In part two of my series of struggling franchises trying to find their way back to the top, I will look into the Kansas City Royals.
Unlike Baltimore, the Royals have had a .500 season (83-79 in 2003) within the last decade. The drawback, though, are the four seasons of 100+ losses (2002, 2004-2006). Fortunately for Royals fans, Kansas City did not have a fourth-straight 100+ loss season in 2007.
Kansas City entered the 2009 season with high hopes.
Alex Gordon, the second pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, suffered a hip injury in mid-April and has hurt KC's chances to compete in a relatively weak AL Central. The 25-year old has been compared to David Wright and has put up strong numbers—32 home runs and 122 RBIs in his first 292 games—in his first two seasons.
Combine a healthy Gordon with future star Mike Moustakas (Second overall pick 2007) and KC will have quite a left side of the infield. Of course Moustakas is only 20 and playing A ball so don't get too excited just yet.
Thanks to the superb pitching of Zach Grienke, the Royals started off 2009 with a 12-10 April. The young pitcher currently holds an 8-3 record with a league-leading 1.96 ERA and 106 strikeouts. Grienke has lived up to expectations and is having his coming out party this year.
Joakim Soria led the AL in saves in 2008 with 42 and has solidified his spot as a top closer in the league. Gordon, Greinke and Soria—all age 25—are the cornerstones to the franchise.
Besides these potential stars, there is not a whole lot to get excited. Luke Hochevar has had some glimpses of hope but still sports a 6.61 ERA. Veteran Gil Meche has been fairly consistent.
Outfielder David DeJesus hit .307 in 2008 but has seen his average dip to .244 through 65 games this season. First baseman Billy Butler is only 23 and has a .284 average through 279 career games. Third baseman Mark Teahen hit 18 homeruns in only 109 games in 2006 but has not hit more than 15 since.
Kauffman Stadium was renovated this season and with fairly cheap ticket prices you would think more fans would show up to games. KC is only averaging 22,459 fans per game through 36 home games. Two games have seen an attendance mark under 10,000.
As of June 19, KC is only 5.5 games out of first place and have won four of their last five games. The next few weeks will determine if the Royals are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. KC does have a lot of young arms in their minor leagues and can swap them out for a power bat.
Time will only tell how Kansas City will do the next few years. They have one of the best pitchers in the game and some young talent with Major League experience. With a weak AL Central division in front of them, a division title may not be too far fetched in the next few years.