Before reading this article, it should be known that I, Zachary Gropper, am a die hard Chicago White Sox fan, and therefore am not a supporter of any other American League Central team.
After 2008 provided what possibly was the biggeset suprise in MLB history in the Tampa Bay Rays, I have decided that prior to every season I will give out my "Rays Predictions." Basically, an under-the-radar team and player to watch out for throughout the upcoming season.
I'm not going to take a safe pick and go with the always-solid Marlins or Athletics. Instead, I'm going out on a limb. Actually, that could be an understatement. In case you haven't already realized by the title of this article, I am going with the Kansas City Royals.
The recently (and always at that) pathetic Royals are still perceived by many as too young and lacking talent. Well I've got news for you: that's far from the case this year. If you take a close look at their depth chart, there is a strikingly new trend of a veteran-youngster mix.
Let's start in the outfield, where Kansas City has 4 above average hitters, including Jose Guillen, Mark Teahen, Coco Crisp, and David DeJesus. Crisp and DeJesus are excellent as far as getting on base and reeking havoc once there, and Guillen and Teahen have both been very reliable run producers in multiple occasions throughout their careers.
Onto the infield, where there is an immense amount of youth and depth. Alex Gordon was considered to No. 1 overall prospect in baseball a couple of years ago. He has done nothing but improve since coming to the big leagues.
Controlling short-stop is Mike Aviles, who many people don't know hit .325 in over 400 at-bats last season. He also does some handy-work with the glove.
They've got a couple of youngsters battling it out for the job at second, and Mike Jacobs who they acquired from Florida in a trade at first. Jacobs will sure up the middle of that line up, as he has recently been a consistent 25-30 home run guy.
Wrapping up the infield is Miguel Olivo, who had a resurgent year offensively with KC in 2008, and has always been one of the most underrated defensive catchers in the game.
Now onto what the tricky stuff: pitching. Led by Gil Meche and Zack Grienke, the starting staff has six, that's right, six guys I wouldn't mind having in my rotation.
Admittedly, a couple of whom will have to live up to their potential more so than last year, in Brian Bannister and Luke Hochevar.
And last but not least, the bullpen. Joakim Soria had a quiet 1.60 ERA last season, which is good enough to anchor any bullpen in the bigs. They've got a proven veteran south-paw, Ron Mahay, who is as tough on lefties as they come, not to mention a proven set up man in Kyle Farnsworth.
Led by my prediction for breakout player of 2009, Mike Aviles, I predict a second-place finish and an 85-77 record for the Royals. Look out American League, there might be "A Royal Surprise" on your hands in the near future.