As the calendar changed from 2012 to 2013 and with spring training on the horizon, I decided to take a break from looking at the team through a critical eye and look at what the next calendar year could possibly bring. Yes, this Royals team has a lot of questions, but it does have a chance to be one of the best teams the Royals have fielded in the last two decades. Save for 1994, that is damning with faint praise, but the fact remains that it is a distinct possibility. Iâ€™ve criticized Dayton Moore quite a bit over the years (and rightfully so), but if heâ€™s able to send the Royals to the playoffs in either of the next two years, it will be easy to forget a lot considering how long its been since weâ€™ve experienced playoff baseball in Kansas City through anything else than watching on television.
2013 brings optimism to the Kansas City Royals, and I think itâ€™s better founded optimism than what we found in 2012. I think last season, the team was simply too young to find their way to success. I know that sounds like a copout answer, but expectations were inordinately high considering the track record of the vast majority of the roster. Beyond youth, the pitching simply wasnâ€™t good enough and got worse with injuries to Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino as well as further regression from Mike Montgomery, who was expected to make an impact last season at some point. Add that in with the youth and the season very quickly turned into a disaster.
I donâ€™t see that happening in 2013. Gun to my head I wouldnâ€™t predict a playoff berth in 2013 for any number of reasons, but I also donâ€™t see a 12 game losing streak plaguing the team or a 7-19 month of July. James Shields may or may not be an ace. Iâ€™m not going to debate that in this spot, but I could really be persuaded either way on that. And Jeremy Guthrie may be no more than a fringe three and a good four, but heâ€™s typically been pretty consistent throughout his career and was excellent for the Royals after coming over from Colorado. I think Ervin Santana and Wade Davis are wild cards in this scenario, but both have the ability to be legitimately good number three starters. Iâ€™m not sure if either will get there, but Iâ€™m not sure anybody the Royals ran out there after the injuries even had that kind of upside.
I feel like with all the attention that has been paid to the starting rotation that the offense has been somewhat put on the back burner. The 2012 Royals featured an offense that finished 12th in the American League in runs scored, so there’s a very good chance that even if the pitching staff would have been much better, maybe even to the level of what we hope to see in the 2013 rotation, that they still wouldn’t have done much better than they finished in reality. I’ve mentioned a few times that there were spots the Royals could conceivably look to the free agent market to make some upgrades on offense without disrupting the young core of the team. For now, it looks as if the Royals have decided to basically stand pat on the offensive side of the ball.
For my money, I’d have explored upgrades in the outfield and at second base. And maybe the Royals did their due diligence and found that there simply weren’t many options available. I find that somewhat hard to believe, but as of January 2, 2013, the biggest additions have been of the minor league variety in wild cards like Endy Chavez and yes, Miguel Tejeda (which I’m not going to let myself get worked up about until he actually makes the team and is terrible). This is something I’ve talked about before, but as improved as the rotation has a chance to be, the offense could make massive strides between what they showed last season and what they could do in 2013.
I’ve personally been a little hung up on thinking that Salvador Perez simply can’t be as good over the course of a full season as he has been in his half season (or less) big league appearances. Even if he can’t, though, he’s almost guaranteed to be an improvement over the combination of Brayan Pena and Humberto Quintero that we were forced to watch in the first part of the 2012 season. Other than Perez, I think one of the only other players we can really expect a regression from is Alcides Escobar, who hit over his head for much of the season before coming back to earth in the last month of the year. Still, he could end up at about the same offensive levels he finished at in 2013 as they’re pretty similar to his minor league numbers. Other than him, it’s hard to imagine Moustakas and Hosmer being worse and even Jeff Francoeur being even worse than he was last season.
This is something else I’ve said before and something I’ll probably say again. I’m still not especially enamored with the way this team is constructed and I’m still not convinced this team can convince, but I think the “ifs” that need to happen for the Royals to take a huge step forward are much more likely than the “ifs” the organization has been faced with in years past. Could it all blow up? Absolutely. James Shields could blow out his arm while Guthrie pitches like he did in Colorado, Santana has a repeat of 2012 and Davis regresses from when he started before. And sure, Hosmer could really be the next Casey Kotchman and Gordon could tear a hamstring. Maybe you do have to squint still to see the reason for hope, but it’s at least there, more prevalent than it has been in years past. And as we see people all over with great hope for 2013, let’s at least take a day or two and see the hope in next year’s Royals squad. It could be worse. They could be the Chiefs.
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