#24. Kansas City Royals
Team Ace: James Shields
Most Valuable Position Player: Billy Butler
Breakout Candidate: Lorenzo Cain
Notable Offseason Additions: James Shields, Ervin Santana
Notable Offseason Losses:none
Biggest Team Weakness: Starting Pitching
If we were measuring every team’s maximum potential the Kansas City Royals would be on the top of the list. Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Luke Hochevar were all top 5 draft picks, while Billy Butler was selected 14th overall out of high school, and Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar entered the league as top Venezuelan prospects. Since being acquired only a few have panned out, yet people still talk about the Royals like they’re a team with endless potential.
Let’s look at the facts: Luke Hochevar is now 29 and has a career ERA of over 5. Corner infielders Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have yet to contribute to the team’s offense since being called up in early 2011, and are batting around .250 with only 58 homeruns collectively. The duo could turn things around this year, or they could underperform for another two seasons and slowly be weeded out of the system entirely. Alex Gordon is also 29 and was close to being considered a bust before he was switched from third base to the outfield and made a dramatic turn in 2011, winning his first gold glove. In 2012 he struggled at times with his offense, but ultimately was a solid player. Who knows which player we’ll get in 2013?
I’m not saying it’s all bad. Catcher Salvador Perez started last season on the DL, but has hit for a great average when healthy. Alcides Escobar finally showed off his speed last year, and has brought his average up each of the last 4 seasons. And Billy Butler, who entered the league in 2007, is still only 26 years old and has become an offensive juggernaut at DH well before his prime.
Acquiring James Shields from Tampa for prospect Wil Myers is a huge deal. The Royals needed sure talent, not another prospect. They hadn’t had an ace since Zack Greinke’s Cy Young season, and haven’t had a player as consistent as Shields has been over the last three years since way before Greinke. Signing Ervin Santana off of a down year could also be a steal. He’ll eat up innings at the very least and could easily return to form as a respectable second option in the rotation.
There is still potential in Kansas City, but for me to get excited about this team I need to see actual production first. This season the White Sox (Spoiler Alert: Ranked 23 on my list) are old and in decline, and the Twins are still in limbo, so there’s a chance to move into the 3 spot in the division, but expecting the Royals get any farther than that would be foolish.