Do I have to? Do we have to preview this team? I toyed with the idea of just putting a title at the top and then leaving a blank space beneath it :-) In all seriousness though, we're doing all 30 teams and the Royals, at this point in the season, have the same record as everyone else. Plus, I'm sure we want to hear who the up-and-comers are on the Royals because then we'll know who's going to be available in lop-sided trades over the next few years! Zing!!
2009 Record: 65-97, 21.5 GB the Minnesota Twins, Last Place, AL Central
The Royals pretty much lost their entire starting lineup in the off season and yes that's an overstatement, but they lost quite a few of their more recognizable names. Here's a list (and how they left): Miguel Olivo C (free agent, signed with Rockies), Coco Crisp CF (free agent, signed with Athletics), Mike Jacobs DH (non-tendered, signed minor league contract with Mets), John Buck C (non-tendered, signed with Blue Jays), Mark Teahen 1B/OF (traded to White Sox), Jamey Wright RP (free agent, signed minor league contract with Indians)
The Royals seem to have a penchant for snatching up the players that the White Sox no longer want. This off-season is a perfect example.
Brian Anderson OF - (free agent from the Red Sox, former White Sox player) It would be interesting to see what this guy could do if he was able to start for an entire season. His batting line so far in the majors has been a brutal .227/.290/.370, but he's never really had a solid gig, save for one year with the White Sox where he had 450+ ABs. With the lack of punch that BA has showed at the plate, it wouldn't be surprising if he was a bench player in KC too.
Rick Ankiel OF - (free agent from the Cardinals) I was trying to find a video of some of Ankiel's wilder pitches back from his pitching days, but I couldn't find any on YouTube. I don't know what to think about this guy, part of me thinks he's done, but the other side says "hey, if he can make the switch from pitcher to outfielder, I can't count this guy out." We'll see, I'm guessing he'll start for the Royals so he should at least get the chance to make an impact.
Jason Kendall C - (free agent from the Brewers) As far as shrewd moves go, I think this one was pretty good. Every team knows what they're getting from Kendall as far as a bat goes, he's not very good and has a long track-record of not being very good. However, with a young and malleable pitching staff, Kendall could have a HUGE impact, especially for a couple of the pitchers who have talent, but have lacked consistency (i.e. Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar).
Other additions include: Chris Getz 2B (trade with the White Sox), Scott Podsednik LF (free agent from White Sox), Josh Fields 3B (trade with the White Sox)
Talent En Route:
At least according to Baseball Propectus, the Royals don't have a single 5-star prospect in their system as of now. The highest ranking of any Royals' prospect on the newly-release Top 100 list by Baseball America is #39. The reality for the Royals is that a lot of their farm talent has been forced to the big-league club far too early leaving them shallow in the minor leagues. All that said, let's take a look at two players who deserve mention.
Mike Montgomery (LHP) - 1st round pick in the 2008 draft, Mike has yet to crack Double-A in two MiL seasons. Last year he pitched in 12 games for Low-A and 9 games for High-A with strong showings at both stops. According to BP Mike's "combination of size, stuff, command, and left-handedness is a truly rare commodity." His fastball is low 90's and it complimented by a power curve and changeup and oh, did I mention he's a lefty and the Royals don't have a single lefty in their current starting rotation? It would be a shame to see this guy rushed along, but I would bet it's not long before we see this guy getting his first shot.
Aaron Crow (RHP) - 1st round pick, 2009 draft - Crow was a holdout from the 2008 draft, opting to play in the Independent League, and was actually drafted three spots lower the following year. As of now, Crow has been assigned to Double-A and is expected to rise through the system quickly. He's 23 years old and has a Randy Johnson-esque frame, featuring a fastball in the mid-90s. It's unclear whether he'll be a starter or reliever, though he was a starter in college with Missouri. I guess I don't see the Royals being desperate for yet another right-handed starter so it may be another year before we see Crow break into the Majors.
2011 Free Agency and Salary Outlook:
To be honest, the only players on the Royals squad that anyone would be interested in are: Zack Grienke, Gil Meche and Alex Gordon. Grienke is signed through 2012, Meche through 2011 and Gordon is still under the terms of his initial deal meaning that he has 3 more years of arbitration to look forward to. Jose Guillen will be a free agent next year, but with 13 years under his belt, I doubt the sweepstakes will be that vigorous. Surprisingly the Royals were 15th in baseball last year with an $81M payroll. Then I read that they re-upped with their GM, Dayton Moore. Maybe we'll see a change in strategy here, a departure from 25 years of losing baseball, but as with anything involving the Royals, it remains to be seen.
The Future of the Royals:
Oh boy. Ok, check this out. In the last 8 years, the Royals have lost over 100 games 4 times. They have not made a playoff appearance since 1985. They have not finished higher than 3rd in the division in 15 years and that was in the strike-shortened year, so really it's been 20 years. The Royals have had ONE SEASON above .500 in the past 16 years. This team, along with the Pirates and Nationals, has defined mediocrity for the last quarter of a century. To say I have any optimism about this team would be ridiculous. Their management and ownership has shown that they know nothing about how to run a baseball team and their ineptitude is historic. If you don't feel like reading that short article linked there, and who would blame you, it basically says that the Royals just finished one of the worst 10-years stretches we have ever seen a single club have in the history of baseball. If you want to read things from a Royals fan's perspective, check out this blog.