Kansas City Royals – Predicted Finish: Second Place, AL Central
The Royals have been waiting for next year since 1985, which was not only the last World Series title for the team but the last playoff appearance. Younger fans may not realize this, but the Royals used to be relevant. They went to the playoffs seven times from 1976-85, but have had only one winning season since 1994 to go with four 100-loss seasons during that span.
Well, the Royals are relevant once again. By making arguably the most discussed deal (at least of the deals not including the Miami Marlins) of the hot-stove seasons when they dealt one of the game’s brightest prospects, Wil Myers, for one of its top pitchers, James Shields, Kansas City made it clear that it is no longer playing for the future. The Royals went all-in for 2013 and look to be contender into September for the first time in nearly a decade.
Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Gordon, Butler, Moustakas, Hosmer, and Perez are all young and provide power, so they could feed off each other in the middle of the line-up while Cain and Escobar will provide speed and average along with runs at a cheaper price.
Gordon had a career year in 2011 and Butler is coming off his career year and while both may not match their best totals, if the line-up behind them improves they should settle in nicely for good seasons. Gordon averaged 48 doubles over the last two seasons to go with nearly 20 homers and a .300 average and he should be right around those numbers again. Butler will have a hard time repeating .313-29-107, but he shouldn’t be too far off from that line.
Kansas City needs improvement from Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer and should get it from both guys who are under 25 years old. Moustakas dropped nearly 20 points off his average in his first full season in the bigs, but will bounce back to bring a decent average with solid power numbers. Hosmer fell off a cliff as his average dropped 60 points in his first full season, but his tools make him a likely bounce-back candidate and if the average gets anywhere near decent, the other stats will improve as well.
Perez was a sleeper for many entering last year, but then was injured to start the season. At age 22, he hit over .300 with 11 homers in less than 300 at-bats. He’s the guy you think you can get later in fantasy drafts, but will go earlier than you expect.
Cain and Escobar can both hit just under .300 with about 30 stolen bases and if the heart of the order is as strong as it can be, those numbers will rise along with their run total.
|1 Starter||James Shields||31||R||230||62||17||225||0||3.40||1.10|
|2 Starter||Jeremy Guthrie||34||R||205||59||13||125||0||4.10||1.25|
|3 Starter||Ervin Santana||30||R||200||67||12||150||0||4.27||1.31|
|4 Starter||Wade Davis||27||R||160||69||8||145||0||4.02||1.28|
|5 Starter||Bruce Chen||36||L||200||51||12||147||0||4.28||1.35|
Crackerjack Fantasy Options: Shields is a top fantasy pitcher while Guthrie, Santana, Davis, and Chen could all be valuable late-draft additions.
Shields has thrown at least 200 innings, struck out 160, and won at least 11 games in each of the past six seasons. That’s about as solid of a track record in those categories as you will find and he will exceed each of those numbers once again. His ERA has been less consistent with one year below 3.00, and three seasons between 3.00 and 4.00 with one season above 4.00 and one above 5.00 during that stretch.
Guthrie is on his third team in less than two seasons, but looks to have found a home in KC with a 3.16 ERA in 14 starts last year. He’s hard to trust, but could be a late-draft steal. It’s the same for Santana and Chen, who have a solid upside, but struggle with consistency.
Davis is making the move from the bullpen to a starter and could be limited in his innings as he makes that jump. His stats were solid as a reliever, but expect some struggles as he puts in more innings.
Fantasy Star: Butler
Because he plays in Kansas City, rarely plays in the field, and doesn’t look like an athlete, he is one of the more underrated players in fantasy. Did anyone realize he hit .313 with 29 homers and 107 RBI last year? He ranked in the Top-10 in the AL in batting and RBI, while placing 16th in home runs last year.
He’s only 26, but already has three .300 seasons in the majors, three seasons with at least 90 RBI and two with at least 20 homers. He’s got solid on-base guys ahead of him in the order to give him a solid shot at another 100 RBI and if Moustakas and Hosmer can hit behind him, he could creep close to 85 or 90 runs scored.
Fantasy Bust: Francoeur
He looked like a star for the Braves in 2006-07, but then struggled for three seasons as he was shipped between Atlanta, Texas, and the Mets. He had a revival in 2011 with the Royals before struggling again last season.
With a .235 average and .287 OBP and just 16 homers in 148 games, he wasn’t worthy of being a full-time outfielder last season, but the Royals had no choice but to stick with him. If Kansas City is truly a contender this year, expect them to go shopping for a right fielder around the All-Star break and Francouer will head to the bench where he belongs.
Fantasy Sleepers: Hosmer, Cain
Hosmer should have the season in 2013 that you expected in 2012, but will go later in drafts. If you plan to draft him at the spot you would have taken him last year, you should get him and reap the rewards of a comeback season.
Cain has yet to have a full season in the majors, but if he can keep his spot in the line-up he has the potential to be an undervalued speed and power guy. He could get close to 20 homers and 40 steals. There aren’t many of those guys around and Cain will last longer than any of them in a draft.
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