MADISON, March 4, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 17, the Kansas City Royals.
2013 Record: 86-76 with a +47 run differential.
Key Additions: LHP Jason Vargas, 2B Omar Infante, OF Carlos Peguero, OF Norichika Aoki
Key Losses: RHP Ervin Santana, RHP Luis Mendoza, C George Kottaras, 2B Chris Getz, IF Emilio Bonifacio, LHP Will Smith
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Nori Aoki
2B Omar Infante
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
OF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
3B Mike Moustakas
OF Lorenzo Cain
SS Alcides Escobar
Projected 2014 Rotation:
Bruce Chen/Wade Davis
Yordano Ventura/Danny Duffy
Best Case: The Royals young core of position players continues to develop. 1B Eric Hosmer leads the way and puts together a full season mirroring his second half in 2013 good for a .323/.379/.473 slash line. While 3B Mike Moustakas continues to struggle when facing left handed pitching manager Ned Yost gives those at bats to Danny Valencia and the Royals have an extremely effective third base platoon. 2B Omar Infante produces at the level he has for the past five years with a .300/.350/.440 slash line which is light years ahead of what the Royals have gotten out of second base in recent years. C Salvador Perez stays healthy and continues to be one of the best young catchers in baseball.
The bullpen is almost as dominant as last year with a host of young power arms like Greg Holland, Aaron Crow and Tim Collins. James Shield leads a rotation that benefits greatly in the second half from the continued development of Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer. The Royals challenge for the Tigers for the AL Central all year, but ultimately settle for an AL Wildcard ending the longest playoff draught in MLB.
Worst Case: The loss of Ervin Santana, or at least the production provided by 2013 Ervin Santana, significantly weakens the starting staff as Yordano Ventura has a rougher transition to the majors than anticipated. The Royals continue to run Mike Moustakas out against left handed pitching, which hurts his confidence and overall production. Alex Gordon struggles with his average and production after being shifted down in the lineup and being asked to hit for more power. Being out of the race early and forced to face James Shields impending free agency the Royals trade their ace at the trade deadline. The Royals finish a distant third behind the Tigers and Indians.
Prospect Watch: A few short years ago the Royals farm system was the envy of MLB with prospects like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Wil Myers expected to carry the team to the playoffs. The Royals system isn’t quite as strong now, but boasts a variety of arms that should help soon and down the line. Yordano Ventura made a brief debut with three starts for the Royals in September after earnings his ticket to the big leagues by throwing 134.2 innings with 155 K’s and a 3.14 ERA across two levels. Kyle Zimmer, the Royals first pick in the 2012 draft, threw 108.1 innings with a 4.32 ERA and 140 K’s while finishing the season at AA. The Royals also grabbed LHP Sean Manaea early in the 2013 draft. SS Raul Mondesi is considered the top position prospect although he is likely a few years from making it to KC.