There is a certain low-key optimism surrounding the Kansas City Royals heading into the 2013 season, as the team went about having one of its more productive offseasons in recent memory.
Following a very frustrating 2012 campaign, the Royals hope that the additions to the starting rotation—coupled with the natural progression of their young talent—will bring this franchise back to a respectable level for a sustained period of time.
While a 162-game schedule will produce plenty of surprises—some of which Kansas City has no control over—here is a look at the Royals and what to expect from this team in 2013.
2012 Record: 72-90 (Third place in the AL Central)
Projected Starting Rotation (2012 Statistics)
James Shields: 15-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 223 Ks, 58 Walks in 227.2 Innings
Jeremy Guthrie: 8-12, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 101 Ks, 50 Walks in 181.2 Innings
Ervin Santana: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 133 Ks, 61 Walks in 178 Innings
Wade Davis: 3-0, 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 87 Ks, 29 Walks in 70.1 Innings
Luke Hochevar: 8-16, 5.73 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 144 Ks, 61 Walks in 185.1 Innings
Luis Mendoza: 8-10, 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 106 Ks, 59 Walks in 166 Innings
Bruce Chen: 11-14, 5.07 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 140 Ks, 47 Walks in 191.2 Innings
Starting Pitching Overview and Keys
No group of players on this team will be dissected more over the course of the 2013 season than the starting pitchers.
Shields, Davis and Santana are added to a group of holdovers that includes Guthrie—who went 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA and 1.13 WHIP after coming over in a trade with the Colorado Rockies just after the All-Star Break.
While this group is a virtual lock for the rotation's top four spots, the competition for the No. 5 starting job should be interesting with Hochevar, Mendoza and Chen battling it out.
The Royals invested heavily on starting pitching this offseason, even trading one of the game's top prospects (Wil Myers) to acquire a big name to anchor the staff. Marked improvement in this area is almost guaranteed, making the Royals a breakout candidate in 2013.
- Can Shields continue being "Big Game James" in his post-Tampa Bay career?
- Can Guthrie duplicate his numbers after joining Royals last July and settle in as a true No. 2 starting pitcher?
- Can Davis make the transition into being a full-time starter?
- Whoever wins the No. 5 starter job must be consistent all season long.
Projected Bullpen (2012 Statistics)
Greg Holland (Closer): 7-4, 16 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 91 Ks, 34 Walks in 67 Innings
Kelvin Herrera: 4-3, 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 77 Ks, 21 Walks in 84.1 Innings
Tim Collins: 5-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 Ks, 34 Walks in 69.2 Innings
Aaron Crow: 3-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 65 Ks, 22 Walks in 64.2 Innings
Louis Coleman: 0-0, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 65 Ks, 26 Walks in 51 Innings
Francisley Bueno: 1-1, 1.56 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7 Ks, 2 Walks in 17.1 Innings
Other Notables: Nate Adcock, Will Smith, Everett Teaford, Donnie Joseph, Justin Marks
Bullpen Overview and Keys
The Royals bullpen will look very similar to its 2012 self, with zero notable additions. The key here will be whether this young bunch can regroup following a year that saw it put in a lot of work.
An improved starting rotation should take the pressure off all the talented arms and could make what is considered a strength for this team even more reliable.
It might be a challenge for manager Ned Yost to find a spot for everyone here, as two of either Hochevar, Mendoza and Chen will be nestled into the bullpen after having not earned a spot in the starting rotation.
- How does everyone settle into their new roles?
- Can Holland produce as the closer for an entire season?
- How will improved starting rotation affect production out of this group?
Projected Lineup (2012 Statistics)
Alex Gordon (LF): .294/.368/.455, 14 HRs, 72 RBI, 93 Runs in 161 Games
Alcides Escobar (SS): .293/.331/.390, 5 HRs, 52 RBI, 68 Runs, 35 SBs in 155 Games
Eric Hosmer (1B): .232/.304/.359, 14 HRs, 60 RBI, 65 Runs, 16 SBs in 152 Games
Billy Butler (DH): .313/.373/.510, 29 HRs, 107 RBI, 72 Runs in 161 Games
Mike Moustakas (3B): .242/.296/.412, 20 HRs, 73 RBI, 69 Runs in 149 Games
Salvador Perez (C): .301/.328/.471, 11 HRs, 39 RBI, 38 Runs in 76 Games
Jeff Francoeur (RF): .235/.287/.387, 16 HRs, 49 RBI, 58 Runs in 148 Games
Lorenzo Cain (CF): .266/.316/.419, 7 HRs, 31 RBI, 27 Runs, 10 SBs in 61 Games
Chris Getz (2B): .275/.312/.360, 17 RBI, 22 Runs, 9 SBs in 64 Games
Bench: Jarrod Dyson (OF), Elliott Johnson (Util), George Kottaras (C), Miguel Tejada (Util IF)
Other Notables: Johnny Giavotella (2B), Xavier Nady (OF), David Lough (OF), Irving Falu (Util IF)
Lineup Overview and Keys
The Royals lineup could be the biggest wild-card in all of baseball, as this group features some of the game's brightest young hitters who have yet to really hit their stride.
With Gordon and Butler as the only proven commodities on offense, Kansas City will need Hosmer, Moustakas and Perez to take the next step in their careers for this season to be a success. Consistent contributions from Cain and Escobar would help as well.
- Yost must find a lineup and stick to it for the majority of the season.
- Can Cain stay healthy for the entire year?
- Can Hosmer and Moustakas inch closer to expectations?
- Royals must find more power.
- Is Perez the real deal behind the plate?
Perez missed half of 2012 after injuring his knee last preseason, but showed well when he finally found the lineup in June. The Royals will benefit greatly from having their stud catcher behind the plate for the majority of the 2013 season.
While his offense is certainly a plus, how Perez handles the new pitching staff will be the most important facet of his game.
If Perez can quickly build a rapport with Shields, Davis and Santana, Kansas City could see a major improvement out of its starting pitching largely because of what the catcher brings to the table.
Prospect to Watch
Other than possibly Christian Colon, the Royals are void of a top prospect that is close to contributing on the big league squad. The name that most fans will have their eyes on, however, is Myers—who was the centerpiece in the trade that brought Shields to Kansas City from Tampa Bay.
Myers will more than likely start the year at AAA-Durham, but is a candidate to be called up early in the season.
Named the 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, the outfielder hit .314/.387/.600, with 37 home runs, 107 RBI and 98 runs scored. Royals fans will be watching Myers for a very long time to gauge just how Kansas City fared in this trade.
What Royals Will Do Well
The Royals offense finished the 2012 season with the least amount of strikeouts throughout the entire league with just 1,032. Their 404 team walks, however, settled in as the worst total in all of baseball.
Low rates in both marks means that the Royals do indeed put the ball in play as good as any team in the MLB. The key going forward will be stringing hits together to produce more runs, where Kansas City finished 20th across the league with just 676.
Being more aggressive at the plate will do just that. It will also increase their strikeout rate as well.
Kansas City must find the right balance for this offense to begin to climb up the ranks.
What Royals Won’t Do Well
The Royals were one of the league's most inconsistent teams in 2012, including a 12-game losing streak in the season's first month. In fact, taking out April and July (13-34 combined record), Kansas City would be left with a .513 winning percentage.
Though not a realistic measure, the Royals must find ways to be more consistent throughout the balance of an entire season. An improved starting rotation will do just that.
Mitigating long losing streaks, while throwing in a few lengthy winning stretches will produce the results this team needs to become consistently respectable around the league.
When asking around the league, thoughts on the Royals would probably draw an extremely wide range of opinions.
On one hand, youth and a bevy of new faces in the pitching rotation could create too many question marks for this team to overcome. On the other hand, the potential is there for a major step forward for the Royals to actually begin to compete as early as this season.
Regardless of how things end up, this team will be one to watch in 2013.
Record Prediction: 83-79
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