3 Kansas City Royals Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

Bill Ivie Jr@poisonwilliamContributor IIIMarch 6, 2014

3 Kansas City Royals Players Turning Heads Early at Spring Training

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Royals have set up camp in Arizona for spring training with the anticipation of a winning season and very little roster speculation.  That can lead to a boring spring for fans.  A few players have given fans something to talk about.

    James Shields, the ace of the pitching staff, is entering the final year of his contract.  After costing the Royals a great prospect in Wil Myers, the reality is setting in that he may not be a Royal after 2014.  The contract discussions, or lack thereof, have caused plenty of heads to turn toward Shields.

    One of the players looking to turn the corner this season, Mike Moustakas, is showing that he may have done just that.  An early offensive display, coupled with a strong work ethic, have the attention squarely focused on Moose early on.

    It would not be spring if an injury report did not cause the attention to turn to one player, and this year, the injury bug has affected the pitching staff.  Luke Hochevar, a pitcher who seemingly found his stride in 2013, got some news that changes the makeup of the pitching staff going forward.

    Even when there is not a lot of news, there always seems to be some baseball to talk about.

    All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

James Shields Contract Moves into Focus

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Shields came to the Royals at a very steep cost, sending prospects Myers and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa Bay to acquire the big right-hander.  The prospects ensured the Royals the security of an ace pitcher for two seasons.

    Those two seasons are up at the end of 2014.

    In similar fashion to other high-profile players, Shields has expressed a desire not to negotiate a contract once the season begins, according to ESPN's Jim Bowden:

    Clarification: Shields has no interest in negotiating with Royals once season starts until free agency

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 4, 2014

    In addition, Bowden also points out that the team is not currently negotiating a contract with the pitcher:

    Royals confirm there are no negotiations going on with Shields and none planned at this time #FreeAgentatendofyear

    — JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 4, 2014

    All of this adds up to a very real chance that Shields may be on his way out of Kansas City.  The Royals are not a team that typically enters into high-dollar bidding wars over players, and Shields will likely create that type of situation.  

    Jeff Todd of MLBTradeRumors.com analyzed the Shields situation, ultimately coming to the conclusion that Shields will likely garner four or five years at $18-20 million per year.  That price will likely put him in a uniform other than Kansas City blue.

Mike Moustakas Has Found His Stroke

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Moustakas had a horrible 2013.  He spent the winter in Venezuela trying to find his swing and perfect his approach at the plate.  If the early spring is any indication, he may have found the key to his offensive puzzle.

    But wait: This is not the first time the Royals third baseman has performed well in spring training.  He posted outstanding numbers prior to the 2013 season, too.  Those numbers did not translate well to the regular season.  

    It is hard to tell if this is another case of spring production that will not reach the regular season or if Moustakas has finally figured out how to produce at this level.  

    One thing is for sure: He is turning heads and drawing a lot of attention right now.

    The Royals lineup becomes much more of a threat if Moose can hit like this during the season.

Luke Hochevar Gets Put on the Shelf

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The biggest news item to come out of spring training for the Royals may be the biggest blow to the team as of yet.  Hochevar has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament that will keep him out of game action until at least May, according to Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.  Ned Yost clarified the situation with Kaegel:

    Hoch, after his second-to-last pitch against the White Sox [on Monday], felt a twinge in his elbow.  He ended up throwing a cutter to strike the guy out and felt OK coming in. Next day, it was real stiff and sore, so we went and MRId him yesterday and he's got a sprain of his ligament. So we're going to shut him down for a couple of weeks -- probably three -- and see where we're at.

    Hochevar was slated to be a part of the rotation at best and a key part of the bullpen at worst.  His absence opens up a hole for the Royals, and it may allow young pitchers Danny Duffy, Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura to seize the moment for the team.

    Ultimately, Hochevar's absence may be the Royals' gain if one of the young hurlers can realize their potential in his absence.  Currently, however, it simply means the Royals are down an arm that they desperately need going into the season.

No News Is Good News for the Royals

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Ultimately, the less news coming out of spring training, the better off the Royals will be.  There are very few roster battles to be concerned about, and if players are simply staying healthy and getting ready for the season, the team will be in good shape.

    Currently, the biggest news is that they have lost a pitcher for a few months, they have an incredibly hot hitter that everyone was worried about, and their ace may not be a Royal after 2014.  If that is the only news they have to deal with prior to Opening Day, the Royals will be in good shape.

    Having a Royals team in good shape at the start of the season is something that Royals fans should be excited about.

    Bill Ivie is the founder of i70baseball.com.
    Follow him on Twitter to talk baseball all season.