Kansas City Royals Enter Spring Training As Underdogs

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<img class="size-full wp-image-70998" src="https://kingsofkauffman.com/wp-content/uploads/usat-images/2016/04/9889898-mlb-kansas-city-royals-media-day.jpeg" alt="Feb 20, 2017; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals players Eric Hosmer (35) and Jason Hammel (39) pose for a photo during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports” width=”5184″ height=”3456″ /> Feb 20, 2017; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals players Eric Hosmer (35) and Jason Hammel (39) pose for a photo during spring training photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas City Royals once again are a team few people believe will succeed, despite winning back-to-back American League pennants in 2014-15.

One  year ago, the KC Royals were defending World Champions. While PECOTA, and most other publicly available projection systems predicted a below .500 finish, pundits around the league considered those predictions something of a joke. Generally, the Royals were expected to contend. Most considered the Chicago Cubs the World Series favorite, but Kansas City was at least viewed as a threat.

Now, pretty much the only people who believe in the Royals reside in the Kansas City area—or at least within their extended regional market. Manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star that he has a good team. Most analysts around major-league baseball don’t agree.

PECOTA projects 71 wins for the Kansas City Royals, which is the second lowest win expectation in major-league baseball. Fangraphs.com is a little more hopeful, but still only predicts 75 victories. FanSided partner 120 Sports thinks 80 wins is about right. The general consensus is the KC Royals are less talented than last year’s club.

SI.com summed up Kansas City’s off-season the following way:

The Royals have done a nice job given the difficult circumstances, but they are undoubtedly a worse team this spring than last. The rotation took a huge hit, and the bullpen—the strength of the team when it won the AL pennant in 2014 and ’15 and the World Series in the latter year—has lost much of the depth and talent that made it so formidable. 

The Royals will replace Morales in the aggregate, but Moss and Soler are power-first guys, not classic high-on-base batters, which is what the team could use after finishing next-to-last in the AL last year in OBP.

The core of their championship run is there for one more season, before standbys like first baseman Eric Hosmer, shortstop Alcides Escobar and centerfielder Lorenzo Cain reach free agency. But unless one of their acquisitions has a career-year, it will be hard for Kansas City to get back to the postseason.

If you want the view of those who gamble, Vegasinsider.com lists the KC Royals as 40-1 to win the 2017 World Series. That’s right in the middle of the major-league pack along with the Baltimore Orioles. In many ways such a rating isn’t surprising. As CBSSports.com’s Matt Snyder put it in his power rankings, the Royals could either win it all or completely collapse. 

I think that’s a fair assessment. If the KC Royals fall out of contention by the trading deadline, Dayton Moore will probably sell off a number of players in the final years of their contract. Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alcides Escobar could all find themselves on the trading block to jump start a rebuild.

On the other hand, if the Kansas City Royals can sneak into the playoffs, this is a team filled with players who know they can win in the post-season.

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