In the AL Central, each team has made changes from last year, and you can arguably say those changes have brought overall improvement for each one. This division may surprise some with the level of play expected for 2014. In many ways the time is now for the Royals, and many agree with the assessment that the team has a stellar defense and a great bullpen. We just need to see an improved offense and they might just compete for a playoff position.
The backend of the Royals rotation is not very strong either with Bruce Chen and Jason Vargas filling those spots. They lost Ervin Santana, and threw $32 million at Vargas in a desperate attempt to fill a void. Vargas is a soft-tossing left-hander who gives up the long ball in bulk.
However, they added Norichika Aoki, a speedy outfielder from the Brewers, for a song, and picked up Omar Infante who is underrated, for some $30 million. Those two will bat 1-2 in the lineup and will be good, solid table-setters, for Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Billy Butler. Alex Gordon can now drop from leadoff to the middle of the order where he belongs and will do far more damage. If everybody stays healthy then the Royals will see more RBI production up and down their lineup which will edge them closer to the top of the division in wins. Last year the runs scored difference between themselves and the Detroit Tigers was 148 with the advantage going to the Tigers.
Their minor league system is still in pretty good shape and remember, two years ago everybody was heaping praise on the Royals prospects. Kyle Zimmer, a right-handed pitcher, should make the starting rotation at some point this year. Although he was shut down due to shoulder soreness, he should be fine, according to reports. Left-Handed pitcher Sean Manaea is a sleeper candidate. He had a 96 mph fastball with a wipeout breaking ball prior to hip surgery. If he recovers well from that, he can prove to be a great addition for their staff.
And keep in mind where the GM and Manager cut their teeth in acquiring their skills, the Atlanta Braves, where Dayton Moore(GM), and Ned Yost(Manager) were while the Braves had their great run. They know how to win and what it takes to build a strong system.
The Royals have their best team, easily, this year when compared to the last two decades with a true chance to reach the postseason. It will be a tough challenge to overcome the Tigers and the Indians, but the speculation here is they will finish second in their division. That is inline for a possible wild card slot. Royals’ fans should be excited that the team has advanced to this point. Being a perennial contender in a tough division.