Kansas City Royals: Upstarts Not Ready for Prime Time—YET
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As we approach May, the Royals have managed to stay relevant in the American League Central, and even after dropping three in a row to the Texas Rangers are only a game and a half behind the Cleveland Indians as of April 25.
Their sizzling start turned cold in Texas and warrants observations about how the rest of the season may play out.
1. Alex Gordon may have finally come around.
After three disappointing seasons that included little production, the first-round choice from Nebraska has finally lived up to the status that made him such a highly touted player. Gordon has made the most out of his switch from third base to left field and is scorching hot at the plate, now sporting an 18-game hitting streak. Gordon is fourth in runs and hits among players in both leagues and has 12 extra-base hits to go along with his .356 average.
2. The Royals bullpen is headed places.
Righty Aaron Crow, a product of the University of Missouri, is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 11.2 innings. Batters have a meek .175 average against him, and he has struck out 12 while giving up only seven hits thus far. Lefty Tim Collins sits at 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. He has struck out a whopping 17 batters in only 12 innings of work.
These two headline the youngsters in the 'pen, who join Joakim Soria, one of the best relievers in the game. The guys are young and have made mistakes at times, but they have made opposing batters lives hard at times as well.
3. Starting pitching is a problem.
Former first-overall pick Luke Hochever has been mediocre at best. The jury is still out on Jeff Francis, and Kyle Davies continues to be unimpressive on the mound. The one bright spot has been Bruce Chen, who is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA. Chen relies on the deceptiveness of his pitches because he doesn't have the top-end velocity. The starters have gotten lucky with help from the bullpen and run support, but that won't always be the case.
4. Alcides Escobar is a human Web Gem
Escobar has made some of the top web gems of the season. He has the range to get to any ball from second base to third base, and he makes deadly accurate throws even when his momentum takes him into the outfield. Good defensive play is something the Royals have lacked for years, and Escobar's play could end up saving a game or two down the road.
5. Fans are still waiting for the minor leaguers to arrive.
Many of the players on this team are stop gaps (Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer for example) between now and when the prodigies arrive. Fans are excited about the future and this is what it is to most of them.
With stars such as Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas being nurtured in the minors as well as more burgeoning pitchers than one organization should ever have, the fans have a right to look ahead. Baseball Prospectus has called this minor league system the best it's ever seen since they began rankings. ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated have written feature stories predicting multiple World Series Championships in the future.
It finally looks like the Royals could find themselves on top again, possibly back to the glory days of George Brett, Frank White and company- but not this year.
This year's team has thrown together some impressive wins early in the season, but it was also during one of the easiest stretches in their schedule. Starting pitching will continue to haunt the Royals as the season continues.
For once though, the future looks bright for the Royals. Even if it's not these Royals.
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