MLB Team News & Rumors: Kansas City

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Kansas City Royals

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Kansas City Royals Team Projection

The Royals had their best season in 2013 since 1989. It was only their 2nd winning season in 20 years. Kansas City has improved in each of their last 4 years, but it has been 28 seasons since their last playoff berth. Their big improvement was due to their pitching staff. The Royals led the American league in ERA (3.45) and had the 2nd most saves (53) in the league. Unfortunately, their offense scored the lowest amount of runs (648) for a full 162 games since 1992. Kansas City hit a league low 112 HR's, but their batters had the least amount of K's (1048) in the league and were 4th in the league in batter average (.262). The Royals have a young core of upside batters, but they haven't made a step forward as a group yet. The pitching staff lost top starter Ervin Santana to free agency (P Danny Duffy is expected to replace him in the starting lineup). Kansas City signed P Jason Vargas and 2B Omar Infante. They also traded P Will Smith for OF Norichika Aoki. I expect their offense to improve, but the Royals pitching staff will have a tough time repeating its' 2013 success. Kansas City has a strong bullpen to help shorten games for their starters. With enough pitching, they may be able to finished around the .500 mark.

1. OF Norichika Aoki

Norichika Aoki fantasy baseball

Aoki has been consistent in his first 2 seasons in the majors. His approach at the plate improved thanks to a minuscule K rate (5.9%). His power regressed due to a high GB rate (60.4%) and low FB rate (21.9%), while his AVH (1.292) was one of the weakest in the league. Norichika's low RBI total was due to a lack of chances (235). Aoki hit .339 against LH pitching, but had only 1 HR in 180 at bats. Overall, his skill set has low upside. Last year, he was on 1st base 216 times, but only attempted to steal 32 bases. Milwaukee led the NL in steals and Kansas City led the AL in steals. Norichika is a low value player. His batting average will be an asset and his speed gives him 30 SB upside. He has no more than 10 HR upside with a short RBI total. Decent backend player for a 15-team league, but his skill set will hurt teams in 10 and 12 team formats.

2. OF Alex Gordon

Alex Gordon fantasy baseball

Mr. Gordon let me down last year. He was dominant in spring training last season (.438 with 8 HR's and 17 RBI in 73 at bats), and looked poised for a huge breakthrough season. His success carried over to the first 2 months of the season (.329), but he only hit 6 HR's in 216 at bats. Alex struggled in June and July (.206 with 4 HR's and 22 RBI). His power returned in August and September (10 HR's), but he never found his batting average stroke. In the previous 2 seasons, Gordon had 96 doubles. Last year, he hit 20 HR's, but only had 53 extra base hits. His K rate (20.1%) was in line his career resume, while his walk rate (7.4%) was the lowest it has been since his rookie season. Gordon was very good against LH pitching (.307 with 8 HR's and 33 RBI in 215 at bats), but really struggled against RH pitching (.244 with 15 doubles and 12 HR's) after having success against them over the 2 previous years (.317 with 72 doubles and 26 HR's). Alex is a nice major league bat. He may never turn into an impact player, but he has 20+ HR upside with double digit speed. Gordon had growth against lefties, which gives him a chance to reach a higher level if his success against righties returns.

3. 1B Eric Hosmer

Eric Hosmer fantasy baseball

Hosmer set career highs across the board last year. He came out of the gate slowly after struggling with a sore quad coming out of spring training. Eric only had 1 HR and 16 RBI in has first 180 at bats. The light bulb turned on in June, which led to his best month of the season (6 HR's and 17 RBI). Hosmer hit over .300 in June (.303) , July (.324), August (.323), and September (.324), and had 16 HR's and 63 RBI during that hot stretch. Eric was very good against LH pitching (.323). His GB rate (52.7%) remained too high for a player that will be projected to have a bump in power. His HR/FB rate (13.0%) was a career high, but his FB rate was only 24.9%. Just like Gordon, his AFH (1.484) is very low for a player that hits in the middle of the lineup. Hosmer had growth across the board and improved mid season. His K rate (14.7%) supports his spike in batting average. There's a lot to like, but his power can't take a huge step forward until his swing develops more loft. For now, he has upside in batting average with some speed from a corner position, but his RBI production can't rise dramatically without more HR's. Upside player in 2014, but he may not hit 25 HR's.

4. DH Billy Butler

Billy Butler fantasy baseball

It's really strange looking at the power progressions of some of these Royals hitters. Butler had a smokin double rate over 2009 to 2011 (140) with solid HR's (55). His power spiked (29 HR's) in 2012 and his doubles stayed strong (32). Essentially, he basically traded doubles for HR's. Last year, Billy couldn't hit doubles (27) or HR's (15). Surprisingly, his RBI rate (18%) stayed in an elite area, while his K rate (15.3%) was slightly higher than his career average (14.3%). However, it did improve from 2012 (16.4%). His walk rate (11.8%) was a career high. Billy hit for a higher average at home (.318 - .260 on the road). His swing path may have changed slightly as he hit a career high 53.1% ground balls, which led to a career low FB rate (26.4%). Butler has a solid major league bat with upside in batting average. His high GB rate suggests his breakthrough in power isn't repeatable. Maybe the Royals are trying to play too much small ball. Their lack of experience in the heat of the battle led to a just put it in play attitude. I like him as a player and he is just reaching his prime. While I expect a much better season, he isn't ready to be an impact power hitter. His value takes a hit as he will just qualify for DH. Pencil him in for 20 HR's and hope for upside.

5. C Salvador Perez

Salvador Perez fantasy baseball

Perez played very well in 2013, but his power fell short of expectations. He had an elite RBI rate (21%). Just like the rest of the Royals top hitters, Salvador has a very low AVH (1.483). It's almost like Kansas City needs 3 hits to score a run. Perez has a very low K rate (12.0%), but also has a weak walk rate (4.0%). His power was stronger against LH pitching (.317 with 5 HR's in 139 at bats). Over the last 2 months of 2013, Salvador hit .318 with 9 HR's and 37 RBI in 173 at bats. His hot finish gave fantasy players a glimpse of his upside in power. While his FB rate (32.9%) is low, it was a career him. Perez is a very good hitter with 20 HR power down the road. He should be an asset in batting average and RBI, but his slow foot speed hurts his run scoring ability.

6. 3B Mike Moustakas

Mike Moustakas fantasy baseball

M & M may have been the caption of the YOU SUCK award in 2013. The Royals wheeled him out day in and day out and he came up empty more times than Charlie Sheen on a bad tear. He crushed many teams for me last year as I rode him into the ground. His K rate (16.2%) improved from 2012 (20.2%), while his walk rate (6.2%) was below the league average. Moustakas was brutal against lefties (.196 with 2 HR's and 10 RBI in 107 at bats). Over the first 3 months of the year, he only hit .215 with 5 HR's and 15 RBI. At no point in the season did he look like a major league ready hitter. Moustakas was a .282 career hitter in the minors with 84 HR's and 335 RBI in 1736 at bats. He has 25+ HR power with a strong enough approach to have upside in batting average in the future. Mike is a FB hitter (44.5% in 2013 and 45.7% in his career), but his HR/FB rate (6.9%) was very low last year. His major league resume will scare you to death on draft day, but their is a shining star with upside power hidden in his skill set. Of all the Royals possible power hitters, Moustakas has the best stroke for upside power. One deep breath and two Hail Mary's and your prayers may be answered.

7. OF Lorenzo Cain

Lorenzo Cain fantasy baseball

So much for Cain becoming an impact top of the order guy for Kansas City. Last year, he had a career high 399 at bats, but his power regressed and his speed didn't show upside. His K rate (20.4%) did improve and he did take a few more walks (7.5%). Lorenzo struggled against LH pitching (.238 with no HR's and 13 RBI in 122 at bats). While he missed most of August with an oblique injury, he did start 88 of the Royals first 101 games, hitting .259 with 4 HR's and 38 RBI, 12 SB's in 317 at bats. Cain is a GB hitter (49.2%) with a short HR/FB rate (4.4% - career low). He showed 15 HR power in the minors with 20 stolen base ability. Overall, the entire Royals lineup was punchless in 2013. Cain isn't a high upside player and he could lose his starting job at any point during the season. Possible upside if he can find his power stroke.

8. 2B Omar Infante

Omar Infante fantasy baseball

Many are predicting Infante to bat 2nd in the Royals lineup. Frankly, I just can't see it. He is a career .279 hitter with a career .319 OB%. Omar hit .318 for the Tigers in 2013, which was a career high. His K rate (9.2%) was a career low, while his walk rate (4.2%) is a non-factor. Infante flashed speed in 2012 (17 steals), but couldn't repeat his success last year. His power has improved over the last 2 seasons (22 HR's in 1007 at bats). The Royals gave him a 4 year, $28.25 contract in December. Over the last 3 seasons, Gordon has an OB % of .376, .368, and .327, which is why he will bat 2nd. Infante has never scored over 70 runs during his career and he has never had over 55 RBI. Omar is a decent major league bat with improving power and some underlying speed. The Royals will let him run more in 2014, so he may have 15+ speed upside.

9. SS Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar fantasy baseball

After stepping up in 2012, Escobar regressed in almost every category in 2013. He wasn't caught stealing all season, but only ended up with 22 steals. His K rate (13.1%) was the only category that improved. Furthermore, his walk rate (3.0%) matched his career low. Escobar had a strong April (.286 with 3 HR's, 12 RBI, and 6 SB's), but didn't hit another HR until September 10th (464 at bats). He was a much better hitter hitting 9th in the order (.282 - .240 when batting 2nd). His FB rate (30.9%) was higher than his previous 2 seasons, but his HR/FB rate was only 2.5%. Escobar has a solid glove with upside in speed. His power has no upside and he won't hit in a favorable part of the batting order. Overall, he will only have fantasy value when he is running.

10. C Ramon Hernandez

He signed a minor league contract with the Royals in January and has a very good chance of being the backup catcher. He will provide power off the bench.

11. 3B Danny Valencia

The Royals acquired Valencia in a traded with the Orioles for David Lough. He hit .304 in 161 at bats with 8 HR's and 23 RBI last season. He may see time at 3B against LH pitching, so he is possible insurance if Moustakas struggles.

12. OF Jarrod Dyson

He is a one dimensional speed guy that will fight Bonifacio for at bats. He has 64 SB's in 505 at bats over the last 2 seasons. May end up on another team.

13. OF Justin Maxwell

He is the biggest threat to Cain for at bats. Maxwell is a free swinger with solid power and some speed. Justin is a career .228 hitter in the majors (768 at bats with 34 HR's and 26 SB's).


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