Article Written By: Manny Alcala
Kansas City Royals
2013 Record: 86-76 (3rd place in AL Central)
Key additions: Norichika Aoki, Omar Infante, Jason Vargas.
Key losses: Ervin Santana (unsigned), George Kottaras, David Lough.
Most important players for 2014: Alex Gordon, James Shields, Norichika Aoki, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante.
The Royals time is now! After getting consistently better little by little in recent years they now have to enter this season with the mentality that their team is ready to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. Last year they got to feel what it was to play important games late in the season, but they fell short of wild card berth finishing 5.5 games behind in the wild card standings.
Resigning Ervin Santana would be a big move for the Royals in their search for making the playoffs, but it seems that Kansas City feels comfortable with the starters they have already. They did sign Jason Vargas already and recently resigned Bruce Chen as well. Not only that, but the Royals also have some young pitchers in Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy who could fill up the final spots in the rotation.
“Big Game” James Shields will be the ace of this staff. He pitched well last season and is now looking to improve in his second year with Kansas City and his final year before becoming a free agent. Shields is known to throw plenty of innings as he has exceeded the 200 innings pitched mark in every year except his rookie season. Expect him to have even a better year in 2014 with his great assortment of pitches.
The two biggest moves this off-season for the Royals were the additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante. Aoki came via a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers. Aoki didn’t get much attention playing for the Brewers, but he should get recognized more now. His numbers from the lead-off spot in the lineup can be compared with the leagues best lead-off hitters and you might be impressed at where he ranks in some categories. To top it off, he is also a plus defender in the outfield.
Infante is a player every team would want in the clubhouse. Although the Royals want him to play at second base, Omar is the type of player who can play pretty much anywhere on the field. He always battles at the plate and doesn’t strikeout often. Coming off a season where Infante hit .318, you can look for him to be hitting above the .300 mark again for this upcoming season and make a great duo atop of the lineup with Aoki hitting in front of him.
Believe in the Royals this season as they seem to be playoff bound. Alex Gordon will be the leader of the lineup and will most likely bat third, removing him from his usual lead-off spot after the Royals got Aoki. The starting pitching depth and the bullpen are two crucial things that will also carry this team, Greg Holland will solidify himself as one of the best closers in baseball as he already showed us that he can handle the job. Look for the Royals to be in the race for the AL central division, but a wild card berth looks much more probable.