Eric Hosmer is one of the keys for the Royals.
If you weren't paying attention, you might not realize that the Kansas City Royals aren't many games out of first place in the AL Central.
The young Royals are six games under .500, but as of July 1st, they are just six games out of first.
This article takes a look at why 2013 could be the year that the Royals become serious contenders in the AL Central.
Wil Myers will help the Royals lineup.
The Royals have a solid lineup, but there are a few spots that can use an upgrade. One of those spots is in the outfield, where Jeff Francoeur is really struggling with an on-base percentage below .300. The Royals just happen to have a guy waiting in the wings that should be an immediate upgrade.
That upgrade will come when the team decides to promote Wil Myers from Triple-A.
Myers is the kid that was a top prospect heading into last year, but saw his stock drop significantly after struggling at the plate due to injuries. Fortunately, his bat came back to life in the Arizona Fall League.
Myers began the year in Double-A, and he hit a ridiculous .343/.414/.731 with 13 homers and 30 RBI in 35 games. That led to a promotion to Triple-A, where he's done nothing but hit.
Since the promotion, he is hitting .311/.396/.634 with 13 homers and 38 RBI. Overall on the year in 78 games, he is hitting .326/.404/.678 with 19 doubles, four triples, 26 homers, 68 RBI and five steals.
Myers has played right field, center field and third base this year as the Royals are trying to find ways to get his bat in the lineup. He should be able to add some additional pop to the middle of the lineup when they promote him.
Come next year over a full season, Myers could hit 25-30 homers and collect a high number of RBI.
Salvador Perez being healthy for a full year will help the Royals.
The injury bug has hit the Royals hard this year.
Prior to the start of the season, All-Star closer Joakim Soria was lost for the year. Then the top two catchers in the organization were lost to significant injuries, with Salvador Perez just recently returning and Manny Pina not yet back.
Once the season started, center fielder Lorenzo Cain was lost as well after just a few games. Then Danny Duffy—the second-year pitcher on his way to a breakout year—required Tommy John surgery after just six starts. Felipe Paulino—the team's best starter this year—suffered his own elbow tear.
When you take out Soria, you not only lose one of the top closers in baseball, but also a guy that was on the trade block and could have brought back a solid return for the organization.
Losing Cain hurts because the team doesn't have any other true center fielders that should be hitting at the top of the lineup.
The injuries can't be any worse in 2013 than they are in 2012.
Top prospect Jake Odorizzi is almost ready.
The biggest reason for Royals' struggles is their starting pitching staff.
With the top three starters being Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar and Luis Mendoza, it just goes to show how weak the rotation really is. However, there is some help on the horizon.
Top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi is in Triple-A, and is likely to be promoted sometime after the All-Star break.
Danny Duffy, who was on his way to a breakout year through six starts, will return from Tommy John surgery.
John Lamb, a former top pitching prospect until getting hurt, could potentially make his big league debut next year if he gets everything back.
Having these guys in the rotation next year won't fix everything, but it will surely help.
Eric Hosmer could return to form next year.
One of the biggest disappointments for the Royals this year has been Eric Hosmer's sophomore slump.
Hosmer came up last year at just 21 years old with one of the best pure swings in the game and hit .293/.334/.465 with 19 homers and 78 RBI in 128 games.
Hosmer had a great spring training, which led many to project him to have a breakout sophomore season. However, instead of breaking out, Hosmer has slumped. He's hitting just .221/.289/.371 with nine homers and 36 RBI in 71 games.
Hosmer has shown some signs of life in June, as he hit .259 with an on-base percentage of .337.
The hope for Hosmer is that he can keep progressing a little bit as the season goes on and then come into the 2013 season ready to be the middle-of-the-order bat he was expected to be.