The second in a series of looks at the competition for the crown in the mediocrity that is the 2010 AL Central.
Dates we play them: 5/3-5/5 at home, 5/14-5/16, 6/28-6/30 @ KC, 7/9-7/11 at home, 8/20-8/22 @ KC, 9/10-9/12 at home
Offense: A potential line-up: Scott Podsednik-LF, Chris Getz-2B, Billy Butler-1B, Jose Guillen-DH, David DeJesus-RF, Rick Ankiel-CF, Alex Gordon-3B, Yuniesky Betancourt-SS, Jason Kendall-C. Bench- Alberto Callaspo-UTIL, Brian N. Anderson-OF, Willie Bloomquist-UTIL, Brayan Peña-C, Josh Fields-CI/OF/DH.
Gross. The Royals have the worst offense in the AL Central. Unfortunately for fans in the city of fountains, the Royals lack the great or even average defense of other punchless teams. If it weren't for their pitching, I would refer to them as the Glass Joe of the league. Scott Podsednik, I am so happy you're gone. I love you for what you've done for us, but I got so tired of seeing this, this, and this. Someday I'll be able to think with nostalgia, til then I'll think of you as what you are: a 34-year old slap hitter with leg issues and mediocre at best defense. Never change. Chris Getz is another person who needs little intro. Mr. Glass can be a useful player if he gets his walk rate back up and can stay healthy. The former is much more likely than the latter. He's fast and a great thief (25-27 last year), but unlikely to play in more than 120 games. Billy Butler is the best hitter on the team, and that is not meant as a back-handed compliment. Butler turned it on in the second half, to the tune of a .314/.385/.540 line with 13 homers in 73 games. He hit 51 doubles last year. Expect that number to drop some this year with a slight bump in homeruns coming with that. The only true knocks on him are that he's slow and kind of crappy at defense. He turns 24 in April, so the Royals should have at least one budding star hitter for a while. We follow that bright spot with perhaps the worst contract on the team (I don't count Kyle Farnsworth because I find him to be awesome). You might wonder why I have such an expensive black-hole batting fourth. The answer is Trey Hillman. The man is a horrible manager. Last year Mike Jacobs hit fourth 62 times (.576 OPS hitting 4th) and Guillen hit fourth 49 times (.618 OPS). Obviously numbers are not part of this equation. Luckily for them, this is the last year on the less-talented and vocal version of Milton Bradley's contract.
David DeJesus has had the misfortune of being a Royals lifer. He hasn't been worth less than 2.6 WAR since before we won the World Series. While he can't play center anymore, he's pretty good in the corners. He's a good player who rarely gets noticed outside of the sabr-community. I hope Dayton trades him somewhere good. Remember when Rick Ankiel was supposed to be the next great pitcher and then this happened? And then remember how he was supposed to make it as a power-hitting outfielder and then he went all Aaron Rowand last May? He should bounce back slightly next season, but switching leagues and injuries will likely stop him from returning to his 07-08 numbers. He may start this year on the disabled list, which would most likely result in Mitch Meier playing left and Scotty Pods playing center. Ankiel should be playing in a corner, but Hillman is Hillman. The Next George Brett hasn't quite turned out like he was supposed to. Injuries and slumps have dominated Alex Gordon's career so far, but he is only 26 and was a 2.4 WAR player as a 24-year old. If he stays healthy (he currently has a broken thumb), he could be a good player. The Hall of Fame dreams have died though. Yunieski Betancourt is terrible. He was the worst position player in the majors last year according to WAR (-2.2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). He can't hit, run, field, or draw a walk. He really does nothing and will hit the bench as soon as Mike Aviles is healthy and ready to play. Jason Kendall is heading into his 15th season in the bigs and plays like it. His speed and power have long since left, though his defense hasn't completely crapped out. Thanks to the wonderful Dayton Moore, the Royals are on the hook for $6 million over the next two years for the soon to be 36-year old catcher.
Pitching: A potential rotation and closer: Zack Greinke-RHP, Gil Meche-RHP, Brian Bannister-RHP, Luke Hochevar-RHP, Kyle Davies-RHP, Joakim Soria-CL.
Zack Greinke is one of the top two pitchers in baseball and is the reigning AL Cy Young winner. He was two strikeouts away from the franchise last year and did it in 40 less innings. He thrives off his mid-90s fastball and slider, throwing in a curveball and changeup as well. He also has the type of personality that makes him very fun to follow. Gil Meche is one of, if not the best, free agent signings Moore has pulled off in KC. Last year was the first season he didn't surpass his contract value, and this was mostly due to not pitching the entire last month and a heightened BABIP. He probably won't get completely back to 07-08 form this year, but something between those seasons and last year's numbers seem like a safe bet. Brian Bannister, son of former 66 game winner for the White Sox Floyd Bannister, will be the number three or four guy in the rotation this season. He attended the same high school as Paul Konerko, and both of their numbers were retired there 3 years ago. Bannister is most well-known for being a major league who actually loves and uses advanced statistics. He only gets around 100Ks a year, and lives on the razor's edge because of it. He's been good the past two years, and now that he has a quality cutter he should have more success as a groundballer. Hochevar is still trying to not completely fail at living up to his potential. The number one overall pick in the 2006 draft, Luke hasn't even come close to living up to expectations. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but the other shoe has often dropped. Davies is one of Moore's Atlanta Guys. He came to KC on the 2007 trade deadline for Octavio Dotel. He's decent at the back of the rotation, but will never be anything more than a fifth starter and probably wouldn't be that on a contending team. Joakim Soria is just as awesome as his nickname (The Mexicutioner). His K:BB ratios is sublime (4.31). One of the best Rule 5 draft selections in recent memory, Soria dominates with a low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, and 70mph curveball.
Outlook: The Royals are still a few years from contending, but have a solid farm system. With a new owner, manager, and general manager, they may actually have a chance. While they'll be competing with the Cleveland Indians for 4th place in the Central this season, they'll still play us well. Prediction: 12-6.