Kansas City Royals are Better than the 17th Best Team
By David Hill
One would expect that making a World Series, especially with a roster that was far more reminiscent of the teams of the 1980’s instead of now, would earn the Kansas City Royals a bit more respect. They had become the darlings of the baseball world, that Little Team that Could, making it all the way to Game Seven before succumbing to He Who Shall Not Be Named.
Yes, it is a new season. Yes, the Kansas City Royals have lost pieces like James Shields and Billy Butler. This is not the same team that made the playoffs last year. However, is this team worse than last year’s Royals? Well, David Schoenfield certainly thinks so, ranking the Royals as the 17th best team in baseball with a projected 80-82 record.
The concerns he has about the Kansas City Royals are to be expected. Schoenfield feels that Kendrys Morales is a downgrade from Butler, even after his disappointing 2014 season. He questions the wisdom of signing Alex Rios, due to his “awful” 2014. In fact, he essentially feels that David Glass failed the Royals faithful with these moves, feeling that he did not do anything to reward the fans who stuck by the team.
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So, where to begin with the refutation of these points? First, if Glass is failing the Royals faithful by giving the green light to Dayton Moore to build a team with a payroll that may approach $110 Million, I would take that level of disappointment. Glass has almost quadrupled the Royals payroll since 2011. That seems like making a commitment to building a contending ballclub.
I understand that, looking strictly at the statistics, the moves the Kansas City Royals made are not exactly Earth shattering. However, he fails to recognize that Morales played after missing all of Spring Training and the first two months of the season, and was quite the solid power threat in the four years before that, averaging a .286/.339/.494 batting line with 22 home runs from 2009 through 2013.
Rios may not be a true slugger, but he can’t be worse than Nori Aoki and is likely to bounce back next year. From 2010 through 2013, Rios averaged 17 home runs a year. While he may not hit with the same power in Kansas City, a dozen or so home runs and 35 doubles may not be out of the question. And that disappointing season that Rios had last year? Well, it was worth an OPS+ of 99, compared to the 98 OPS+ that Aoki posted. Yet, a healthy Rios is not an upgrade?
Then there is the matter of replacing Shields. Yes, he was the ace of the Kansas City Royals last season, but Edinson Volquez may be able to replicate his performance. With the Royals excellent defense and spacious ballpark, Volquez seems set up for another solid season next year, so long as he continues to attack the opposition like he did in 2014.
While the Royals bullpen Cerberus of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland is not likely to post the same astonishing season they had last year, the bullpen is much better. Even with the historic performance from the Royals trio, they only finished tenth in baseball with a 3.30 ERA and were 13th with a 1.24 WHiP. Bringing back Luke Hochevar and having Jason Frasor for the entire season will likely help improve those marks.
Are the Kansas City Royals a team without flaws heading into next season? Certainly not. However, David Glass allowed Dayton Moore to have the money he needed to fill the holes the Royals had, while adding power to a team in desperate need of any threat of the long ball. This may not be the prototypical American League lineup, but the Royals were not that last season either. As it turned out, 2014 was a pretty good year.
The Kansas City Royals appear to be improved over last year’s squad. In fact, given the questions surrounding the Tigers and the Indians, the Royals look like a possible playoff team. 80-82? That seems absurdly low.
Last season, the Kansas City Royals proved many people wrong. There is no reason why they cannot do the same thing this year.