Kansas City Royals: 10 Bold Predictions for 2012
The Kansas City Royals' farm system has received more press of late than the actual Major League club itself.
Given the task of saving a once proud franchise, the exciting prospects can't hide behind the curtain of potential and the minor leagues for much longer.
Their time has come.
In 2012, we will get the first real glimpse of the Royals' future.
How much success can we expect this season? Here are 10 bold predictions for the upcoming campaign.
Kansas City Will Claim Second Place or Better in the AL Central
The Royals finished in fourth place in the AL Central in 2011—some 24 games behind winners Detroit.
However, they were only nine games behind second place Cleveland, and placed third in the division when it came to counting most games won.
In fact, in the months following the All-Star break, they were just one behind Chicago and 12 off Detroit.
Kansas City won 71 games last season while sporting the youngest team in baseball. Now that they’ve finally had some experience, look for this team to take a major step forward in the "W" column in 2012.
The Royals Will Lead the AL in Batting Average
Kansas City finished third in batting average in 2011, six points behind the Texas Rangers.
Following the All-Star Break, KC batted a full 23 points higher than they did before the break, doing so with several players who had little to no Major League experience.
It’s reasonable to assume players such as Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella will hit the ball at a higher clip this year, now they have some experience under their belts.
Others such as Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon should build on their breakout seasons.
Kansas City Will Outscore Their Opponents in 2012
The 2011 season was the closest the Royals have come to a positive run differential in recent memory.
They were outscored by 32 runs, which is not a particularly impressive mark when you consider the enormous run differentials they have posted in the past.
In 2006, Kansas City was outscored by a whopping 214 runs, a mark only the Pittsburgh Pirates have approached since.
Even in 2003, when the Royals were decently competitive, they were outscored by 34 runs.
An improved pitching staff and a potentially potent offense should allow KC to finally get over the hump and outscore their opponents.
Joakim Soria Will Bounce Back in 2012
Closer Joakim Soria was one of the most dominant closers in baseball coming into 2011, saving 132 games since 2007.
Although he still collected 28 saves during the 2011 campaign, his ERA and WHIP jumped considerably, and he blew seven save opportunities.
However, Soria is only 28 and one bad season is hardly grounds to dismiss him as an elite reliever. If he can stay healthy in 2012, look for him to return to his dominant self.
Jonathan Sanchez Will Strike Out 200+ Batters in 2012
The newly acquired Sanchez was hampered by injuries in 2011, pitching only 101.1 innings for San Francisco.
Despite the limited playing time, he still managed to strike out 102 batters, a pace that would have put him well above the 200 strikeout mark if he had stayed healthy.
In 2010, Sanchez did just that, punching out 205 batters in only 193 innings. No longer in the shadow of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, he will have every opportunity to fan 200 batters in 2012.
The Royals Will Have Four All-Star Representatives
The 2012 All-Star Game is in Kansas City this summer, so it’s only fitting that the Royals properly represent themselves.
If they build on what they did last year, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon should make the All-Star roster pretty easily.
From there, it’s possible anyone from Mike Moustakas to Salvador Perez could be wearing the blue and gold during the mid-summer classic, depending on how well they continue to develop.
If Aaron Crow can approach the numbers he put up in the first half of last season, he would also be a worthy candidate.
Mike Montgomery Will Anchor the Middle of the Rotation
Montgomery has been on a rollercoaster of late.
He entered 2011 as a top tier, can’t miss, prospect but has faded in the minds of some because of a dismal season pitching in the Royals’ farm system.
The southpaw has real talent, though, and could easily be a rock solid third starter in the rotation as early as June.
The Royals’ brass will give Montgomery every opportunity to succeed, and with a loaded bullpen, he will have his shot in the rotation early in 2012.
Ned Yost Will Be a Serious Contender for the AL MOY Award
Yost finished seventh in balloting in the National League in 2007, a tribute to the job he did in Milwaukee when leading a perennial loser to contention during his tenure as manager.
In fact, there’s no reason Yost can’t do the same at Kansas City—both situations are remarkably similar.
While calling the shots for the Brewers, Yost oversaw the development of then youngsters Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Prince Fielder, among others.
Now in Royal blue, Yost is coaching the likes of Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy and Mike Moustakas.
If these players can even begin to approach what the latter three did in Milwaukee, Yost will be an immediate contender for AL Manager of the Year.
Kansas City Will Draft a Dominant College Starting Pitcher
Kansas City drafts fifth in June, setting it up to add another stud to its already stellar farm system.
From Mike Moustakas to Eric Hosmer, the Royals have drafted some dominant position players over the past several years.
However, they have only drafted three pitchers in the first round in their past 10 selections, and Aaron Crow is the only one of these to have had any real success at the Major League level. (Zack Greinke was drafted 12 selections ago.)
The jury is still out on Luke Hochevar, while Matt Campbell never saw the big leagues.
The Royals have several pitching prospects that are a year or so from cracking the Majors, and a power arm that wouldn't take long to develop—such as Michael Wacha's—would help them tremendously.
Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer Will Combine for 50 Home Runs
Hosmer should hit around 30 bombs in 2012—assuming he doesn’t hit a sophomore season snag.
Moustakas is the longer shot, considering he only hit five homers in 338 at-bats in 2011.
However, before being called up, he had 10 round-trippers in only 250 at-bats at AAA Omaha, and was drafted as a power-hitting corner infielder.
Once Moustakas gets comfortable with his power stroke at the Major League level, his numbers will improve.