Spring Training: Can the Royals Carry Their Success into the Regular Season?
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It's what has been expected of the Kansas City Royals.
But Ned Yost wants his players to make mistakes in spring training and learn from them.
The Royals have not had a winning season since 2003, when they finished 83-79, good enough for third place in the AL Central Division.
Since then, the Royals have fallen short of .500 every year.
It took a Cy Young Award winning performance from Zack Greinke in 2008 to get the Royals the closest to .500 they have been in seven years and even then, they finished 75-87 to put them in fourth place in the division.
Almost two weeks into spring training, the Kansas City Royals are 7-3, second in the Cactus League and first among all AL teams. This team of young talent has been playing hard, fierce and with a winning mindset. Ned Yost wants them to playing aggressive and wants them "running the bases like mad men," as he put it.
No doubt about it, they are.
There's a lot to be excited about this year for the Royals. Even with the departure of Greinke, who admitted toward the end of his time in Kansas City that it was hard for him to get motivated to pitch for a losing team, this season's starting pitching staff will be something to keep an eye on.
Especially Luke Hochevar, who will most likely get the nod as the Royals No. 1. In his last outing, which came against the White Sox, Hochevar threw three innings, giving up one run on three hits to secure the win.
It wasn't the expected battle against Mark Buehrle that some might have thought it would be. Buehrle game up five runs on nine hits in three innings against the dominating Royals' bats.
Is this any indication of what Royals fans can expect in the regular season? It's still early in spring training, so let's not get ahead of ourselves, but this early success is definitely a good sign.
If nothing else, the Royals are becoming one of those teams that is fun to watch, regardless of whether you're a Royals fan or not.
How will the Royals shape up against the AL Central?
Since that winning season in 2003, in which they finished third in the AL Central, the Royals have not placed better than fourth, which they only did twice (2008 and 2009).
So how will the Royals fair in 2011?
The AL Central may not be the best division in baseball, but it is certainly one of the most competitive. There is really no front-runner in the Central this year, though the Minnesota Twins have to be the favorite to win the division, with the White Sox a close second, especially after the addition of Adam Dunn in the offseason.
How many games will the Kansas City Royals win this season?
The Royals have a realistic shot at third place this season. Detroit and Cleveland have weak teams, and Kansas City should be able to pick up a hefty amount of wins against them both, hopefully winning each season series.
But can the Royals do better than third place?
They can if they stay healthy and carry their spring training success into the regular season.
Both Chicago and Minnesota are very strong teams and will easily reach 80 wins this season. Though the Royals lost their best pitcher, it's as though they have also lost a huge, unmotivated weight.
That may just be what this team needed to move forward.
The Royals have the best farm system in Major League Baseball. With youngsters like Kila Ka'aihue and Mike Moustakas (who both have what it takes to play at the major league level), along with a veteran presence in Jeff Francoeur, the Royals are a promising team.
Some may say the Win/Loss column and stats don't matter in spring training, but those stats can be used as a measurement of progress and confidence. The Royals just need to fight through growing pains and mistakes.
That's what they hope to accomplish in spring training.
By the time the regular season comes around, this Royals team should be excited, confident and have a winning attitude. Manager Ned Yost has this team on the right track to do just that.
Third place in the AL Central should be easy enough, but second place may not be that much of a stretch.
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