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

What to Expect from the Kansas City Royals in 2014


Sep 27, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher James Shields (33) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate for a play made against shortstop Alexei Ramirez (not pictured) during the sixth inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, it is expected that the Kansas City Royals are going to be contenders for a playoff berth in 2014, potentially pushing the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central crown. As the Tigers and Cleveland Indians have seemingly taken a step back from last year, the Royals improvements on offense and stellar bullpen should be able to keep them in the mix. Yet, what are the realistic expectations for the Royals?

Offensively, the Royals may well look like the team from their heyday in the early to mid 1980′s. Instead of attempting to find players to hit thirty home runs in the cavernous grounds of Kauffman Stadium, the Royals have gone out and acquired a pair of on base machines in Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. The middle of the order has, thus far, displayed more of an ability to hit doubles as opposed to home runs, and with the speed in front of Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, the Royals should score plenty of runs. Those scoring outbursts may not be done in the now traditional three run home run, but they should still score plenty of runs.

While the offense has likely improved, the same cannot be said for the starting pitching. Gone are Ervin Santana and Bruce Chen, with Jason Vargas brought in as a replacement. Vargas is a solid third or fourth pitcher in a rotation, but can he handle being a second starter? While James Shields is likely to be close to the same pitcher he was last season, the remainder of the rotation is likely to take a step back this season. That rotation could conceivably improve around the middle of June when Yordano Ventura has spent enough time in the minors to push back his arbitration clock, but it is unlikely that the Royals rotation ends up posting the fifth best ERA in the American League once again.

However, the Royals cadre of flyball pitchers should be helped by a defense that is Gold Glove caliber at virtually every position. Gordon, Aoki and Lorenzo Cain should be able to track down majority of the flyballs in the outfield. Infante automatically upgrades the defense at second, while Hosmer and Alcides Escobar are amongst the best at their position. Salvador Perez has already won a Gold Glove award, and is likely to only get better as he gains more experience behind the plate. Those defensive improvements may help to mitigate some of the likely regression from the rotation, but it may not be enough.

The bullpen is likely to be another strength, allowing Ned Yost to essentially worry about the first six innings. Once the game gets beyond that point, the plethora of hard throwing options that Yost could turn to should be able to lock down the lead. Greg Holland emerged as one of the top closers in baseball, and if the second half performance of Kelvin Herrera continues through 2014, the Royals bullpen should likely be a strength once again.

Are the improvements made defensively and to the offense enough to mitigate the expected drop off by the rotation? That is the biggest question that the Kansas City Royals face as they approach Spring Training. As it stands, the Royals appear as though they are likely to be in the same spot they were last season, winning approximately 90 games and playing meaningful baseball into late September. The only question is whether or not the Royals are improved enough to end their 29 year playoff drought.

It seems as though the Royals still need one more piece. Bringing back Santana or replacing him with a legitimate second starter would likely help the Royals in their pursuit of the playoffs. They are certainly close, but still appear as though they will be just short once again.

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  • KCMOWHOA

    Yep, they’re a starter short. They might as well sign somebody now while we still have options. Throw some money at Santana and see if he bites. We all know Shields isn’t going to be here after this season, so no sense in saving any money to re-sign him. At the very least, I say bring Chen back. He’s not a number 2, but he could pad the back end of the rotation. If I had any confidence with Davis starting, I’d say we’re okay but I think he needs to go before his value dips again after another stint in the rotation.

  • jimfetterolf

    Not too worried about the pitching, Vargas is a younger Chen and one of the several kids and older guys will take the #2 slot, so my big worry is Moose and even there we have depth. I figure 85-95 wins and go with 90 based on average health and luck.

  • Eric Akers

    Now that Tanaka has signed, I think it might be possible to get Jeff Samardzija now. I have no idea what it will cost.

    • Eric Akers

      I wouldn’t mind signing Garza either, but I think a lot of teams will be in on him.

  • moretrouble

    Team projections based on predictions of individuals are more valuable for fantasy teams than real baseball. In terms of what I see, the Royals improved their offense without sacrificing defense. Did they improve it enough? Yes, if the other parts of the club function as well as last year. Their defense and bullpen in combination are the best in the AL. But, pitching? Adding back Santana would be the best outcome for the KC rotation. Failing that, Ubaldo Jimenez would be nice — and it would be great to stick it to the Indians. But, if they’re going to go with their internal candidates, questions remain — among them, will Duffy hold up physically pitching every five days, will either Davis or Hochevar adjust to starting — and if either of them do start, how will that affect the bullpen depth? And, the biggest question mark is Ventura — is he ready or not. He kid has uber potential, but is he a young Saberhagen — can he step in at a young age, with no experience,and win consistently?