Christopher Reina. 2nd April, 2010 - 12:34 am
The Royals had their first legitimate superstar season ever since Carlos Beltran was traded with Zack Greinke deservingly winning the AL Cy Young with a remarkable 2.16 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 229.1 innings. Greinke had little support from teammates either at the plate or on the mound and Kansas City had their 14th losing mark out of the last 15 post-strike seasons.
2009 Opsera Finish: 29th
What Happened In The Winter
Dayton Moore's tenure as GM of the Royals has been filled with nonsensical move after nonsensical move and this offseason he acquired several veterans off the scrap heap that do little to make the club better in the short or long term.
Moore gave Jason Kendall a two-year, $6M contract, while investing more sensibly on Rick Ankiel with a one-year deal worth $3.25M, which includes a mutual option for 2011.
He also added Scott Podsednik to play left field, which means two-thirds of the Kansas City outfield will be new in 2010.
They also kept Brian Anderson on a one-year deal, but he now apparently wants to convert into a pitcher.
More impressively, Moore signed Cuban defector Noel Arguelles to a $6.9M deal, a fraction of the price it cost Cincinnati to sign Aroldis Chapman.
The Royals also did well to recoup Chris Getz and Josh Fetz for Mark Teahen, who probably would have been non-tendered.
Building a winner in Kansas City, even in the winnable AL Central, will ultimately come down to how Moore drafts and how the organization develops that talent. Until they get the kind of core in place that a team like Tampa Bay has, free agency will mostly be just a lot of noise.
Royals Offensive Preview
The Royals ranked near the bottom of the AL in nearly every statistical, including OPS and runs most important, but somehow they led all of baseball with 51 triples. Leading the MLB in triples is a somewhat dubious distinction since it means there were probably a lot of warning track shots and not as many homers as they would have liked, which was the case with the Royals hitting just 144 (24th).
From top to bottom, the Kansas City lineup is below average slot for slot compared to the rest of the league.
The middle of the order will be Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Alberto Callaspo and Ankiel.
Butler had a clear breakout season in 2009, increasing his OPS from .724 to .853. It was a necessary jump for the 14th overall pick of the 2004 draft. His splits are entertaining with a home/away of 1.027/.679, 1st half/2nd half of .789/.925 and righty/lefty of .805/.966. He struggled a bit in early Spring, but he is starting to get going now that he is more comfortable.
DeJesus pretty much is what he is at this point and doesn't deviate too much from year to year. He has increased his pop a little bit and his 2009 OPS of .781 was a little better than advertised since he got off to such a slow start and also because of his BAbip drop. DeJesus continues to struggle against lefties, which is unlikely to change in 2010.
In his first regular duty season, Callaspo had an OPS of .813 (.356/.457). He's better on the left side of the plate and also at home, but he is a bat the Royals need in the lineup even if he doesn't really have a position.
After a shocking comeback in 2007 in which he hit for an OPS of .863 and an .843 in 2008, Ankiel came crashing back down in 2009 with a .672 OPS (.285 OBP). Ankiel had to be carted off the field after running into the outfield wall in May of last season and he never recovered. He will never hit lefties very well, but he is clearly better than he was in 2009 and should at least give the Royals some necessary pop.
Gordon, who was the second overall pick in the famed 2005 draft hasn't had nearly the same kind of success as Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowtizki, etc. The 2009 season was largely a rain out because of hip surgery, but he finished the season with promise due to an .830 OPS (.359/.471) in 79 plate appearances. In order for the Royals to be competitive either in 2010 or 2011, they will need significant production from a player that have invested heavily in, but he broke his right thumb in Spring Training as the injury bug continues.
Jose Guillen is still around and thankfully it will be the final season of his three-year, $36M deal. It is one of the worst contracts we have seen as Adam Katz more than doubled his annual salary over a length of three seasons. His OPS in his first Kansas City season predictably dropped from .813 to .738 and was just .681 in 2009, compounded by his ankle and back injuries.
Up the middle in the infield will be Getz and Yuniesky Betancourt, both of whom will likely have an OPS under .700.
Podsednik had a healthy 2009 and a productive OBP of .353, more in line with the 2003 he's been trying to recapture ever since when he was the ROY runner-up with Milwaukee.
Defensively, the Royals were one of the worst in baseball with the notable exception of DeJesus in left field, who will be moving to right to replace the awful Guillen.
Royals Pitching Preview
As brilliant as Greinke was in 2009, establishing himself as one of the truest aces in the game, the Royals still had an ERA of 4.83 (12th in AL). His stuff is electric and he will be around as a perennial Cy Young candidate for a very long time.
Gil Meche, the $55M man, has two more $12M seasons of a contract the Royals can't get out from under quickly enough. His ERA elevated from 3.98 to 5.09 with his K/9 rate dropping as much as his walk rate increased. He should improve if he's healthy because his bad 2009 numbers came towards the end right before he shut it down.
Save for a couple random starts, 2006 first overall pick Luke Hochevar still hasn't come close to becoming an effective starter. He had a 6.55 ERA in 143 innings and a 6.7 K/9 rate. The Royals continue to stick with him even though he has been roughed up in Spring Training. He must absolutely limit his homers allowed, which was at 1.4 per nine innings in 2009.
Brian Bannister and Kyle Davies fill out the back end of the rotation. Bannister had a 0.69 ERA through his first two starts of 2009, but nobody expected that to persist and it didn't. Davies had a 5.27 ERA and like Hochevar, he was prone to giving up the long ball and was fortunate his numbers weren't worse.
Kyle Farnsworth is trying to convert into a starter, but I expect to see him in relief work unless Meche can't return.
While Kansas City's rotation is Michael and a bunch of Titos, they at least have Joakim Soria closing. Soria had a 2.21 ERA and a 11.7 K/9 rate, making him one of the best closers in baseball in 2009.
Supporting him will be likely Farnsworth, who always strikes people out even when he's bad, along with Juan Cruz, who can't be any worse than he was in 2009 after being an interesting arbitration case the previous winter. The Royals also have Roman Colon and Robinson Tejada, but they don't really have a reliable southpaw specialist.
What Are Their 2010 Chances?
The AL Central is the most winnable division in baseball, but I don't see any chance of the Royals being the victors to play the AL East winner unless David Glass can find a way for Wal-Mart to reproduce Greinke a couple times over.
Unless there is some sort of magic that I have yet to see even the seed of, I can't imagine Dayton Moore turning this thing around for the Royals. Kansas City routinely has had some of the highest picks and they've had far too many Mike Stodolkas and Chris Lubanskis than Zack Greinkes. Until they can string together a few Greinkes and even a Butler or two, the Royals will continue to finish either fourth or fifth in the division.
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