The Royals Will Once Again Reign

The Royals’ chances in 2013 are looking good according to off-season decisions

Billy Butler and his Royal teammates celebrate a walk-off homerun in 2012

Billy Butler and his Royal teammates celebrate a walk-off homerun in 2012

The Kansas City Royals, a franchise that hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 1985, could be a dark-horse to win the American League Central in 2013.  The off-season moves that the Royals made this winter have given this franchise the talent it has been lacking for several decades.

The Royals’ starting pitching in 2012 was abysmal, posting a 7.14 ERA as a staff.  Inconsistency and durability among the starting pitchers was a major problem.  The Royals started thirteen different pitchers last year.  In an effort to fix the starting-pitching problem, the Royals traded minor-league pitcher Brandon Sisk to the Los Angeles Angels for Ervin Santana and cash.  Santana, 31, played nine seasons in Los Angeles, where he was 96-80 with a 4.33 ERA.  The right-hander will add durability to the Royals starting pitching, as well.  He has started at least 23 games in eight consecutive seasons.  The off-season moves didn’t stop with Santana.  The Tampa Bay Rays sent right-handed pitchers James ShieldsWade Davis and a player to be named or cash considerations to the Royals for outfielder Wil Myers, right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi, left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery and third-basemen Patrick Leonard.  Shields, 31, was in the Rays organization for seven seasons, going 87-73 with a 3.89 ERA.  He has won at least 11 games in six consecutive seasons, which equals the highest win total of any Royals pitcher last year.  Bruce Chen won just 11 games in 34 starts for the Royals in 2012.  Veteran pitchers George Sherrill, 35, and Dan Wheeler, 36, agreed to minor league contracts in an effort to help develop the Royals’ young talent.  Shortly after Wheeler and Sherrill made the move to go to Kansas City, veteran outfielders Willy Taveras, Xavier Nady and Endy Chavez agreed to minor league contracts with the Royals, as well.  Infielder Miguel Tejada, a six-time all-star, was the last of the veteran players to agree to a minor league contract with the Royals for 2013.  With all of these new additions, the Royals have the talent, postseason experience and toughness to contend for the American League Central division title.  But, Kansas City sports fans know better than any other sports fans in America that division titles aren’t won on paper (see: Kansas City Chiefs 2012-13 season).

Not everyone on the Royals’ roster played as poorly as the starting pitching in 2012.  The Royals are returning a talented, young core-group of players for this season.  Designated hitter Billy Butler, the team’s only all-star from last year, looks poised to build on his monster 2012 season.  Butler played in 161 of 162 games last season, posting a .313 batting average with a team-high 29 homeruns and 107 RBI.  He was awarded the Silver Slugger Award for all designated hitters.  Catcher, Salvador Perez, made an immediate impact after sitting out the first half of the season with an ACL tear.  He played in just 76 games, but posted a .301 batting average with 11 homeruns and 39 RBI.  Behind the plate, he caught 18 of 25 base-stealers and committed only four errors.  This 22-year-old sensation is going to be one of the best catchers in the American League for many years to come.  Fan-favorite, Mike Moustakas, struggled at the plate toward the end of last season, but the potential is there.  He finished 2012 with a .242 batting average, 20 homeruns and 73 RBI.  Shortstop, Alcides Escobar, showed why he might be one of the best shortstops in the American League.  He had a .293 batting average with 5 homeruns and 52 RBI.  But, Escobar isn’t the type of player that is going to hit 25 homeruns per year.  He has speed.  In 2012, Escobar stole 35 bases and scored 68 runs.  And, in the field, he can get to almost any ball hit to the left side of the infield.  First basemen, Eric Hosmer, has plenty of motivation to have a break-out year after struggling at the plate for a majority of last season.  He played in 152 games, but only managed to post a .232 batting average with 14 homeruns and 60 RBI.   A player with his ability and potential can’t be held down at the plate for two straight seasons.  Left fielder, Alex Gordon, should be focused and ready to perform in 2013.  After having a breakout 2011 season, Gordon struggled to consistently produce at the plate last year.  He had a .294 batting average with 14 homeruns and 72 RBI.  But, he didn’t let his offensive woes effect his play in the field.  Gordon won his second-consecutive Rawlings Golden Glove Award in left field.

Ned Yost, the manager of the Kansas City Royals, has to push all of the right buttons in 2013 to contend for the AL Central title.  And some baseball experts think he will do just that.  Sporting News named Ned Yost its preseason AL Manager of the Year.  He knows how to win.  Yost was on the Atlanta Braves’ coaching staff from 1991 – 2002,  where he helped win 10 consecutive division titles except for the strike-shortened 1994 season.

This Royals team is the most talented group of players that Kansas City has seen in decades.  The fans of Kansas City want and deserve to support a competitive professional franchise.  The Royals are aware of the city’s recent frustrations.  If the Royals can find a way to play to their potential for the full 162-game season, then they will be in contention for an AL Central title. This Royals team has the potential to be a special and historic group of men.