2015 Season Previews: Kansas City Royals

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks! 

Kansas City Royals

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 72-90 (4th in AL Central, 27th in MLB)

Manager: Ned Yost (373-402 in five seasons with the Royals, 830-904 overall in 11 seasons)

Top Three Players: OF Alex Gordon (4.4), C Salvador Perez (3.6), 3B Mike Moustakas (2.6)

Bounce-back Player: 3B Mike Moustakas

It is hard to say that a player will rebound, especially when they haven’t had a single season of league-average wRC+ in their entire MLB career, but Moustakas is certainly capable of better than he has shown in his career. After dropping to a career-worst .212/.271/.361 triple-slash and 76 wRC+ in 2014, there isn’t really much further down Moustakas can go offensively before he’ll be out of a job. He will get to respectable levels because he won’t have a .220 BABIP, which is heavily weighed down by defensive shifts. Add in the career-low strikeout rate (14.8 percent) and a career-high walk-rate (7.0 percent), and Moustakas, while regressing, is, at the same time, showing progress offensively. Who is Mike Moustakas? Is he the kid who hit 36 home runs in 2010 in the minors at the age of 22, or is he the guy with the .669 OPS over his 1,993 MLB plate appearances. He hasn’t ever really been in the middle, but there is still potential for that, even as he enters only his age-26 season (he seems like he should be older, right?).

"Royals

Fantasy Player to Watch: RHP Yordano Ventura

If you look at the numbers for the Royals pitching staff in 2014, you may wonder why Ventura is a player to watch. He tied for the team lead in wins (14) with James Shields, and was second to Danny Duffy in starter ERA (3.20). The petite right-hander logged 183 innings while averaging 97 mph on his dominating fastball. He will turn 24 in June, and he should improve his command to bring his walk-rate down a bit from the 3.39 that he had in 2014. With the stuff and a bit of control, the sky is the limit for this kid, even if he must continue to overcome the diminutive label. Look for more from the already impressive power-arm.

Offseason Overview: The Royals had an interesting offseason, losing their ace (James Shields), an outfielder (Nori Aoki), and their long-time DH (Billy Butler); however, they filled those holes by signing RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Kris Medlen, OF Alex Rios, and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales. The big question is: is that going to be enough? With Shields gone, the ace of the rotation (at least in label) will likely be RHP Jeremy Guthrie. Volquez isn’t going to replace the production that Shields had, at least (based on his track record) there isn’t enough consistency to warrant his elevation to being considered at top-tier pitcher, and Medlen, after two Tommy John surgeries, has been good, yet, he can’t be counted on. They will, instead, hope to get more production out of Ventura and LHP Danny Duffy to off-set the loss of Shields. A healthy Rios should be an upgrade over Aoki, even with the difference in on-base skills that Rios brings, and Morales was once capable of better production than the .702 OPS and 95 OPS+ that Butler provided from the DH slot in 2014, so they’ll hope for a return to that level with a full offseason to prepare.

The Verdict: PECOTA wasn’t kind to the Royals, just an offseason removed from appearing in the World Series. The AL Central seems quite competitive, especially with the White Sox buying in this winter. The Royals need to see improvements by Moustakas, OF Lorenzo Cain, and their young starting pitching. The additional unknown in year-to-year reliever success can go a long way in the Royals’ future, as well, as the dominance from RHP Greg Holland, RHP Wade Davis, and RHP Kelvin Herrera may not be the same in 2015. While PECOTA, once again, wasn’t very kind, the Royals seem more like, as they were last season, to exceed expectations. They have a lot of good, young talent still, and if things break right, even a little, they are capable of outperforming expectations, just as they did in 2014.

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