|Things are looking up for the Royals,|
including Lorenzo Cain (foreground)
and Wil Myers.
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Johnny Giovotella, 2B
Alex Gordon, LF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Billy Butler, DH
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Salvador Perez, C
Alcides Escobar, SS
You may not be real familiar with a lot of those names, but you will be. A lot of high draft picks there -- the fruit of almost 25 straight seasons of sub-.500 ball finally paying off. Hosmer didn't win the AL Rookie of the Year award last year (Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson did), but he wouldn't have been a bad choice at all. Moustakas' rookie numbers don't look good in total, but he erupted in the final month. Perez so impressed the Royals that they signed him to what may be an eight-year deal.
This team will hit. It's skewed a bit to the left side, but it will hit.
Pitch, not so much. The Royals have run into the injury bugaboo with some of their starting pitching prospects, some of whom are nearly as highly touted as their young hitters. As long as Luke Hochaver is their No. 1 starter, it's going to be tough for the Royals to contend.
The bullpen was pretty good last season, and there are Twins fans who are envious of K.C.'s acquistion of former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton this offseason. Broxton hasn't been effective for some time, however, and I suspect his chief value is as a security blanket that allows the Royals to move Aaron Crow, who made the All-Star team as a rookie middle reliever, to the rotation.
If Crow takes to starting (his minor league record is pretty dismal), and if the 30-start rule applies to Danny Duffy, and if Jonathan Sanchez somehow discovers the strike zone in the American League ... well, then Hochaver and Bruce Chen slide down from being their top two starters to being their fourth and fifth arms, and in that case the Royals might even win this divisional title
But that's asking for a lot of things to go right. Even if they don't, I fully expect the Royals to take a big step forward in 2012. They're primed to be "phony contenders" the way Cleveland was last season.