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The FireRickReilly 2010 MLB Preview: Kansas City Royals

March 9, 2010

Kansas City Royals (2009 Record 65-97; tied for last AL Central) Manager: Trey Hillman

 Ah the Royals. As a Pirates fan, I have a special place in my heart for the Royals, for obvious reasons. The Royals have been pretty awful for more than a decade. But there are a few glimmers of hope on this club, although almost certainly not enough to contend for the division. Chief among those bright spots is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.

 Pitchers:

 The staff, of course, is lead by Zack Greinke (16-8; 2.16; 1.07; 9.50 K/9), who had a breakout year last season, winning the Cy Young. Number two man, Gil Meche (6-10; 5.09; 1.57), battled some shoulder problems last season, and had a down year. Meche, however, had two strong years in 2007 and 2008, with a WHIP hovering around 1.30 and an above average (not excellent) K/9 ratio. Meche will never be an ace, but he’s potentially a solid number two, especially for the Royals. Brian Bannister had his moments last year, and he’s nearly unhittable when he’s on, but when he’s hittable, well…he’s quite hittable. He’s young enough that he could turn in a complete season, but we’ll wait until we see it. Luke Hochevar (7-13; 6.55; 1.49) had a rough 2009 season. He had an excellent June, but it was all down hill from there. Hochevar has the stuff and has been lights out in the minors, but in about 50 Major League starts he’s been a disappointment. He strikes batters out a decent clip though, and gives up relatively few walks, so there’s a chance he could turn it around. Finally, Kyle Davies has some good stuff, but has yet to put together a truly good season. Davies is a lot like Bannister though, in that he could be very good. We’ll see though. The Royals starters could actually turn out to be a good group, but there are a lot of ‘ifs’ after Greinke.

 In the bullpen, Joakim Soria might be the best closer in the game. He doesn’t rack up saves the K-Rod because, well, because he plays for the Royals, but he’s better than Rodriguez, and maybe everyone else at the position. He’s supported in the bullpen by some veterans, but they’re still shaky though. Then there’s Kyle Farnsworth, who apparently will get a shot at the rotation. That would be bad. He throws hard and has a K/9 over 10, but he also has a BB/9 that approaches 4. His WHIP last year was 1.53 and he hasn’t started a game since 2000. The guy throws hard, but doesn’t have command of enough secondary pitches. And if he’s not missing bats with his fastball, he gets crushed.

 Infield:

 Second baseman Alberto Callaspo (.300/.356/.457) had a good first full season in 2009. He also added 11 HRs and 73 RBI for some welcome pop out from the position. He’ll probably start the season at third-base while Alex Gordon is out for a bit with a broken thumb, though Josh Fields could get a look. Speaking of Gordon, the highly-touted prospect was sidelined most of 2009 with a hip injury, and will probably miss Opening Day this year. The guy has all the talent in the world, and if he can stay on the field, this might be the year he finally breaks out. At SS is Yuniesky Betancourt. He’s just flat out bad. I hate to say it, but he can’t hit, and he’s not a good fielder. He’s fleet of foot, but doesn’t get on base nearly enough to steal nearly enough bases to make him valuable. He had .274 OBP last year (Kurt Suzuki had a .274 BA last year. Kurt Suzuki!) and an OPS of .625. Mike Aviles missed most of the season last year and was awful when he was there, but he was a plus player in 2008. With Betancourt being so bad, you have to think that Aviles will get a chance if he get even a couple of pinch-hits, or they play him at second if Callaspo takes third while Gordon’s out. (Wow. This is depressing. I can’t wait til I get to Pirates. Sigh.). At first base is Billy Butler. And he’s good!! Newcomer Chris Getz could also get some work in the infield. He is very raw, but in limited action the past two years with the White Sox, he has shown some considerable ability. He’s someone to keep an eye on.

Outfield:

 The Rick Ankiel signing could end up being a rare good move for GM Dayton Moore…it could also be another horrific one. After a break-out 2008 campaign, Ankiel battled injuries and ineffectiveness in 2009. The talent’s there though, and if stays healthy, he should have a solid year. He’s a decent fielder, but more suited to left-field than center. David DeJesus will move from center to right. He’s a better fielder in center than Ankiel, so that doesn’t make much sense, but whatever. DeJesus is at least a major-league caliber player, and that’s what the Royals need. Scott Podsednik will play left field. Podsednik is not a great fielder, but he had his best season last year since 2003. Still, he doesn’t get on base as much as you’d like and gets caught stealing way too much. Still, he could end up being an above-average player.

 Catcher:

 Jason Kendall comes over from the Brewers, and he’s just not that good anymore at the plate. He was never very good behind it either, but he’s a body and at least tries to hit the ball, so that’s a plus?

 Designated Hitter:

 Jose Guillen dropped off the face of the earth last year with bad play and injuries. He gets bumped out of the outfield in favor of Podsednik and Ankiel. He was good in 2007 and 2008 though, and if he can avoid injury (should be easier as DH) he could get back to being a plus player.

 Bottom Line:

 Even with Zack Greinke and Billy Butler as budding young stars, the Royals are in for another rough season. They have some other bright spots with Callaspo, Ankiel, and Gordon, but it seems like too much of a stretch to think they can even get to .500 this year. That being said, if some of their young pitchers put up solid years (an enormous IF) they could be competitive—not enough for the division or Wild Card, but maybe enough for respectability.

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