The KC Royals lost Ryan Madson to free-agency and Greg Holland to Tommy John surgery last September. However, former starter Danny Duffy will now take over as the staff lefty to open the 2016 season. Former Royals closer Joakim Soria returns to KC to replace Madson as set-up man for closer Wade Davis. Kelvin Herrera remains to continue the Kansas City Royals now-traditional strong bullpen trio.
Dillon Gee came over from the Mets to become the KC Royals long man, along with reclamation project Chien-Ming Wang. Luke Hochevar remains in middle relief, but is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery in 2014.
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Jeurys Familia remains the NY Mets closer, despite allowing three blown saves in the 2015 World Series. The Mets poor infield defense, which might be somewhat improved with the departure of the rock-gloved Daniel Murphy, bears more of the blame than Familia.
Addison Reed is still the set-up man, but the Mets lost Tyler Clippard to free-agency. Antonio Bastardo comes over from the Pirates to replace Clippard. New York lost long men Jon Niese (trade) and Dillon Gee (free-agency) over the winter, but figure to get back no. 5 starter Zack Wheeler. Until Wheeler returns, Bartolo Colon will open the season in the rotation, but figures to take over the long-relief role.
Last season, the KC Royals shot out of the gate with seven straight wins fueled in part by anger at humble pre-season projections from most pundits. The Royals also cited losing the 2014 World Series with the tying run 90 feet away for creating a burning motive to repeat in 2015.
The big sub-plot of the 2016 opener is if the Mets will show a similar early-season fire after blowing late leads in three out their four losses in the 2015 World Series. New York can also play the “disrespected” card since pundits and fans across American have crowned NL rival Chicago Cubs as prohibitive favorites in 2016.
I’m sure the Mets aren’t too happy about that.
On the other side, the Kansas City Royals could establish themselves as a dynasty with a championship repeat in 2016. Once again, sabermetric projection systems think little of their chances and rate them among the worst teams in the American League. PECOTA sees 76 wins for the defending World Champions, while Fangraphs.com projections 77 wins. However, those predictions have been largely ignored by human analysts, who regularly rank the KC Royals among the top 5 teams in MLB.
Sunday’s game promises to have an October feel with both defending league champions facing off against one another to create over-the-top Opening Day hype. Add in speculation about Kansas City retaining possible anger about Noah Syndergaard‘s opening pitch chin music to Alcides Escobar to being Game 3, along with both teams feeling “disrespected” the begin 2016, and baseball fans will have a spicy brew to savor on Sunday.