Friday, October 17, 2014

KC Royals: One Year Wonder or Not?

The Kansas City Royals made the playoffs (and World Series) for the first time since 1985.  But are they built for long term success or just a one and done team?  Obviously, I can't predict the future, but lets look at the roster and see if we can make an educated guess.
First of all, Royals GM Dayton Moore did a masterful job in constructing the roster.  Drafting or signing players and staying patient with them as they develop such as Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.  He also picked up James Shields, Wade Davis, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar in trades.
As for the team moving forward, the key free agent this off season is James Shields.  Shields is pricey and likely gone.  One interesting free agent is pitcher Luke Hochevar. He was once the Royals #1 overall pick, but failed as a big league starter and found a home as the 8th inning guy in 2013. He was basically Wade Davis before Wade Davis for KC.  Hochevar, however, missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery.  Will KC resign him and hope to have him back to his old form by the end of 2015 season or let someone else take a chance on him?  Other free agents include OFs Raul Ibanez, Josh Willingham and Nori Aoki.  DH Billy Butler and pitcher Wade Davis have club options and likely will be picked up.

Here are the key position players, current age and contract status
C   Salvador Perez(24 yrs old) signed with club options thru 2019
1B  Eric Hosmer(24) signed thru 2017
2B  Omar Infante(32) signed with 2017 with club option in 2018
3B  Mike Moustakas(25) thru 2017
SS  Alcides Escobar(27) signed with club options thru 2017
OF Alex Gordon(30) signed thru 2015 with club option 2016
OF Lorenzo Cain(28) signed thru 2017

The Royals own the rights to the players for several yrs and the lineup should stay intact.  Key here is will the players continue to develop.  Will Hosmer become the power hitter he was projected to be when drafted? Will Moustakas hit on a regular basis to stay in the lineup? Will Cain become the player that looks like an emerging star in the ALCS?
I believe the most valuable player for the franchise is Perez.  I consider him the Yadier Molina of the AL.  He is already regarded one of the best defensive catchers in the league. Perez also works well with the pitching staff and could stabilize the KC pitching much like Molina does with St. Louis

Here are the pitchers:
SP  Jason Vargas(31) signed thru 2017
SP  Jeremy Guthrie(35) thru 2015
SP  Yordanno Ventura (23) and Danny Duffy(25) are rookies with club control for several yrs
RP  Wade Davis(28) club options thru 2017
RP  Greg Holland(28) thru 2016
RP  Kelvin Herrera (24) thru 2018

Shields and Guthrie are the immediate starters who will be up for free agency.  KC has to be smart who to sign as a veteran starter.  Their margin of error is lower due to a smaller overall budget.  I think Ventura and Duffy are keys to the future. Will they develop into solid starters and team can build around? or will KC have to constantly find options for their rotation?
KC's strength, of course, is their bullpen.  The three headed monster of Herrera, Davis and Holland figures to be a mainstay for KC.  This will allow the Royals have some  flexibility in signing starters as they don't necessarily need guys who have to pitch a lot of innings.  KC is also hoping for no injuries here. It could hurt them tremendously.  Other KC relievers of note with good arms and bright futures are Brandon Finnegan(21 years old), Aaron Crow(27) and Tim Collins(24).

As for top prospects in the farm system.  The top two are starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer and SS Raul Mondesi Jr.  Both considered to be several years away with Zimmer being the closest.

As you can see, the Royals can maintain success.  But GM Dayton Moore has to be smart in who to sign in free agency and trade for to compliment the core.  He has to have some luck in stay relatively injury free also.  KC doesn't have the budget to get veteran help whenever the need arises.  Moore also must draft and sign amateurs from the international market well.  The above players will eventually need to be replaced and must have players ready at the time.  Some of these minor leaguers could also be great tradebait just as Will Myers was for Shields.
Two other factors aid in KC's bright future.  One is that they play in the central division.  No New Yorks, No Bostons, No LAs to consistenly compete against.  Which is a good thing for a small market club.  The other is that the Royals are built around speed not power.  Players with speed tend to be less expensive than traditional home run hitters.  This will allow KC to get players and keep them longer.

I think the Kansas City Royals can be around as a playoff contender for some years to come.  But some smarts have to be used and luck has to be on their side.  I personally would like to see it.  Kansas City is a good baseball town and with some history too. 

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