Kansas City Royals: AL Central Rivals Preview

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Apr 3, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A vender selling score cards, as fans file into Kauffman Stadium before opening night between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; A vender selling score cards, as fans file into Kauffman Stadium before opening night between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 21, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Byron Buxton (25) bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at CenturyLink Sports Complex. The Pirates shut out the Twins 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2016; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins designated hitter Byron Buxton (25) bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game at CenturyLink Sports Complex. The Pirates shut out the Twins 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Minnesota Twins

2015 Finish: (83-79)

Major Additions: 1B Byung-Ho Park, C John Ryan Murphy

Fangraphs Projection: 77-84 5th place

The Twins shocked the baseball world by reeling off a winning season and hanging into the wild card race deep into September. Though Minnesota won with a bit of smoke and mirrors (they got some VERY favorable hit sequencing to score a lot more runs than expected), they showed a tantalizing taste of their youthful potential.

More from Kings of Kauffman

22-year-old DH Miguel Sano absolutely crushed the ball in the second half slashing .269/.385/.530 with 18 home runs in only 335 plate appearances. 23-year-old Eddie Rosario showed promise with a solid .748 OPS in right, 26-year-old Eduardo Escobar matured to contribute a 2.0 WAR season at shortstop.

Also, former no. 1 overall rated prospect Bryon Buxton made his debut at age 21, but struggled with a mere .576 OPS in 46 games.

The Twins have decided to give their young talent plenty of room to grow in 2016 by adding few free-agents to clog the way.

Rotation

  1. Ervin Santana
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Kyle Gibson
  4. Ricky Nolasco
  5. Tommy Milone

Closer: Glen Perkins

Lineup

  1. CF Bryon Buxton
  2. 2B Brian Dozier
  3. 1B Joe Mauer
  4. RF Miguel Sano
  5. 3B Trevor Plouffe
  6. LF Eddie Rosario
  7. DH Byung-Ho Park
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Eduardo Escobar

The Twins remind me of the Kansas City Royals in 2012. They’re really a couple of years away from contention, despite last season’s over-.500 record.

Their biggest problem is their horrible rotation. They simply don’t have enough arms to stay in games. To win in 2016, they’re going to need a big comeback from 2014 free-agent success story Phil Hughes, who collapsed to 11-9, 4.40 ERA in 155.1 IP after a solid 16-10, 3.52 ERA in 209.2 IP in 2014. Not only must they get a bounce back from Hughes, Ervin Santana will need to pitch like he did for the Kansas City Royals in 2013, and Ricky Nolasco will need to provide something besides the batting practice quality pitching he’s produced the last two seasons.

Along with some unlikely success from the rotation, the Twins will need a big step forward from the young guns in the lineup. The bottom line is that Minnesota needs too many coins to land on heads to challenge the Kansas City Royals in 2016.

Next: Royals Hitters Patience In The Clutch Helps Explain Success

I see the playoff-hardened Kansas City Royals with the clear edge to win the AL Central to open the season. Their confidence and team chemistry should carry them to their second straight AL Central title despite tougher competition.

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