Mar 22, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) follows through on a swing against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Opening Day is only a few days away, and I’ve been taking a look at the teams in the American League Central. You can see my previews of the White Sox here, and the Tigers here. Next up: Kansas City Royals.
2013 Record: 86-76
Standing: 3rd place, American League Central
The Royals have only been getting better the past few years. If there is a time for the Royals to strike and make a run for the playoffs, 2014 is it. Outside of James Shields, one of baseball’s elite pitchers, the rotation is lacking upside. The Royals offense will need to kick it up a notch if the club wants to surpass their 86 win season a year ago and try to overtake Detroit in the division. Kansas City’s offense is fairly young, and should be an exciting group to watch this season.
Who to watch for:
Sep 11, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher James Shields (33) pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the seventh inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Shields is one of baseball’s best right handed starting pitchers and is entering a contract year. I expect Shields to post better numbers than last year and potentially be in talks for the CY Young mid-season. He could also be traded mid-season, as there isn’t much indication as of yet whether or not the Royals can extend him. His performance can bring back a nice package of prospects.
Infante signed a four year, 30.25 million deal to play in Kansas City this offseason. He, along with outfielder Norichika Aoki, will be nice additions atop Kansas City’s lineup. Infante, 32, finished last season with a .318/.345/.450 line.
Sep 17, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
The Dominican Republic native looks to arrive in Kansas City for a full season in 2014. There is a lot of faith in Ventura, 23 in June, to have a major impact in Kansas City’s rotation. He has electric stuff, and has fared very well in Spring Training this year with a 1.77 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched.
Valencia makes this list as a former Twin. He was traded to Kansas City from Baltimore, where he had some success last season. In 161 at-bats last year, Valencia finished with a .304 avg, 8 HR and 23 RBI in 52 games. He will be a competent back up to current starter Mike Moustakas. Should Moustakas struggle, Valencia could see more playing time.
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Hosmer, only 24, is one of the most promising young players in all of baseball. This could be even more of a breakout campaign for Hosmer, who finished 2013 with a solid .304 avg, 17 HR and 79 RBI.
Can the Twins beat them?
It’s always a fun series with close, exciting games between the Twins and the Royals. Kansas City should have the upper hand, but expect the Twins to make things interesting as they always do.
2014 Predicted Finish: 2nd Place, AL Central