Fantasy owners build their teams around names like Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Albert Pujols, Jonathan Papelbon, etc.
They don't, however, build their teams around guys like Alex Gordon and Yuniesky Betancourt.
In fact, ballclubs like the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington Nationals offer fantasy owners far less return on their investment than picks from winning ballclubs, and that is never more evident than on draft day.
Granted, after winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2009, pitcher Zack Greinke will likely find his way into the top two or three rounds in your draft this year. However, unless you're in a league filled with Kansas City homers, you won't sniff another Royals player until the later rounds, if at all.
So after Zack Greinke, are there really any other Kansas City Royals who could help your fantasy team this season?
If you’re in a mixed league (both AL and NL players) with fewer than 16 teams, probably only 1B Billy Butler will make the cut. However, if you’re in an AL-only league or a larger mixed league, here are a few players to keep an eye on that could augment a category or two for your teams.
The 30-year-old outfielder has been, without question, the most consistent cog in the Royals machine over the past five years. A career .286 hitter, DeJesus is a veritable lock to register 70 runs and 70 RBI to go with an average that won’t hurt you. He is even more valuable if manager Trey Hillman puts him in the second spot in the lineup, ahead of Butler.
Podsednik is coming off the best season of his career since 2005, and while many have written him off because of his age (he just turned 34), his value comes from his ability to steal bases. While he likely won’t repeat his 2004 season with Milwaukee where he stole 70 bases, for a fantasy team looking for someone to get them 30-40 steals this year, Pods should be able to supply them as the Royals everyday left fielder.
After splitting time in a crowded Cardinals outfield the past two seasons, Ankiel makes his way across the state to a full-time gig as the Royals new center fielder. Manager Trey Hillman and GM Dayton Moore are hoping that full-time at-bats for Ankiel will allow him to improve upon his career .251 average.
Clearly a gamble from a fantasy perspective, Ankiel could hit between 20-25 homers with decent run and RBI numbers—or he could hit 5 homers and lose his job by the trade deadline to youngsters Jarrod Dyson or Jordan Parraz.
After turning in back to back solid seasons for the Royals, 2009 was a disaster for Meche. Injuries took their toll and the former ace of the staff spent extended time on the DL and doesn’t appear to have regained his stuff thus far through Spring Training.
While a healthy Meche would be good for 10-12 wins and between 150-175 Ks for your fantasy team, an injured Meche will serve to tank your ERA and WHIP faster than you can spell “last place.”
Next to Butler, Callaspo is likely the best pure hitter in the entire Royals organization. And while it’s likely that Callaspo will get plenty of at-bats this season, it will be interesting to see how he deals with not knowing what position he’ll be playing until the day of the game.
With eligibility at 2B for fantasy owners, Callaspo could generate above-average production for the position as he is almost a lock to hit above .300 with 70-plus runs and RBI. Also, with 3B Alex Gordon nursing yet another injury, Callaspo will also become eligible at 3B by the end of April, depending on your league’s eligibility rules.
Guillen will be the Royals full-time DH and he is none too happy about it. After playing just half the season in 2009, manager Trey Hillman believes putting Guillen at DH will be his best chance at getting the 20-plus homers and 90-plus RBI he was able to produce in 2007 and 2008.
The question will be, will Jose be content with not playing the outfield and settle into his new role, or will he turn into the malcontent that got ushered out of eight other clubhouse before he joined the Royals?
Many of you are probably thinking to yourself “Kila-who?” but Ka’aihue leads all Royals this spring in homers (4) and is hitting .347 this spring with a .448 OBP and .673 SLG. One of those rare blends of a guy with power who walks more than he strikes out (102 BB to 85 K in AAA Omaha last season), Ka’aihue has raked in the minors and could very well be the Royals first baseman if not for the presence of Butler.
If the Royals ever decide to move Guillen or Callaspo in a trade, Ka’aihue could stand to be the chief benefactor as far as playing time is concerned. For that reason alone, he should be on the watch list of fantasy owners.
Another one for the watch list, Crow is on the fast track to the majors and I would be completely surprised if he’s not in Kansas City by the All-Star break. In his short time in major league camp this spring, he allowed just five hits and one walk in 5.2 innings while striking out six.
The former University of Missouri standout will begin the season in Class AA Northwest Arkansas, and assuming all goes well, he could find himself in a weak Royals starting rotation by the end of the summer. By this time next season, Crow should be firmly planted behind Greinke as team’s number two starter.
To stay abreast of how well these players (and players across the league) are doing, don’t forget to visit CBSSPORTS.com regularly. CBS continues to operate the web’s best service for fantasy baseball owners everywhere, and their player updates and array of fantasy services will help you put together the best team possible.
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