With the 2011 MLB season now in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look ahead at the upcoming 2012 campaign and see what's in store.
For the Kansas City Royals, they will be looking to build off of a year where they won just 71 games and finished fourth in the non-competitive AL Central.
With a solid core of young talent returning next season, it should be a fun year to watch the Royals.
Here are my bold predictions for the Royals' 2012 season.
I know, this prediction is a huge stretch for a team like the Royals.
The last time that KC had three different players on the AL All-Star team was in 1988, when they sent pitcher Mark Gubicza, shortstop Kurt Stillwell and Hall-of-Famer George Brett to the mid-summer classic.
In fact, the team hasn't even sent two representatives since 2003, when first baseman Mike Sweeney and reliever Mike MacDougal both got the nod.
However, with the plethora of young talent that the team will have in 2012, they are bound to send at least a trio of players to square off against the NL stars at Kauffman Stadium in mid-July.
This is probably one of the more reasonable predictions on this list.
MLB scouts have been raving about Royals' first baseman Eric Hosmer's bat for years, and it's only a matter of time before he starts generating more power with his swings.
In his rookie season this year, the former first-round pick hit 19 homers in just 128 games.
I see him playing 150-plus games next season, and hitting anywhere from 30-35 round-trippers in his sophomore campaign.
When the Royals traded for slick-fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar last offseason and promoted then-rookie first baseman Eric Hosmer to the team last May, they instantly became much better in the defensive infield.
Both Hosmer and Escobar have been known for their gloves, going all the way back to their first day in the minors.
Both players have good range and can make plays that you just can't teach at this level.
I expect to see many web-gems from these two guys next season.
It's been too long since KC has had one player reach the century mark for RBI in a single season.
Sadly, the last player to do it was Carlos Beltran, who drove in exactly 100 runs back in 2003.
Now, with much more talent on offense, I expect the current eight-year drought to come to an end next season.
I'm predicting that any four of the Royals' offensive starters will get to at least 100 RBI, with Billy Butler likely being one of them.
Let's be real, Joakim Soria was not his normal self during the 2011 season.
His ERA was over four for the year and he only saved 28 games during the entire campaign.
This is, after all, the same Soria that closed out 43 games in 46 chances back in 2010.
With one of the best bullpens in the league and an improving offense, Soria should be able to get to the 50-save plateau in 2012.
Former first overall draft pick Luke Hochevar has been steadily improving over the past two seasons.
Last year, he posted a career-high 11 wins and also dropped his ERA down to 4.68 in his 31 starts with the team.
With free agent Bruce Chen unlikely to stay with the club next season, Hochevar will have to step up his game even more at the front end of the Royals' starting rotation.
I can see him having well over 30 starts on the year, and picking up 15 wins with the run support that he should receive from this talented offense.
If you haven't heard of Royals' pitching prospect Mike Montgomery yet, you will know him soon enough.
Many thought that the talented, 6'4" left-hander was going to make his big-league debut for KC last season, but he struggled with injuries and control at Triple-A Omaha.
However, he should still get an invite to spring training this February, and I expect him to make the team from there.
Once he cracks the rotation and starts controlling some of his pitches, Montgomery will be a strong candidate to win the AL ROY award in 2012.
Before the trade deadline this past season, I wrote this article on why the Royals should have dealt veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Now, with the recent comments made by Kansas City GM Dayton Moore about Cabrera, I can easily see him being moved by the July 31 trade deadline next season.
After all, KC does have a talented center-field prospect named Lorenzo Cain that is currently waiting in the wings up at Triple-A Omaha.
Expect to see Moore and the Royals pull the trigger on this deal by the 2012 deadline, paving the way for Cain's path to the majors.
Winning 85 games might not sound like a bold prediction, but for the Kansas City Royals, that's exactly what it is.
When you consider that this team hasn't won 85 games in a season since 1989, then it becomes a very bold prediction.
If they can improve their starting pitching from 2011, which shouldn't be too hard, this team should easily win this many games.
I fully expect the 2012 version of the Royals to win as many games as they have in 23 years during the regular season.
I think this is a very attainable goal for these Royals next season.
This year, it took only 80 wins to get second place in the division, as the Cleveland Indians took away the honor.
I still don't see KC overtaking Detroit for first in the division yet, considering all the talent that the Tigers have coming back from their ALCS appearance this season.
Who knows, Kansas City could even sneak their way into the playoffs this season via the wildcard with a second-place finish in the Central.