Jul 24, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (center) celebrates with teammates Mike Moustakas (8) , Salvador Perez (13) , Jarrod Dyson (1) and James Shields (33) after hitting a walk-off double against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

2014 May be the Year the Royals Return to the Postseason

Sep 23, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates after the Kansas City Royals defeating the Seattle Mariners during the 12th inning at Safeco Field. Kansas City defeated Seattle 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

It was a long time ago – 29 years, to be exact – when a six year old version of myself was introduced to the game of baseball by turning on the 1985 World Series. Watching the game, I’m not sure which one it was, I became a Royals fan due to the quirkiness of Dan Quisenberry‘s submarine delivery. Who would have thought that, 29 years later, that would be the Royals last appearance in the postseason?

That may be about to change. Fresh off their best season since 1989, the Royals have taken steps to solidify an offense that ranked among the worst in the American League last season. Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante should help out the starting lineup, while Danny Valencia may be the perfect platoon partner for Mike Moustakas. If Billy Butler improves off last year, and Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez take that next step in their production, then the offense has the potential to be a lot better than they were last season.

While the pitching staff may regress, the improvement by the offense may be more than enough to make up for it. Jason Vargas is more of a replacement for Bruce Chen than for Ervin Santana, and it may be that the Santana could still find his way back to the Royals. Should he go through the same situation that Kyle Lohse found himself in last offseason and his price continues to drop, then perhaps he can find his way back to Kansas City.

Another factor is the state of the American League Central. While the Tigers have long been the dominant team in the division, they have certainly weakened. Prince Fielder no longer calls Detroit home, and the rotation has lost a solid piece in Doug Fister. The Tigers may still be the favorites, but the gap separating them from the Royals has certainly shrunk.

As Sam Mellinger said in his piece a few days ago, it is a great time to be a Royals fan. The present, as well as the future, appear to be bright for the Royals, and with a reasonable improvement from the offense, a postseason berth could end up forthcoming.

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  • jimfetterolf

    The talent is there, so all gets down to health and luck. I thought last year was likely but young guys came up short and a couple of ‘old” guys also dropped off. I see fewer underachievers this year. Still good with 90 wins, which I posted before Sam did and before Valencia was acquired. In hindsight I may be seen as the cranky old pessimist.

    • Ed Connealy

      Teams that expect to play in the post season and world series don’t have “luck” as one of their key ingredients. The Royals, as they stand now, will start baseball’s worst ( on offense) ss and 3basemen next year. The CF is a bad hitter who can’t stay on the field.

      There are many great pieces I am not mentioning, but these are huge risks that would seem less scary with a true #2 starter. I agree with you more than it sounds like Jim. There really is some great talent, but I would rather see ownership buy a solid insurance arm than give them the benefit of the doubt and hope all the chips fall nicely. ( their results.history don;t deserve the benefit of the doubt do they?)

      • jimfetterolf

        We can ask the 2013 Angels and Blue Jays about luck, or the 2012 Royals. Dumb fool luck has a great deal to do with it.

        As for buying another #4 or 5 starter and paying him #2 money, I see no use in it when we have five arms better than any of the available FAs.

        As for Eskie and Moose, legitimate problems with two guys who can be fixed if they choose. Valencia can mitigate one-third of Moose. Eskie is the current question. Might see a lot of Bonifacio or Colon at SS or the team may be good enough to get away with Buddy Biancalana at SS.

        Not too worried about Cain beyond health and I expect him to play four or five games a week to try to keep him healthy. Handy that three of the other four OFs can play center. Cain, like Escobar, hit a couple of homers and ruined his swing. He should be back, but is the major reason to consider a six-man ‘pen in order to keep Dyson.

        • moretrouble

          With all due respect, Jim, I’m just sayin…

          Escobar is in there for defense; if he hits — great; if not, he’s still their every day SS.

          Cain and Dyson are their CFers. The OF positions are not interchangeable. Aoki might be able to do it, but he’s got a lot of work to do with Rusty. They got Aoki to play RF and that’s where they’ll use him. The other guys? No chance.

          They won’t use a 6 man bullpen; it isn’t enough guys. They could possibly go with an 11 man staff in early April when they only need four starters, but once the season gets going, they’ll keep 12.

          No offense intended, but KC won on pitching and defense last year. They’re not going to abandon that style of play.

          • jimfetterolf

            It is quite likely you’re right. The 4th OF is interesting, I would probably keep Dyson for the speed and defense and he has improved against RHP, so can platoon a little with Cain to give him a couple of games a week off, try to keep him healthy for the season. Ned Yost has a fixation on RH power bats, though. What it may actually come down to is Dayton Moore weighing the trade returns on each of them and going for the better prospect in return.

            As for defense, I still think Aoki is a significant downgrade from Lough, so pitchers will need to compensate a little for a few months ’til Aoki learns the park. It took Dyson awhile, Maxwell was challenged last year, and it won’t come easy for Aoki.

          • moretrouble

            I agree with your analysis of what Yost wants regarding power bats. You’re right about the 4th OFer, too. Whoever that turns out to be will likely get significant PT..

            Allow me to augment your “learns the park” statement. The challenge in Kauffman for OFers is the bank of infield lights; one solid strip of lights all the way around the infield on top of the stands. Line drives (balls with slow vertical ascent/descent) get into the line of sight of those lights and stay there longer. Even the KC regulars struggle with those plays.

            If they can make a trade for an advanced hitting prospect, they ought to do it. Their best hitting prospects are 2-3 years away.

  • moretrouble

    I’d like to see the organization respond quicker when changes are needed. No more half-season experiments waiting for someone to start playing well. And, for goodness sake, go out and get some help at the trading deadline if the team needs it. Development time is over.

  • Ed Connealy

    The Royals have a great opportunity next season. They are close, but why stop now when there is still one obvious hole to be filled? A front of the rotation starter.

    Saying they will be good IF one of the young guns becomes that guy next year is not good enough. Def not good enough when you traded Will Myers for 2 years of Shileds…the time is now. This team has been very profitable since it was bought and if there ever is a season to invest more, or even spend a bit foolishly…this is it.

    The offense will be better IF Escobar and Mosse play better. IF Cain stays on the filed. Lot’s of IFS. This is why the rotation HAS to be good and steady.