Offseason Swap Series: Kansas City Royals
Staff Special | On 07, Nov 2011
By Matt Van Wormer
The Kansas City Royals are a team much like the Cleveland Indians. They rely on their strong farm system to develop talent while being very strategic and careful with their Free Agent signings. While the Royals haven’t been able to produce a playoff run for quite some time, they are always offering their fans a glimmer of hope. The 2011 season saw them come out of the gate quickly, only to fade away before the All Star break. I was able to have some correspondence with Michael Engel at KingsOfKauffman.com and he answered five questions about his home team to give us some insight as to what is on the horizon for the boys in (Royal) blue.
DTTWLN? 1 – At the outset of the 2011 season, the Royals were the biggest contender the Tribe had, holding at least a share of second place until May 13th. Do you see the hot start for the Royals in the same realm as the Indians hot start (still probably a year away but cause for hope)?
The Royals used late inning heroics and a hot start by the bullpen to jump out to a nice record early last year. Some optimistic Royals fans wondered if we could catch a break here or there, could this be a playoff team? Ultimately, things changed and the Royals started to slump a bit, finally cooling off. What’s intriguing is the way the Royals played after the All-Star Break. As opposed to last year’s early start, a hot August and September included players like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Johnny Giavotella and Salvador Perez, none of whom were in Kansas City during April and only Hosmer was there before May 13th.
The offense will give the Royals a chance to win more games than they did last year – whether they start to contend depends on their pitching.
For whatever reason, Billy Butler seems like a reluctant leader. After hearing him during interviews and speaking with him myself, I get the impression that he understands that as one of the best players on the team, he’s looked to for that leadership. When pressed, he can supply it, though that label fit Jeff Francoeur better last season. He supplied much of the energy for the Royals last year and was often one of the first to speak up to take accountability.
Cabrera had a breakout season and I think his consistent effort left an impression on the team. Hosmer and Moustakas have been leaders on every team they’ve played on in the minors, and as they become bigger parts of the Royals offense, their leadership should come into play more as well. All in all, it looked like a very loose, very close team at the end of 2011, and that always seems to help.
DTTWLN? 3 – A lot is expected of Joakim Soria as the Royals closer. Did that pressure get to him in 2011 or was it just a down year for Soria?
Since joining the Royals in 2007 and taking the closer’s role later that season, Joakim Soria has been the most consistent closer not named Mariano. In 2011, he had some setbacks, though it’s still puzzling as to why. Some have quoted the short shelf life of closers to suggest that Soria’s stuff has just faded a bit. Others thought there might be an injury that he withheld from the team.
At times, Soria looked like his usual self, but he would show a lack of control at times that led to more baserunners and longer innings. He went through two particularly poor stretches in May and August, but if you look at his numbers, his strikeout and walk rates are similar to past years. He gave up more hits than has been typical, and really, while a 4.03 ERA isn’t good, that it’s not cause for alarm shows how strong Soria has been over the years. I suspect he’ll be back to form in 2012.
DTTWLN? 4 – After taking over the team shortly after the 2010 season started, Ned Yost has been trying very hard to get this club steered in the right direction. How patient will management be with Yost if the Royals start 2012 slow? Does he have some leash to work with?
Ned Yost brings with him the reputation of being a good manager for young teams. At the helm of the Milwaukee Brewers he oversaw the development of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Ricky Weeks and others. A lot of high-level offensive talent is coming up to Kansas City from the minors now. Yost has made some curious tactical moves at times, but from a personality standpoint, he seems to fit what the feel of this club is going to be. He’s not so regimented to where he won’t try something a little different – he made a concerted effort to let nearly anybody have a green light on the basepaths this season – but he’s not so loose that players can do whatever they want. He has the confidence of the front office, and barring a 100 loss season, he’ll be around for a while.
DTTWLN? 5 – Every year, I think it will be the year that the Royals make a leap and contend for the Central Division. While they have shown signs of life, it never seems to all come together for Kansas City. Will 2012 be the year they finally realize their potential and compete for the Central Division crown?
The Royals seem to have something brewing every September. I’m still figuring out why that is, but it always makes fans hopeful going into the next season. In reality, the team just hasn’t had a lot of talent most seasons. That should start to shift in 2012, as players from what was the top ranked farm system going into 2011 make their way to the big leagues. Already, Hosmer, Moustakas and company are up and had an impact, but other players like Greg Holland, Louis Coleman and even overlooked players like Everett Teaford could be important role players in 2012 that start the momentum going for the Royals – and this time it shouldn’t be a mirage.
I’ve always liked the Royals. They are definitely my second favorite team in the Central Division and I root for them whenever they aren’t playing the Tribe. In my opinion, they absolutely have the pieces in place to make a big run in 2012. I just hope that the Indians have a little bit more going for them and they can hold off this very young, very talented ballclub. Now that the Central Division is done, I hope to make contact with some AL East teams so we can keep the Off Season Swap Series going in the right direction!
Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images