Who will be the biggest rival for the KC Royals in 2024?

To contend, Kansas City must get by this team
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of appeal to the upcoming KC Royals season. The club's developing young talent and an offseason packed with player acquisitions offer new hope for a competitive campaign. If the Royals are to cause a stir in the American League Central Division, they'll have to show they can stand up to their division rivals over the grind of the 162-game schedule.

Kansas City probably won't win the American League pennant, or even the Central, but if things go right for the club, it could contend for a Wild Card spot. Who will be their biggest divisional rival as they try to shake up the race for the playoffs?

The KC Royals' biggest rival could be Detroit

The Royals can fight for the division title, but it's a long shot as the season begins. Minnesota is currently projected to post an 84-78 record, compared to the Royals' 76-86. There will be some insight to be gained from how the Royals perform against the Twins, but they will need to surpass expectations by a substantial margin to take down Minnesota.

But another division rival offers a much better opportunity for the Royals. Just like Kansas City, Detroit is trying to successfully transition from years of dwelling at the bottom of the Central. The Tigers already took their first step last season with a 78-84 record to overtake Cleveland for second place.

The fact that a team finished 78-84 offers perspective as to why Kansas City is in any discussion as a potential underdog contender this year — the Royals will be hard-pressed to take down a Tiger team improving just as quickly as they are. The Tigers have a burgeoning young core of their own and, unlike the Royals, enough homegrown pitching talent to form a dangerous rotation.

Remember, though, that Detroit's projected 79-83 record for Detroit is only slightly better than the Royals' 76-86. That's a negligible margin with so many potential developments, such as trades and injuries, that can occur during a long season. Will the Royals' overhauled roster be strong enough to get the job done and overtake the Tigers?

Fresh optimism about the Royals suggests little limit to this season. Vinnie Pasquantino recently told MLB.com Royals beat writer Anne Rogers this: "We’re coming. It’s time. There’s expectations on this team now for the first time in a few years. And that’s exciting for us. It’s exciting for fans. You can’t guarantee anything because that would just be dumb on my part to say anything, but within this team, we’re looking at the division. We want the AL Central. We’re tired of looking at the Twins and Guardians. It’s time to bring playoff baseball back to Kansas City, and that’s what we’re looking for."

In all probability, the Royals will have to overtake Detroit if they want to secure a Wild Card berth. With so many contenders in the AL East and West, it's unlikely a playoff spot will open for the third-place team in the Central. Without much margin for error, the depth of its roster will play a pivotal role in ensuring Kansas City doesn't suffer extended slumps, and that's something the club must do to be vying for a playoff spot down the stretch.

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