Welcome to the 2010 Kings of Kauffman Season “Preview.” In actuality it’s kind of a preview but it kind of isn’t and if you can follow that logic then you are off to a good start! With three voices on staff we decided to each dissect the Royals opening day roster piece by piece and each provide our thoughts in relation to what Dayton and Trey have actually done. Our hope was to get this published on Opening Day, but this project quickly evolved into a behemoth of an article and took some additional time to put together as a result.
For the purposes of this exercise, when it comes to the Royals roster choices, we are assuming that everyone involved is completely healthy and ready to go. Also, any player on the team’s 40-man roster is eligible to be included in the below. In case you aren’t familiar with the three of us: JT is Jon Twibell, ME is Michael Engel, and WF is Wally Fish.
Before we get into the breakdown, the opening day roster is as follows:
Pitchers (12): Brian Bannister, Roman Colon, Juan Cruz, Kyle Davies, Kyle Farnsworth, Zack Greinke, Luke Hochevar, Dusty Hughes, Luis Mendoza, John Parrish, Joakim Soria, and Robinson Tejeda. Gil Meche starts on the DL but is scheduled to return April 11th.
Catchers(2): Jason Kendall and Brayan Pena
Infielders (6): Mike Aviles, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, Billy Butler, Alberto Callaspo, and Chris Getz. Josh Fields and Alex Gordon start the season on the disabled list.
Outfielders (5): Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus, Jose Guillen, Mitch Maier, and Scott Podsednik
The Position Players:
Catcher: Jason Kendall (35) was given a 2-year, $6 million dollar contract in the offseason to upgrade the defensive aspect of the position. In his 14-year career he’s hit 0.290/.369/.383 but he’s been in decline for a while. In 2008 and 2009 he’s hit around 0.244/.329/.315. He is an upgrade with the glove and will get on-base at a better clip than Buck or Olivo did last season, but the team has voted SLG off the island in the process.
JT: Brayan Pena (28) – While I don’t think Pena will ever be a great player, I do feel that he can be more than serviceable. He has some pop, is a switch hitter, and plays with an enthusiasm seldom found on the Royals. Jason Kendall is over the hill, and has been for some time. Give Pena a chance to play an entire season.
WF: Brayan Pena is in many ways the antithesis of Jason Kendall. We still don’t know what Pena is capable of but that falls on the shoulders of Dayton and Trey. At the plate he showed promise in 165 at bats last season with some power, good plate discipline (12 to 18 BB to SO), and the ability to make solid contact. Defensively, he looks to be a project, but the Royals inexplicably refused to take a good look at him as a catcher late last season.
ME: Pena – There’s something about Pena that I root for. Swirling in the Quad-A maelstrom for so long, I just want to see him succeed. It’ll take improvements in his defense and plate coverage to be the everyday catcher, but if he can manage that, he’ll be highly productive at the plate.
1st Base: Billy Butler (23) has been solid offensively since he made his Royals’ debut back in 2007 at 21-years of age. Last year he took his game to another level in the second half, and showed some good progress defensively at 1B. As the season went on he clearly became more comfortable at the plate and on defense.
JT: Butler – This is a no-brainer for me. Porkchop can flat out hit and his better-than-expected defensive play eased my fears of him being a full time DH.
WF: Butler now knows that he belongs. I expect big things, including 30 HR, from a confident and self-assured Billy in 2010.
ME: Butler – I have a feeling about this kid … Really, though, if he continues to grow as a defensive player (meaning average with potential to improve), he helps the club even more because it allows Hillman to use the DH spot for the more defensively-challenged trio of Guillen/Callaspo/Fields when all are healthy.
2nd Base: Chris Getz (26) will be an upgrade defensively over Alberto Callaspo and while he can’t match Bert at the plate, he does have some offensive ability.
JT: Getz – I would like to have placed Callaspo here, but his defense just isn’t up to snuff. Getz is a quicker and better option at 2nd. I also like that he stole 25 bases in only 106 games last season.
WF: Getz – Dayton Moore did very well for himself and the organization when he was able to turn Teahen into Getz. As Jon mentioned, Chris stole 25 bases in 106 games. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that he only got caught stealing twice. His OBP in the majors is only 0.323, but getting on-base should be something Getz does very well as he continues to get comfortable in the big leagues as his 0.369 OBP in the minors can attest. He’s a heady, intelligent player who makes the most of his ability. It doesn’t hurt that he profiles to be a good defensive 2B as well.
ME: Getz – When Moore traded Teahen for Chris Getz and Josh Fields, Getz was set all along to get a shot at the everyday second base position. It’s not certain if he’s that good of a defender or not, but he should be able to be more consistent than Callaspo did last season, and will steal some bases, as well.
Shortstop: Yuniesky Betancourt (28) remains the starter. The good news is that he is better than the 0.240/.269/.370 player we saw in Kansas City last year. The bad news is that he is woefully inadequate with the glove and it doesn’t seem likely that he can turn that part of his game around anytime soon.
JT: Mike Aviles (29) – I realize that his arm strength isn’t back yet, but I was encouraged to see him tear-it-up offensively in Spring Training, reassuring me that his woes at the plate last year stemmed from his elbow injury. Even though he isn’t at full strength, I still like him better at shortstop than Betancourt. Betancourt has absolutely no plate discipline and hardly ever walks (21 in 508 PA’s last season). His defense isn’t good enough to make up for his offensive deficiencies. Depending on whether or not you believe in UZR and the plus/minus system, as some don’t, Betancourt was the worst defensive shortstop in the game in 2008 before the Royals traded for him last season.
WF: Mike Aviles should be the starting SS whether his arm is 75%, 85%, or 100%. A partially healthy Aviles gives the Royals a better chance to win than a fully healthy Betancourt. Some times things aren’t as simple as they seem but in this case it really is that simple.
ME: Aviles – I’ve discussed at length how I feel about Aviles. For one, I’m on the bandwagon no matter how his bat gets into the lineup. You can’t expect a 2008 repeat, but 3/4 of that production would still be excellent production for a shortstop. The questions, of course, are if he’s for real (I think so) and if he can remain healthy after major elbow surgery last spring (crossing my fingers).
3rd Base: Alex Gordon (26) has struggled with injuries recently and he has failed to live up to the hype that was heaped upon him. Still, he was the consensus second best player in the 2005 draft, and he showed what he is capable of in 2006 when he captured Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award. All of the potential is still there and he still only has 334 games of major league experience on his resume. The Royals need to give him at least one more year.
JT: Alberto Callaspo (26 and soon to be 27) – Some may not agree, but I think Callaspo is the better option at the hot corner over Alex Gordon. While Callaspo may not have the home run power that Gordon possesses, Bert is a much better all around hitter and doesn’t have gaping holes in his swing like Gordon. Although the sample size of Callaspo at 3rd base is small, I feel that he can be serviceable. Bottom line, his bat needs to be in the lineup.
WF: Gordon – Here we come to the first place where I disagree with Jon. Callaspo is a better hitter right now than Gordon, but Bert cannot match Alex’s upside and potential and it is far too early to give up on him. Callaspo also cannot, in my opinion, match Gordon defensively at 3B. The sample size may be small, but Alberto proved to me in spring training that 3B is not where his future lies. I will agree with my colleague that Callaspo’s bat needs to be in the lineup but not at the expense of Gordon and not by playing him at 3B.
ME: Callaspo – I love Callaspo’s ability to make contact, and while I think he can hit .300 every year of his life, his power surge last year isn’t in line with his numbers coming up through the minor leagues. He is coming into his peak years, though, so it could be that he’s reaching his double-hitting potential. Ideally, Callaspo would be able to play third base at an average level until Alex Gordon returns.
Left Field: Scott Podsednik (34) is a 0.277/.340/.381 hitter with nine years of major league experience. If the Royals get the 2003, 2005, and 2009 version of Scotty Pods then the Royals can expect a solid season out of their new left fielder. If they get the 2004, 2006, 2007, or 2008 version, they may want to throw him back. Regardless of which version the Royals get, he brings speed to the table. If he falters, and he very well could, the Royals have Maier waiting in the wings.
JT: Mitch Maier (27) – Coming off of a great spring training, Maier gets my vote to play left field over Scott Podsednik. Maier is a better fielder, and if he can hit half as well as he did during the spring, it will have been a good season for Maier.
WF: Podsednik – I wouldn’t have gone out and signed Pods in the first place, but now that he’s on the roster the Royals should use him. That’s not to say that I’m anti-Maier. I really like Mitch and what he brings to this team and have an inkling that he could become an everyday major league player if given the chance. As the team’s 4th OF he’s going to get plenty of playing time as all three starting outfielders have struggled to stay on the field at times during their careers so I think that chance comes this year. After hitting 0.213/.289/.309 in the first half of the season, Maier became a different player in the second half and hit 0.263/.361/.346. As Jon mentions, he had a very impressive spring. I think it is very possible that Maier will be a starter and Podsednik will be the 4th outfielder by the all-star break.
ME: DeJesus – I still don’t understand the move to right field for DeJesus. Thankfully, Trey Hillman has relented from the idea of DeJesus hitting third (and thankfully, the Royals have solid options to hit there, as well). I expect DeJesus to lead off, produce at his normal average but not spectacular level, and perhaps play well enough to be a valuable trade chip at the end of the year.
Center Field: Rick Ankiel (30) is not your typical player, but everyone knows the story. What is important is that while he may be 30 years old, he is extremely young as a hitter and has lots of room to grow and improve as he continues to gain experience. Ankiel has a cannon for an arm and also provides the Royals with a legitimate power source to pair with Butler. I would not have signed Podsednik, but I would have taken a flier on Ankiel. My only disappointment with this signing is that the mutual option for 2011 isn’t a straight club option and that he was reportedly promised CF.
JT: Ankiel – Last year, Ankiel was respectable defensively in center and displayed a great arm. His bat is suspect and he needs to bounce back after a down year last year.
WF: Ankiel – I’m bullish on Rick as a member of the Royals. He played much of the season hurt after crashing into the wall early on in the season and by most accounts the effects of that collision lingered and took their toll on his offensive performance. Regardless of the cause, he needs to prove he can hit if he wants to remain an everyday player and I worry that hitting him cleanup to protect Butler might be asking a little too much of him. Of course that gets us into the fun game of “if not Ankiel then who.” When the answer is Jose Guillen, many of my concerns about Ankiel evaporate.
ME: Maier – Okay, so here’s the deal: I have a franchise on MVP Baseball 2005 on PlayStation 2 where I’ve periodically edited players to reflect the Royals’ minor league rosters, and since I’m in 2014, I’ve got a lot of the current prospects up and running. Mitch Maier hits about .320 one year for me, then follows up by hitting .210 the next year, then rebounding to surpass .300 once again the next year. It’s eerily not too far off from his usual pattern of having a great season in his second year at a new level. This will be his second Major League season … hmm …
Right Field: David DeJesus (30) shifts to RF to make room for Podsednik in LF. I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that he will excel defensively in right just as he did in left. DJ is a 0.286/.358/.425 hitter over the course of his 7-year major league career. Royals fans should expect more from David in 2010 as he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
JT: DeJesus – A no-brainer here. You know he will be playing everyday. Although, I think he is better suited for LF and Maier would be better in CF, with Ankiel in RF. However, we know that Ankiel was “guaranteed” CF, so that’s where he will be.
WF: DeJesus – Put him in LF, CF, or RF and I will be confident that he will get the job done. He’s a true professional who puts the team first and is great in the community. DJ is a player we can all be proud of and encourage our kids to root for. It doesn’t hurt that he’s good too.
ME: Ankiel – I’d put Ankiel in right field to showcase his arm. I just don’t buy him in center, but that’s where he’ll be anyway. If he can stay healthy and recapture his 2008 production, I’d be plenty happy.
Designated Hitter: Jose Guillen (33 soon to be 34) wants to play in the field, but that ship has sailed. It will be interesting to watch how Guillen adapts to life as a DH and as we all know it could end badly. Jose now has 13 seasons on his resume with a 0.271/.322/.442 line, but like Jason Kendall, Guillen’s best days are in the rear-view mirror.
JT: Kila Ka’aihue (26) – Why not? Dayton Moore preaches OBP, yet the one player in his system who exhibits a great OBP can’t seem to get any extended time in the Majors. When Jose Guillen is my other choice, I’ll go with Ka’aihue every time.
WF: Alberto Callaspo – I completely agree with Jon about Kila and Guillen, but for me this team’s DH has to be Alberto Callaspo for the same reasons Jon mentions for Bert at 3B. On my roster, Kila would be on the bench with Guillen given his outright release.
ME: Guillen – I really want to believe the contract year productivity theory and hope it’s true- though not so true that Dayton Moore feels compelled to extend his contract…
JT: IF/OF Willie Bloomquist – Although nothing flashy, he is usually solid defensively and does the “little things” at the plate, i.e – laying down a bunt, moving over runners, getting a sacrifice fly, etc. C Jason Kendall – I would put Kendall here because I feel his influence will be more beneficial in the clubhouse than on the playing field. I have no problem at all with him being a backup catcher. OF Scott Podsednik – I do like his speed, but not much more than that. He doesn’t hit for power and just turned 34. He should be nothing more than a fourth outfielder at this point in his career. 3B/1B Alex Gordon – Ah yes, the ultimate enigma. Oozes with talent and physical strength, yet has been unable to stay healthy and put together a season worthy of the number 2 overall pick back in the 2005 draft. Unless he can fix the holes in his swing, I’m not sure how much longer he will be in a Kansas City uniform.
WF: OF-Mitch Maier, C-Jason Kendall, 1B/DH-Kila Ka’aihue, and UT-Willie Bloomquist. While Maier is on the bench as the 4 outfielder on the roster, he would receive ample playing time on this roster even if the three starters manage to stay healthy. As much as I want Pena to catch every day, he’s going to need to take some breaks and a 60/40 of 65/35 platoon situation with Kendall seems appropriate. With Gordon at 3B, Getz at 2B, and Callaspo at DH, it will be a challenge to get Kila’s bat into the starting lineup from time to time. While he won’t start many games, he will be a huge late inning weapon as a pinch hitter. I wrestled with weather to keep Bloomquist or Betancourt on the roster. I honestly think Yunie has more offensive potential, but Bloomers has the versatility. Thus, Wee Willie gets the last bench spot while Betancourt and Josh Fields are sent packing.
ME: OF Scott Podsednik – I feel like Maier’s spring performance earned him a look as the everyday centerfielder. I just don’t buy Podsednik as an everyday player, but he’s reasonable as a fourth outfielder and to spell Ankiel if he gets banged up through the season. UT Willie Bloomquist – If Bloomquist plays as often as he did last season, something went wrong. He’s just fine as a utility player, though I’d rather he play in the infield more than the outfield, where he takes some weird routes to balls in play. He’ll also steal a few bases and doesn’t strike out very often. C Jason Kendall – I don’t mind that the Royals signed Kendall. I don’t. Truly. The terms of the contract that he signed, however, are all wrong. Kendall’s going to be the everyday catcher, and should improve the defense and wild pitch/passed ball numbers of last season, but he’s going to struggle to be replacement level at the plate. SS Yuniesky Betancourt – Until Aviles shows he can make the throw with confidence across the diamond, Betancourt’s going to have the everyday job at short. Unfortunately, the Royals’ lack of any depth at the position in the minor leagues means Betancourt is almost impossible to get rid of (and that contract doesn’t help either). DL Alex Gordon – I really hope this is the year Gordon puts it together. It’s becoming clear that expectations must be tempered due partly to his inability to avoid injuries, and his above average strikeout rate. His ceiling gets lower every year, but he can still reach that ceiling if he stays in the lineup. DL Josh Fields – I simply don’t know where Fields is going to fit in this lineup right now without injuries, demotions, or other moves. He’s more suited for a DH role, but if someone gets hurt who would otherwise fill that role, I’d rather see Kila Ka’aihue come up and get a shot than insert Fields in there. He might be “injured” for a while…
We know that Trey loves to tinker with his lineup so instead of trying to predict how he will write it out for any given game, it’s probably best to just provide you with our preferred batting orders.
JT: 1-David DeJesus, 2-Mike Aviles, 3-Alberto Callaspo, 4-Billy Butler, 5-Kila Ka’aihue, 6-Rick Ankiel, 7-Brayan Pena, 8-Mitch Maier, 9-Chris Getz
WF: 1-David DeJesus, 2-Mike Aviles, 3-Billy Butler, 4-Rick Ankiel, 5-Alberto Callaspo, 6-Alex Gordon, 7-Brayan Pena, 8-Chris Getz, 9-Scott Podsednik
ME: 1-David DeJesus, 2-Alberto Callaspo, 3-Billy Butler, 4-Rick Ankiel, 5-Jose Guillen, 6-Mike Aviles, 7-Brayan Pena, 8-Mitch Maier, 9-Chris Getz
#1 Starter: Zack Greinke (26) won the 2009 AL Cy Young Award and is coming off one of the 35 best seasons turned in by a starter going back to 1880.
JT: Greinke – Best in the AL
WF: Greinke – Ditto
ME: Greinke – So he probably won’t put up a 2.16 ERA again. Add a full run and it’s still superb. If he has the new changeup in control, he’s going to be even more dangerous. What can you say about a player who puts up one of the best seasons in the last 20 years, and still wants to improve?
#2 Starter: Gil Meche (31) started 100 games from 2006 to 2008. Thanks in part to Trey Hillman’s pitcher abuse program, Meche managed to start only 23 games, his lowest total since 2004.
JT: Meche – The Royals need him to return to his 2007/2008 form and stay healthy.
WF: Meche – I’m not confident that his shoulder can hold up the entire year but since we are assuming everyone is healthy, this is a no brainer. He is far and away the second best pitcher on the staff.
ME: Meche is available to come off the DL before the April 11th game which he’s tentatively scheduled to start, so while he’s on the DL, I’m effectively including him in the rotation. For Meche, it’s all about his workload and his health. He struggled when his back started to tighten last year from poor handling by Hillman, and it added stress to his shoulder which hampers him still today.
#3 Starter: Luke Hochevar (26) is 48 starts into his major league career. He’s still trying to justify being the first player taken in the 2006 draft.
JT: Hochevar – Has shown flashes of brilliance, needs to be more consistent.
WF: Hochevar – Consistency is definitely the buzzword when it comes to Hoch and his future with the Royals. He has the stuff to succeed and be a #2 or #3 starter, but simply having the stuff is only a small part of the battle.
ME: Hochevar – I just have a feeling that Hochevar figures it out this year. He’s been consistently getting groundballs all spring, and Kansas City’s infield defense…okay well it’s still bad but it’s not AS bad as last season. If Hochevar can maintain focus and avoid big innings, he can finally reach the potential that made him the first overall pick in 2006.
#4 Starter: Brian Bannister (29) is the sabermetrics guru of the Kansas City Royals organization, and yes that counts the front office. BB has the least impressive stuff of the rotation but his talent plays up because he is a student of the game and “gets” the art of pitching.
JT: Bannister – Was great last season until he went down with a bum shoulder.
WF: Bannister – I was convinced he was, at best, a back of the rotation guy, but he changed my mind last season. I still have some reservations since he appears to wear down at times and I worry about his future as he ages and loses some of the zip and life on his pitches. That said, I’m done doubting Brian Bannister. He can pitch in the middle of my rotation any day.
ME: Bannister – Until he hit the same wall that Meche hit after too many pitches, Bannister showed his advanced approach to pitching is no 2008 fluke. He’ll never be an ace, but he can be one of the best fourth starters in the league if he continues to improve and avoids fatigue.
#5 Starter: Kyle Davies (26) will make his 100th start in his major league career this month. While he has shown flashes, overall the results do not sync up with his ability.
JT: Davies – Can he put more than one good start together?
WF: Davies – If you’ve been reading Kings of Kauffman for any amount of time you know that I am a big Kyle Davies believer and fan. I know the results have been underwhelming. I recognize that he has already logged 523.0 innings in the majors. I know that he has a hard time getting out of the 5th inning with his pitch count under 90. Still, something tells me that he has a future in the middle of a major league rotation if the switch ever goes on and he realizes that he doesn’t need to nibble and be so fine with his pitches. His stuff and talent are terribly undervalued by Royals fans. He’s still only 26 and I still believe.
ME: Davies – The question with Davies is focus and consistency. He has the stuff for a number two starter, but he never seems able to harness it. If he does, he’ll be a luxury as a fifth starter.
The bullpen is a little tougher to tackle in this format so we’re going to address them as a group. The Royals chose to go with Juan Cruz, Kyle Farnsworth, Robinson Tejeda, Roman Colon, and Luis Mendoza from the right. John Parrish and Dusty Hughes are Trey’s options from the left in the team’s quest to get the ball to stud closer Joakim Soria.
JT: Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth need to re-establish themselves in 2010. Farnsworth was horrible when the game was on the line and Cruz was inexplicably roughed up throughout the season. Robinson Tejeda and Roman Colon showed flashes last year, especially Tejeda’s September, but they need to be more consistent for the Royals this season. Luis Mendoza, Dusty Hughes, and John Parrish are all newcomers to the big league club. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of them pitch yet, so I will refrain from comment for the time being.
WF: I’ve never been a big Roman Colon fan (even before his opening day performance) and I still don’t understand what the Luis Mendoza acquisition was all about. Fortunately one of the two, and logic would suggest it will be Mendoza, will get the axe when Meche comes off the DL. Still, I think the team would have been better off with Carlos Rosa and Blake Wood on the roster instead. Even if they faltered, at least we could take solace in the fact that the organization was actually giving someone from the farm system a chance by choice. The rest of the pen is fine considering the other options on hand right now. I actually like the left-handed duo of Hughes and Parrish though that is more of a gut feeling than anything else. If you want more thoughts on the bullpen, don’t worry, Michael has got you covered.
ME: RHP Luis Mendoza – I don’t know too much yet, as the Royals just acquired Mendoza over the weekend. His minor league numbers don’t look great, and he’s probably a roster casualty when Meche needs to come off the DL. RHP Kyle Farnsworth – I’m starting to believe in Farnsworth. I just shuddered as I wrote that, but it’s true. He should maintain his strong strikeout rates, and he doesn’t walk too many batters either. If he can avoid the longball, he’ll be a decent option. Just keep him out of high-leverage situations! RHP Robinson Tejeda – Another player I’ve written to some length about, Tejeda can be electric out of the bullpen. He’s unhittable at times, but the issue always comes down to walks. While he may hold teams to a poor batting average against, they still get on base with the amount of free passes he dishes out. He’s got to get that in line, but I think it’s likely one of those issues that can’t be trained away. RHP Juan Cruz – Cruz has performed well during spring training, which gives me hope that he can regain the dominance of his Diamondback days. He hasn’t lost any velocity on his fastball, but he must have lost movement to get hit as hard as he did last year. His control will be a bit of an issue, but if he can strike out more batters, it can balance out. LHP Dusty Hughes – Hughes pitched well enough to get the job out of spring training, but he’s nothing spectacular. He’ll have more of a specialist role, but should be solid. Can’t expect too much, though. LHP John Parrish – Parrish won the second left-handed job over Edgar Osuna, posting a 1.86 ERA in 8 spring games with 11 strikeouts in 9.2 IP. He just got the last bullpen spot over Anthony Lerew, who was the unlucky loser after the Royals acquired Mendoza. RHP Roman Colon – Word out of Surprise has Colon penciled in as a potentially dominant setup man for Joakim Soria. Armed with a new slider, he’s suited for the role, if he can perform with consistency. If he falters, this role may go to Juan Cruz (if he can bounce back) or perhaps Robinson Tejeda (and pray he gets the control problems fixed). RHP Joakim Soria – A no brainer, as Soria shows no signs of slowing down. He’s a top-five closer in the league and the only concern is potential injury, as he did spend time on the DL last season.
JT: I don’t foresee this season going well for Trey Hillman and his club. They simply don’t have enough talent to compete and if they suffer from injuries like they did last year, it could get really ugly. They are still two-three years away from making a run at the AL Central. 67-95 record, last in the AL Central.
WF: Jon is absolutely right, this team still lacks the talent needed to compete for even third place in this AL Central. People can talk all they want about how the Central is weak or how the projections have a team winning with a win total in the low 80s. Even if that were true, the Royals are nowhere near that level and it takes too many ifs and maybes for the optimist in me to get this squad to 0.500. I also don’t believe the AL Central champion this year will win less than 90 games. I’ve got them tabbed to finish with a 68-94 record which will land them in 4th or 5th place in the AL Central depending on how badly the Cleveland Indians pitching staff winds up being this year.
ME: Overall, the Royals’ lineup will have holes too large to expect contention unless something magical happens. The strength the team carries is in the starting rotation, where they have the best pitcher in the league and a staff that goes relatively deep. If the bullpen can hold up, the defense can get close to average, and the offense can show up now and then, this Royals team should be capable of 75 wins. That’s optimistic, but should be enough to get the Royals ahead of Cleveland (though I’d still peg them for fourth in the AL Central – not our time yet).