What else is there to say? The Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015 and until someone knocks them off of that podium, they are the world champions. They found a way to win while building their team with a dominant bullpen, great defensive play, and solid small ball. They didn't change their team a whole lot this off-season, but then again, why would you when the current recipe was better than anyone else's? While this team was very difficult to predict last season, they shut up many experts in the process of winning it all for the first time in Kansas City since 1985. With that said, let's give it a shot for 2016.
Joakim Soria, Ian Kennedy, Dillon Gee, Tony Cruz, Cody Decker, John Lannan, Chein-Ming Wang, David Huff, Peter Moylan
Ben Zobrist, Ryan Madsen, Greg Holland, Johnny Cueto, Alex Rios, Jeremy Guthrie, Johnny Gomes, Lane Adams, Francico Pena, Michael Mariot
Biggest Strength - Bullpen
This bullpen actually looks a little weaker than it did last season. First of all, Greg Holland needed Tommy John surgery and actually doesn't have an MLB contract while he is recovering. Secondly, they were forced to part ways with Ryan Madson who will be pitching for the Oakland Athletics this season. So, this means that Wade Davis, possibly the best reliever in all of baseball will finally get a chance to begin the season in the closer role. Kelvin Herrera, who was usually the 7th inning guy is going to be moved back to the 8th inning where he will be one of the best 8th inning guys in the game. It should be a whole new story for the other relief situations.
One thing they did this off-season is sign back one of their former closers in Joakim Soria who is now 31 years old and has finally been healthy for a while now. He has a legitimate shot to be the third best reliever on the team, therefore occupying the 7th inning. Other options include Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy, both of whom are former starters. Duffy still has a chance to end up as a starter, but the team is loaded with middle to low end starting pitchers, so he will begin the year out of the pen. Other guys who could potentially spot start that will actually be working out of the pen at least to begin the year are former New York Met Dillon Gee and veteran Chien-Ming Wang. Although there are a few new faces, and some uncertainty with a few very good arms leaving, the bullpen will compete to show they are the best in baseball again in 2016.
Biggest Weakness - Starting Pitching
This team has clearly built their pitching staff backwards. What's meant by that is the bullpen is depended on much more than the starters. Last season it worked out, but the worry is that if you overwork the pen throughout the year, they could be worn out by the time the important games come along. The Royals have a staff full of number 4 starters and will likely start Edinson Volquez on opening day which makes for a matchup that likely favors their opponent on paper. Although they don't really have any top end guys on this rotation, they are actually loaded with low end starters to the point to where they have many of them sitting in the pen ready to pich a large chunk of innings if needed.
Something to keep an eye on - Second Base
There's a reason why the Royals acquired Ben Zobrist at the deadline last year and it's because they don't have any good options at second base. It looks like they will have to choose between the familiar options of Omar Infante, who is now 34 years old and hasn't been productive for a few years, and Christian Colon who is better suited for an infield utility role. There really isn't any upside for either of these players and it's yet again a spot where the Royals might be able to have a huge upgrade like they did last year. There is a chance that prospect Raul Mondesi could switch to second in anticipation of a 2017 call up, but there's little chance he gets the call this year since he can't seem to get his on base percentage over .300 in the minors.
Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^
- Alceides Escobar - SS
- Mike Moustakas* - 3B
- Lorenzo Cain - CF
- Eric Hosmer* - 1B
- Kendrys Morales^ - DH
- Alex Gordon* - LF
- Sal Perez - C
- Reymond Fuentes* - RF
- Christian Colon - 2B
Omar Infante, Drew Butera, Whit Merrifield, Paulo Orlando
Projected Rotation… Lefties*
- Edinson Volquez
- Chris Young
- Yordano Ventura
- Ian Kennedy
- Kris Medlen
Wade Davis - Closer, Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria, Danny Duffy*, Luke Hochevar, Chien-Ming Wang, Dillon Gee
Injured to start season
Jerrod Dyson*, Mike Minor*, Jason Vargas*, Tim Collins*
Fantasy Bargain - Kris Medlen
Kris Medlen is probably the best pitcher on this staff, but he has been riddled with injuries in recent years. He has had to come back in a relief role a few times and hasn't really had a legitimate chance to get comfortable as a starter until coming in to this season. It would be surprising if he doesn't finish 2016 with the best numbers in the rotation just based on his track record, and he could be the ace of the staff when we talk about the team this time next year.
Medlen is a control guy who keeps his walk rate down and does a great job keeping his ERA and FIP numbers down as well. Although he doesn't rack up huge strikout numbers, he ususally approached 8 K's per 9 innings which is still a bit above average. He probably won't even get drafted in your draft, so go pick him up if you're reading this and you're worried about your starting pitching.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Eric Hosmer
Most of the Royals hitter are a bit hyped up for fantasy this year since the entire nation watched them win the World Series a few months back. The Royals won it all because of their bullpen, great defense, speed and timely hitting. The timely hitting thing does not make for long term fantasy stats racking up. Eric Hosmer is an overhyped first baseman because he looks like he can hit a lot of homers and he's still pretty young. Hosmer has never hit more than 19 homers in a year and he has only hit 77 regular season homers in his whole career in 5 full seasons. At the first base position you can't afford not to have power, and Hosmer has less power than many middle infield options. He's a much better real life player than he is a fantasy player.
All the pieces came together for the Royals last season, and it's hard to say that it will happen again. Not signing Ben Zobrist and leaving the hole at second base could set them back a bit, and the feel of the bullpen could be off now that they will be without Ryan Madson and Greg Holland. Overall, this team still looks very good and should contend at least for the AL Central again. They should be good for around 90 wins in the regular season.