything.  The problem is that Shields is a free agent after this season and the rest of the rotation is up in the air.  Jeremy Guthrie was shockingly good last year, but can he keep it up?  Jason Vargas is consistent, but he isn't exciting and he doesn't replace Ervin Santana.  Bruce Chen is like a wizard or something, but he could fall apart at any moment.  Wade Davis is better suited for relief.  Danny Duffy hasn't looked good this Spring. 

All of those questions and issues leave a lot of pressure on the 22-year-old right arm of Yordano Ventura.  He can hit triple-digits with his fastball and he's an elite prospect.  However, he's just 22 and has just 2 career MLB starts under his belt.  Expecting Ventura to replace Santana's production over the course of the 2014 season would be unwise.  Of course, he might.  Who knows?  If he does, the Royals could be really good.


If my Caps Lock button was working, you can believe that I'd have it fully engaged right now.  Greg Holland had an ERA+ of 342 in 2013.  Luke Hochevar's was 215.  Aaron Crow and Tim Collins posted solid ERAs despite some issues with walks.  Kelvin Herrera was a bit unlucky, but really good.  Hochevar is out for the season, but Wade Davis should slide down from the rotation and fill in quite nicely.  Louis Coleman had a 686 ERA+ SIX HUNDRED AND EIGHTY SIX.  My shift key works!

Their bullpen is outstanding. 

World Series aspirations?

I'm not sure they can win the World Series, but they can certainly make the playoffs.  If Ventura develops into a reliable starter, their one-two punch of Shields and Ventura would look really good in the playoffs.  Their outstanding bullpen could win them a few playoff games as well. 

Can the Twins finish ahead of them?

Unlikely.  The Royals are clearly better than the Twins.  The Royals have a dominant bullpen, while the Twins simply have a good bullpen.  The Royals have a couple of questions in their rotation instead of "all of the questions," like the Twins.  The Royals are a better defensive team and they have more established offensive players.  The Twins will finish comfortably behind the Royals in 2014.

Projected AL Central finish - 2nd because I am gutless

I really think the Royals can win the Central in 2014.  It would be a fantastic story.  More importantly, they have a talented team.  I wish they had just shelled out enough cash to keep Ervin Santana.  If he was coming back, I'd pick the Royals over the Tigers.  With Jason Vargas in his place, it would be asking too much of a rookie (Ventura) to pick them as division champs.  That said, I won't be surprised if the Royals finish first.  They improved their offense, their bullpen is outstanding, their defense is equally outstanding and their rotation could still be potent. 

I love the city of Kansas City (that sounds awkward, how do you write that?) and I feel compassion for the Royals fans.  I hope they win the Central in 2014 because they are going to run out of chances really soon. 

If you're interested, here is the whole lot of AL Central team previews (in projected order of finish):

White Sox


  1. Jon Rauch is a former Twin, too. And the scariest looking player in all of MLB, quite possibly.

    Also, here is the best Royals-related story of the day.

    1. I love George Brett, always have, always will.

      I totally forgot about Rauch, likely to preserve sweet dreams.