Monday, February 5, 2007

Kansas City Royals 2007 Projections - Let's Go Blue!

Well, the Super Bowl is over with and now that Peyton Manning has finally won "the big one", I fear we're all going to see even more bad commercials with him sporting a cheesy porn 'stache.

Cripes.

So, to block out that bit of future dread, I'm going to focus instead on my beloved Kansas City Royals and their upcoming season...a prospect usually filled with a heaping dose of dread all it's own.

This year is going to be different though...I can feel it!*
(*Disclaimer: I've had the same feeling before every season since '97)

I mean, c'mon, how can the Royals not be better this year? If they got any worse they would be record-breaking bad, and I don't think the new leadership under Dayton Moore will allow that to happen.

Just this last off-season, the Royals - I repeat, the Kansas City Royals - outbid other teams for one of the market's big free agents. Sure, some analysts (by "some analysts" I mean the Red Sox, er, I mean, ESPN baseball analysts) are scoffing at us for shelling out $55 million for Gil Meche, but hell, I don't care! The Royals actually went out and outbid other teams for a player still in his prime! And why do I get the feeling that if the Red Sox, Yankees, or Cubs would have picked up Meche, all of those same scoffing ESPN analysts would have their noses even further up those respective teams' GM's ass for coming through with such a great acquisition?...yeah, thanks for the continued un-biased nationwide coverage guys. (yeah, the last bit of that sentence was sarcasm, I hope you picked up on it).

Anyhoo, I'm also glad they kept Buddy Bell on. I've had differing feelings about him since he was hired - at times I think he's great, at other times I'm wishing we would have given Frank White a shot at the Manager's job. However, after watching and reading about Bell go through his cancer ordeal this past offseason, I'm in full support of the guy; and I hope every player putting on a Royals jersey this spring puts forth a little extra effort for their skipper. Buddy's a good baseball guy and I'd like to see him have some real success.

Now, before I go into my picks for the Royals lineup and pitching staff, I'd like to give my prediction on their record...ok, *takes a deep breath* here goes:
85 Wins, 77 Losses - good for 3rd place in the AL Central behind Detroit and Cleveland in a tight division that I think will see either Chicago or Minnesota go through a surprisingly bad season...why do I think that?...I really don't know - just a weird hunch. You may now commence to throw stones in my direction.


Starting Lineup
1. David DeJesus - CF: Great kick-start to the offense, DeJesus MUST stay healthy! May spend some time in LF if Joey Gathright makes the roster.
2. Mark Grudzielanek - 2B: Gold Glove winner in 2006, and to be honest I'm shocked he signed on for another year with us...I'm happy he did though. Look for strong-hitting Esteban German to spend some time at 2B as well.
3. Mark Teahan - LF: Yeah, I think Teahan will be moved to LF because I think Alex Gordon will make the Opening Day roster. Even though Teahan is coming off shoulder surgery, he deserves the number 3-spot unless someone takes it from him. When I watched him hit last year, I actually found myself comparing him to George Brett...yeah, I couldn't believe it either. If he doesn't let the move to the outfield adversely affect him, he could have a HUGE year at the plate - and the Royals better get their checkbook ready if he does.
4. Mike Sweeney - DH: Depending on how Spring Training goes, Sweeney should see a return to the cleanup spot. It's hard to say yet though if all the injuries to his back and neck have sapped significant power from his swing. If he can't slug like he did before his numerous injuries, I would slip him down to the 6-spot and bat Emil Brown 4th.
5. Emil Brown - RF: Emil has silently put up pretty darn good back-to-back seasons at the plate. I'm still not sold on his fielding, but he should be adequate in RightField. I would play Emil in RF and Teahan in LF, as I think it would be an easier move for Teahan to LF since he played 3B and the ball coming off the bat should look somewhat the same out in LF...or really deep 3B. :)
6. Ryan Shealy - 1B: When the Royals picked up Shealy last year we kept hearing that he can put up both huge power numbers and +.300 average. Well, I'm eager to see what he can do over the course of a full season playing every day. Look for new-signee Ross Gload to spell Shealy from time to time.
7. Alex Gordon - 3B: Officially, the Royals aren't saying that Gordon is a lock to make the Opening Day roster, but, c'mon, unless he forgets how to play the game this Spring he'll be at 3B. Not only did he win just about every award that a Minor Leaguer can win last year, but during the previous Spring Training with the club he hit +.300 and impressed his big-league teammates not just with his skill but also with his great demeanor in the clubhouse. Gordon has speed to go with his hitting which makes him a great 7-spot guy in the lineup, and he could very well challenge Teahan for the number 3-spot. He's going to be exciting to watch.
8. John Buck - C: This could very well end up being recent signing Jason LaRue's everyday spot, but I think Buck will retain the starting job. I don't think he's even come close to reaching his potential at the plate, as the emphasis for him has been to help cultivate a young pitching staff...not an easy task as a young guy himself. But hey, he'll be 27 this year and he has a few years under his belt, so it's time for a breakout year.
9. Angel Berroa - SS: Aw geez, where do I start with Angel? Supposedly he's been rededicating himself to get back to the same form that saw him win the Rookie of the Year award in 2003...he frickin' better because he was an absolute disaster last year. Just a little reminder for ya Angel - baseball games are 9-innings long and you need to be alert for every inning of them! If Berroa should falter, and Andres Blanco is once again fully healthy - I would love to see Blanco playing everyday.

Bench
Ross Gload - 1B/OF
Jason LaRue - C
Esteban German - IF/OF
Reggie Sanders - OF...although I really hope we can trade Sanders as this would open up a spot for presumably either Joey Gathright or Shane Costa. I would give the edge to Gathright because of his awesome speed.
Andres Blanco - 2B/SS...although veteran Alex Gonzalez could start out the season with the big club until Blanco is fully healed.

Starting Rotation
1. Gil Meche - The $55 million dollar man better step up and pitch like a #1 guy. Stat that makes me hopeful he will do the job - fewer hits allowed than innings pitched over the course of his career...I like that. Would like to see him cut down on the walks though.
2. Odalis Perez - Supposedly will battle Meche for the Ace role. I could see him slip to the #4 spot though. I'll need to see him have a good Spring Training before I get excited.
3. Brian Bannister - Picked up from the Mets in the offseason, I'm excited about this guy. I believe you need your most stable and consistent pitcher in the #3 spot because it's usually the transition point between your 2 "big guys" at the top, and the 2 "not sure, but hopeful" guys at the bottom of the rotation. I believe Bannister will be that "steady eddie" guy.
4. Luke Hudson - The Royals brass seem to really like this guy in the rotation. I'm not completely sold, but he should be a good fit at #4. Scott Elarton is expected back in June or July, so he could be taking Hudson's spot if he's not cutting it at that time.
5. Jorge DeLaRosa/Jimmy Gobble - Both have experience as starters but I prefer both in the long relief role. I could see the two of them sharing the #5 spot, however, the one wild card in this situation is how Zack Grienke does in Spring Training and if whether or not he's more interested in Starting or Relief.

Bullpen
Jimmy Gobble - Long/Middle Relief - I feel he's a better reliever than starter.
Joakim Soria - Middle Relief/Setup - Rule 5 pick will either be extremely great or extremely bad...key word there is extreme. He will be interesting to watch.
Ken Ray - Middle Relief - Dayton Moore brought him over from the Braves, so he must have faith in him...I guess we will have to as well.
John Bale - Middle Relief - Left-hander from Japan...we'll see. Could see Zack Greinke take this spot.
David Riske - Setup - Great offseason signing (not very "riske" if you ask me - ah-ha-ha-ha - yeah...I went there)...please keep up the great pitching for us!!!
Octavio Dotel - Closer - Please don't get hurt! I think the Royals will actually need a closer this year so please pitch good!

Others who could make the Bullpen: Ryan Braun (I'd like to see him make the team - wicked stuff!); Joe Nelson (Had a surprisingly good year last year); Joel Peralta; Todd Wellemeyer; Dewon Brazelton; Zach Day; Wayne Franklin

Well, those are my thoughts...Spring Training starts in full on February 22, 2007!!!