The Kansas City Royals are not built in the conventional manner of most of the other top teams in baseball. Perhaps it is not a surprise that there is such a wide discrepancy as to the expectations for the Royals.
It is difficult to predict a team like the Kansas City Royals. As a team built on the concepts of speed and contact on offense, and a heavy reliance upon their bullpen and defense, the Royals just do not seem to project well in preseason predictions. That was certainly the case last season, when Kansas City used not only their desire to take care of unfinished business, but the expectation that they would fall back to mediocrity, as the driving forces behind their World Series title.
While most predictions last season had the Royals returning to the bottom of the American League, this year is quite different. In fact, given the Royals recent run of success, it seems that no one is quite sure what to make of Kansas City this season. That certainly explains the differing opinions this season.
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First, let us start with the bad news. PECOTA projections, despite the connection in name to former Royals infielder Bill Pecota, once again does not have a favorable view of Kansas City’s chances this season. In fact, PECOTA predicts the Royals to finish at 76-86, last in the Central. Fangraphs.com has a slightly more positive view of the Royals, predicting them to end up at 79-83, one game above the Twins for fourth.
However, not all of the projections are bad. ESPN predicts the Royals to not only win the Central again, but rates them as their fourth best team heading into the 2016 season with a 92-70 record. Meanwhile, the Atlantis Race and Sports Book has the Royals over/under for wins set at 87. Which side is more likely to be correct?
Maybe the moves the Royals made during the offseason did not move the needle. Yes, retaining Alex Gordon meant a lot to the franchise, but let us face facts, Gordon would not have the same impact on any other franchise. Joakim Soria may have been the best reliever in free agency, but he gets lost as a part of the Royals bullpen Cerberus. Ian Kennedy is an innings eater, but his 2011 season, when he went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.086 WHiP, appears to be far behind him.
And yes, there are questions about the lineup. Mike Moustakas had a tremendous breakout season, but can he preform at the same leve? Can the Royals really afford to have Alcides Escobar lead off for another season? Do the Royals have a second baseman or a right fielder?
But let us not forget that the Royals have a knack for getting the most out of their players. Ned Yost has gone from the village idiot to arguably the greatest manager in Royals history in the span of two years. Dayton Moore has displayed an incredible knack for making the right moves. Would you really want to bet against them?
The Kansas City Royals may have won the World Series last year, but that is not going to stop others from underestimating them this season. If the Royals needed any more motivation for this year, those projections may provide that familiar chip on their shoulder.