Kansas City Royals: Five Players To Watch for in 2011

Bill Robbins@bill_kc28Correspondent IMarch 24, 2011

Kansas City Royals: Five Players To Watch for in 2011

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Kila Ka'aihue #25 of the Kansas City Royals looks on uring a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    Opening Day is just over a week away, and it is time to look at what this season holds for the Kansas City Royals.

    With many new players being added to the team over the past year, many will be looking for players that have been on the team in the past to step up their game and take charge this season.

    The following is my guide to five players that will be very crucial to the club's success in 2011.

1. Mike Moustakas

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals bats during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    "Moose" made a name for himself last season when he was named the Texas League Player of the Year after a campaign where he hit .322 with 36 homers and 124 RBIs.

    After a decent spring training stint that ended earlier this month, Moustakas has found himself back in the minors again to start the '11 regular season.

    However, with just Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit manning third base to start the year, Moustakas could just be a couple months away from playing with the big league club depending on his progress in AAA Omaha this season.

    He would instantly give the Royals a solid bat in the middle of the lineup and has the potential to be a star in this league for a long time.

2. Kila Ka'aihue

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    ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 10: Kila Ka'aihue #25 of the Kansas City Royals scores a run for a 1-1 tie with the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning at Angel Stadium on August 10, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Ka'aihue got some increased playing time last season after the team decided that they were going to release veteran Jose Guillen in August.

    He responded by hitting .217 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in just 52 games with the big league club.

    This year, he will likely be hitting clean-up to start the season, and the Royals will need his bat for this team to get going on offense.

3. Billy Butler

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    MESA, AZ - MARCH 09: Billy Butler #16 of the Kansas City Royals hits a one-run single against the Chicago Cubs during the spring training baseball game at HoHoKam Stadium on March 9, 2011 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Arguably the best hitter in the Royals lineup, Butler can hit for average, power and he gets on base at a high rate as well.

    This season, many expect the Jacksonville, Florida product to have a breakout season for Kansas City.

    He has all the tools to do so, and at just 24-years-old, he could still be merely scratching the surface of his potential at the major league level.

4. Luke Hochevar

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    BALTIMORE - JULY 30:  Starting pitcher Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals delivers against the Baltimore Orioles during MLB action at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 30, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. Hochevar collected the loss as the Orioles
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The former first overall pick for the Royals in the '06 draft has yet to live up to his draft status during his brief time in the majors.

    This season, he is being thrown into the fire as he was promoted to ace of the Royals rotation after three starters did not return from a season ago.

    It's now make or break time for Hoch as all eyes will be on him during the entire season, starting March 31st against the Angels.

5. Joakim Soria

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 13:  Pitcher Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals pumps his fist  after the Royals defeated the New York Yankees 4-3 to win the game on August 13, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Ge
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Royals are fortunate to have one of the best closers in baseball currently playing on their team.

    Joakim Soria has been everything to their 'pen over the last four seasons, saving 132 games and posting a 2.01 ERA along the way.

    He will look to improve on his impressive 1.78 ERA of a season ago as he will continue to display his wonderful four-pitch arsenal.

    The club will be looking at him to lead a 'pen that is still searching to find its identity heading into the '11 season.