With Spring Training around the corner, it is time for the projections to begin. We already saw Clay Davenport’s projections that pegged the Royals as regressing to the point where they finished fourth in the American League Central, with an expected record of 77-85. Davenport sited the expected regression of the pitching staff as the main reason why they were projected as a below .500 team, as the Royals pitching staff was expected to give up 111 more runs this year.
David Schoenfield of ESPN.com has released his projections, or, at least, part of them. He has been going through teams six at a time, and has come to the Kansas City Royals. While his projections are slightly more favorable than Davenport’s, he still expects the Royals to finish below .500, with a 79-83 record. That would be good enough for third in the AL Central, finishing ahead of the White Sox and Twins.
Essentially, Schoenfield has the Royals facing the same issues that other prognosticators see: a lack of power in the lineup and the regression of the pitching staff.
…I see a pitching staff that is going to regress, maybe a lot, and an offense that won’t have enough firepower. I hope I’m wrong.
While the starting rotation is likely to regress, particularly Jeremy Guthrie, the Royals are built to hold a lead after six innings. Should they have the advantage heading into the seventh, the depth of the bullpen should allow the Royals to win the vast majority of those games. Ned Yost should be able to work the matchups to bridge the gap to Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland, allowing the Royals to essentially play a six inning game with the rotation.
Offensively, the Royals are harkening back to the days when they primarily got on base and used their speed to put pressure on the defense. There may not be a true power hitter in the lineup, unless Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are ready to be those players for the Royals, but the Royals should be able to get on base at a reasonable rate and score more runs. The Royals defense has also improved, which should help lessen the regression for the pitching staff.
It is easy to state that, on paper, the Royals are going to struggle in 2014. They may not have the impact bats in the middle of the lineup, and they may not have the strongest starting rotation. But as long as they can get on base and take a lead into the latter third of the game, the Royals should still win more than they lose.
To me, the Royals still look like a team that can win 86 games. It may not be enough to get them into the playoffs, and being able to sign a legitimate second starter (*cough* Ervin Santana *cough*) could certainly help, but the Royals should be roughly the same as last year. What do you all think? How do you see the Royals performing this season?