Spring training is finally here. We will all read and hear about how the players look. We’ll watch as roster decisions are made leading up to opening day. We will enjoy second guessing Ned Yost and his decisions this year. Many will bemoan the financial and roster decisions made by Dayton Moore. But, as always, the outcome of this coming season lies with the performance of the players on the team.
This is a sound roster. The most balanced and logical line up the squad has seen since the early 2000’s. There is a great feeling of security with the majority of this team’s major pieces. But there are X factors. There are 3 players who have to “arrive” in order for Kansas City to again enjoy playoff baseball.
The worst thing about this line up is the lack of power. It’s a gaping hole that was not addressed this off-season. I expect surges from Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, but that won’t cut it. Mike Moustakas needs to hit over 20 home runs for the Royals in 2014. Mike had a treacherous 2013 and became the punching bag of the fan base. It was well-earned. Not only was his performance poor, but he looked out of shape, and was rumored to not see the value in watching tape of his at bats.
Moose was sent south of the border to work on his swing, and the Royals signed Danny Valencia to provide platoon insurance. Mike has slimmed down and covered his arms in tattoos. I smell an attitude adjustment! Bravo to the team for forcing this maturation.
Just a few years ago, it was Moose, not Hosmer, seen as the jewel in the minor league crown. There was talk of him hitting 40 plus home runs at some point, and not just from the Roylas. We saw the highly drafted Alex Gordon blossom after initial struggles at the big league level. It’s now time for Mike to arrive.
Alcides Escobar was the worst hitter in baseball last year, with a .559 OPS. Think about that for a moment. The Royals flirted with the play offs last year while trotting out the worst hitter in the bigs, often at the top of the line up. He’s been an asset with the bat in the past. In 2102 he had a .721 OPS. The team doesn’t even need him to get back to that level. The team does need him to get on base more, hit more ground balls, and continue to be an elite stolen base threat. A line up without much power can not have an everyday player acting like an out machine. Escobar needs to regain some respectability at the plate.
Major hole number two for this team? Dominant starting pitching. The Royals can look forward to a great year from James Shields. Always great, always durable, Shields may compete for the Cy Young during his contract year. Then the rotation is made up of slightly above average, number four starters. Jason Vargas may do a 2013 Ervin Santana impression, enjoying the fly ball pitching friendly K. That’s a big if, and still not strong enough to go toe to toe with the Tigers.
Yordano Ventura needs to be that break though starting pitcher, developed by the team. Hey, Dayton Moore is due. Math is on their side. Danny Duffy has number 3 starter upside and very good stuff. His ability to command his stuff and stay healthy is big, but his ceiling doesn’t reach the heights of Pedro-Light, Yordano Ventura. Ventura’s stuff is devastating and he has ace written all over him. The Royals need a young gun to emerge, a la Bret Saberhagen, for this staff to make a dent come October. The gun with the most power and upside is Yordano. They are going to need him.
There are many keys to this team’s success, but none weighing heavier than Moose, Escobar, and Yordano.