Know (And Criticize) Thine Enemy, Pt. 3: Kansas City Royals

Wow.  I picked an exciting one here, didn't I?  The Royals finished last season in last place in the AL Central, as they did in 2004 and 2005.  They have not made the playoffs since they won the World Series in 1985.  Their GM at the time was this guy, whom some of you may have heard of.

To be honest, there are some players Royals fans should definitely be excited about.  There are some that they shouldn't be excited about.  

Starters

I'll start with the starters this time.  Gil Meche.  What can I say that hasn't been said before?  I've wanted to believe in Dayton Moore all year.  This one shakes that confidence.  Just this past season he was 3rd in the AL in walks allowed.  I have a feeling that he or Odalis Perez will turn into a good pitcher for the Royals, but not both.  Odalis has at least had a couple of well above-average seasons, according to ERA+.  Brian Bannister and Luke Hudson COULD turn into solid middle rotation starters.  Bannister in particular supposedly has great makeup as a pitcherScouts have loved this guy for years.  Big curve, mixes speeds, great command of all of his pitches.  In a few years, Greinke and top prospect Luke Hochevar at the top with Meche as the #3 could be formidable.

Bullpen

Octavio Dotel.  Dick Kaegel, Royals beat writer on mlb.com, says this: Dotel is a strong closer.  I don't know if strong is the word I would use to describe Dotel's work when he was the primary closer for a team.  Not sure if it's the pressure or what, but he always seemed to perform better as the primary setup man.  The bullpen is rounded out by candidates like Jorge de la Rosa, Scott Elarton, Jimmy Gobble, Todd Wellemeyer, Ken Ray, Joel Peralta, Ryan Braun and Leo Nunez.  de la Rosa and Elarton could certainly find themselves in the rotation, I went by the Royals preview I linked to above.  The others...well.  Ken Ray is somewhat of a success story: his last season in the Majors before 2006 was 1999.  He's been working to come back ever since.  It makes for nice reading, but it's hard to call a WHIP over 1.5 much of a success.  Jimmy Gobble is a failed starter.  Wellemeyer actually had some success last season as a middle reliever, though his peripherals were not actually very good.  Joel Peralta has actually been an above-average reliever the last two seasons, but he's probably older (31 by opening day 2007) than you'd think.  Leo Nunez was bad in 2005, but worse in 2006.  Ryan Braun is somewhat of a wild card.  His K/9 in the minors of 10.05 is as exciting as his BB/9 of 4.32 is cautionary. There's also old friend David Riske, who would probably be next in line for the closer role should Dotel become injured or perform poorly. There could also be reason to be excited about Joe Nelson. Check out his stats in limited innings between us and the Braves in '04 and '01. That's the stuff.

Infield/DH

I wish we had Ryan Shealy.  He could put up a .900 OPS for the Royals next season.  His defense leaves something to be desired, which I presume is what this guy was acquired for.  Mike Sweeney is the DH, and should be a better than average contributer at the position if he can give the Royals 400+ ABs.  Mark Grudzielanek won his first GG last season, and if you check his statistics under fielding, you'll see that it was deserved.  Mark Ellis would have been a fine choice as well.  Grudzielanek is also a decent hitter who could exhibit a little more patience at the plate.  Now we come around to Angel Berroa.  Angel Berroa is the answer to the trivia question: "Who makes Eric Hinske not look as much like a former RoY who failed to live up to his promise?".  The Royals should unload him, but the only GM who might be interested in an overpaid SS with few tools on either side of the game already has one.  The Royals would probably do just as well with this Berroa, defense included.  Esteban German will backup in the infield.  He had a great year .OBP-wise.  You could certainly make an argument for him starting at 2B, Grudz at SS, and Berroa selling insurance or something.  Royals fans should be extremely excited about 3B.  Mark Teahen posted a .974 OPS in the second half last season.  This says he's a good fielder.  It also says he could "emerge" as a Joe Randa-type.  I'll let you all think about that line.  Anyway, the Royals also have top prospect Alex Gordon to think about, which could push Teahen to LF.  The catching position is one where the Royals could certainly stand to improve.  John Buck and Jason LaRue will share duties, with Buddy Bell presumably playing the hot hand/matchups/etc. with them.  To me, Buck's star has fallen.  LaRue wasn't able to hit the small country next to the broad side of the barn last season.  I think LaRue will be the primary catcher, though that'll just mean he starts 80-90 games vs. the 70 or so Buck will start.

Outfield

I've always thought David DeJesus was overrated.  In the annals of OFs the Royals have produced (Johnny Damon and Carlos Beltran, for two), he doesn't seem to match up well with either.  He has never shown the speed on the bases most scouts talk about, at least in terms of SBs.  He's a plus defender in the OF, could probably start at any of the three positions, and has a great eye at the plate.  As a leadoff hitter and CF or LF, the Royals could do a lot worse.  Emil Brown is listed as the starting LF in their preview.  Brown doesn't seem to be a good outfielder, though his range as rated on b-r.com would have you believe otherwise.  He'll probably see DH ABs when Sweeney sits, unless he's traded (he would've been a better solution to the loss of Juan Rivera for the Angels than Shea Hillenbrand).  Reggie Sanders is penciled in in RF.  Sanders is certainly on the downswing of his career, and has had problems staying healthy.  The Royals do have some younger players to use out there, Joey Gathright, who should be limited to PR and defensive substitution duties.  He will probably get too many starts in CF.  There's been some excitement about Shane Costa, but unless you believe he really put it together in his 1/3 season in Omaha last year, I'm not sure it's justified.  .OBP is there, but they're going to need a power source in the future.  He could make DeJesus expendable at some point, I suppose.  As I mentioned, Teahen could end up in LF.

Overall

A lot of things would have to go right for the Royals to contend next season.  Gil Meche will have to earn his $11M in full.  Odalis Perez will have to regain form.  Dotel will have to have his first FULLY successful season as the primary closer.  Alex Gordon will probably need to do in Kansas City what he did at Wichita last season.  Etc.  Etc.  The AL Central is going to be competitive next season(in my mind, the Royals are the only team whose shot rests on getting every possible break under the sun).  The Royals will almost certainly finish in last place, but their future is not filled entirely with misery.          
   

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