Last year was the first year that the usual cellar-dweller Kansas City Royals did not finish last in the AL Central, and the Royals just might be the surprise team of 2009.
Before you laugh, just look at some of the numbers from the best of the 2008 team.
Mike Aviles (2B/SS): .325 10 HRs 51 RBI 68 runs 8 SBs in 419 at-bats
Zack Greinke (SP): 13-10 3.47 ERA 183 Ks 56 BBs 1.28 WHIP
David DeJesus (OF): .307 12 HRs 73 RBI 70 runs 11 SBs
Jose Guillen (OF): .264 20 RBI 97 RBI 66 runs
Joakim Soria (CP): 2-3 42 saves 1.60 ERA 66 Ks 19 BBs 0.86 WHIP
Gil Meche (SP): 14-11 3.98 ERA 183 Ks 73 BBs 1.32 WHIP
Those are some solid numbers, right? When you consider Aviles was a mid-season call-up and the young ages of Greinke and Soria, you have some fantasy stars in the making. Meche, Guillen, and DeJesus are the solid vets that are being undervalued in drafts.
Not only can you grab these guys at discounts, but guys like Greinke and Soria can even be stars for your team. Consider what young aces Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, Ervin Santana, and Edinson Volquez did last year. Greinke can join that group this year, and Soria has already proved he's a consistent closer that may get more saves with an improved team.
When you're talking about the Royals, you're talking about their fountain of youth. This includes guys like Alex Gordon, their poster child who's yet to have his breakout, and Billy Butler, the team's primary DH that can flat-out rake.
Gordon can give you value across the board because he can hit for average, power, drive in runs, and steal bases. He has yet to show us his full potential, so see if you can grab him late and take a gamble on this 25-year-old stud.
Butler is another guy who has yet to show his full potential. He made some noise in his rookie year (.292 8 HRs 52 RBI in 329 at-bats) but slid a bit last year (.275 11 HRs in 443 at-bats). He is going to break out at some point, and you'll want to be on his bandwagon before it takes off.
Other guys to consider on the Royals include their new acquisitions. They acquired Coco Crisp, Mike Jacobs, and Juan Cruz. Crisp never got full-time at-bats in Boston, but he is set to be the team's primary center fielder and hit in the two-hole, and he is going to steal bases and score runs.
Jacobs had a power surge last year by hitting 32 homers, but had a .247 average and struggled against lefties. Take him with some caution.
Cruz is intriguing because he will probably set up and will get the occasional save or two. He is very valuable in leagues that count holds, and he is one of the best strikeout relievers in the game. He can give you some value late in the draft.
These Royals have yet to peak, and this might be the year that they do, because the AL Central is up for grabs and they have several ingredients to be successful. It remains to be seen if they do, but considering how low they are being taken in the draft, there's barely any risk to take the gamble.