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KC Royals Team Preview
by Matt Fargo - 02/12/2008
2007 Record 69 Wins 93 Losses - 5th American League Central
2007 Money -$108 moneyline -$664 Runline 63-88 Over/Under
The Royals lost 93 games last season and while it wasnâ€™t a cause for jubilation, it was the first time in four years that Kansas City had not dropped at least 100 games. Now after four straight years in last place, itâ€™s time to get out of the cellar in the American League Central. With Minnesota likely the rebuilding team of 2008 from that division, it is more than possible. It seems like eons ago but Kansas City was five games over .500 in 2003 and with a strong nucleus of youngsters, an outcome like that isnâ€™t out of the question.
Basically, the offense for Kansas City last season was putrid. The Royals scored just 706 runs, an average of 4.4 per game which was 2nd to last in the American League. They ranked last in the league in home runs, total bases and slugging percentage. Youth was the main reason as they were banking on a lot of youngsters and will do so again but at least there is experience now. The Royals signed Jose Guillen to beef up the offense as his power and his .460 slugging percentage should help the offense produce more runs.
Billy Butler and Alex Gordon could make quantum leaps forward from their rookie seasons. Butler made his debut in 2007 where he hit .292 with eight homers and 52 RBI and his numbers should get much better. The same goes for Gordon who was one of top prospects in baseball last season but finished with only 15 home runs, 60 RBIâ€™s and a .247 average. Catcher John Buck led the club with 18 home runs but only three after the All-Star break. Ryan Shealy, if healthy, could have a breakout season as well.
2008 Starting Pitching
The pitching actually wasnâ€™t bad for the Royals last season and if it got any sort of offense, there would have been a lot more wins. Gil Meche was signed to a suspect contract before last season and he backed it up. He finished 9-13 but posted a solid 3.67 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. His run support was the problem as he received three runs or fewer in 18 of his 31 starts. The surprise last season was Brian Bannister who went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts as a rookie. If he can match that, the one-two punch is solid.
Zack Greinke, who has the stuff and command to be a top-of-the-rotation guy, returned from a psychological leave of absence and pitched tremendous with a 3.69 ERA out of the bullpen and in 14 starts. If he lives up to potential, the one-two-three-punch is solid. After that however, the bottom falls off. Brett Tomko has the inside track for the 4th spot and after his 4-12 and 5.55 ERA in 2007, that is not a good sign. Jorge De La Rosa likely gets the fifth spot not necessarily because of talent but that he is the lone lefty with a shot.
The Royals had a very good bullpen last season and it is rare to put the words â€œgoodâ€쳌 and â€œbullpenâ€쳌 together when talking about this team. They had the worst bullpen ERA in 2006 so their 3.69 ERA was a solid effort. Letâ€™s start with the bad news. David Riske, who had a 2.45 ERA in 65 appearances and was their most reliable, has moved on to the Brewers so it will be up to others to step in and fill the void. That role could go to rookie Yasuhiko Yabuta, where new manager Trey Hillman is familiar with him from Japan.
Closer Joakim Soria had 17 saves and a 2.48 ERA as a rookie and this is with going the entire months of June and July without a save. He is not an overpowering closer but has four quality pitches. Joel Peralta is durable and can be utilized in a variety of roles while Ryan Braun throws hard. The repeat of the success could also be on the arms of three lefties, Ron Mahay, Jimmy Gobble and John Bale all of whom are experienced and posted solid numbers last season. The potential is here but everything must fall into place.
2008 Overall Outlook
Another new manager takes over with Hillman, coming over from Japan where he spent the past five years. It might sound like an odd hire, but he knows how to win as he led his teams to three postseason berths while winning the 2006 Japan Series. Playing in the rugged American League Central does not help the Royalsâ€™ cause so contending probably wonâ€™t be an option. However if the offense can have a breakout season from most of the youngsters, Kansas City could be in good shape to tack on more wins and get to .500.