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2006 Kansas City Royals Baseball Preview

Kansas City Royals Predictions – AL CENTRAL

OVERVIEW:

If you can remember 20 years ago, you’ll remember that it was the last time the Royals of Kansas City were World Champions and baseball royalty. Now they are simply the worst team in baseball with a 56-106 record and 43 games out of first place. What’s an owner to do? Over the last few years, the team had been on a youth movement; this year they brought in a slew of veterans, all 30-years of age or older.

PITCHING:

There are three new starters, none of whom are the most recognizable throwers in the majors but all of whom bring something to the plate (literally). Mark Redman (5-15, 4.90 ERA) from Pittsburgh, Scott Elarton (11-9, 4.61 ERA) from Cleveland, and Joe Mays (6-10, 5.65 ERA) from Minnesota will offer mature leadership.

All offer an upgrade over what was the worst pitching staff in baseball—5.49 ERA and .291 OPP AVG.

Joe Mays is a former All-Star who has yet to recover from elbow woes in 2002. K.C. is hoping this is his year.

Last season the bullpen was a plus for the team with rookies Ambiorix Burgos and Andrew Sisco offering solid contributions; once the team is free of the unreliable Mike MacDougal, Burgos will probably be tapped for the closer role.

Returning young starters Runelvys Hernandez and Zack Greinke should continue to get better—there’s a lot of talent and developing skill there.

HITTING:

K.C.’s hitting was better than its pitching and fielding last year. Still, they were in the lower third of the league in batting. DH Mike Sweeney (.300 BA, 21HR, 83 RBI) is the offensive force on the team, but he’s been on the DL each of the last four years.

David DeJesus is a solid leadoff guy (.293 BA) and Mark Grudzielanek (.294) can hit to any part of the field. Emil Brown (.286, 17 HR) played his first full season last year, offering solid performance and continued improvement.

The aging Reggie Sanders comes from St. Louis and is still able to knock the ball over the fence; last season he had 21 homeruns.

DEFENSE:

125 errors—the most in the majors and a .979 fielding percentage—the worst in the AL.

Doug Mientkiewicz has been added to the team—he’s an excellent first baseman and should be a big help on the field. Likewise at second base, Grudzielanek, from St. Louis, should prove to be a major upgrade.

Both of these consistent fielders can help to keep shortstop Angel Berroa focused while mentoring an improving Mark Teahen at third.

The outfield has no standouts but with further work could be a solid force.

Catcher John Buck is a down and dirty, aggressive backstop who can give pitchers confidence.

MANAGER AND FRONT OFFICE:

• Buddy Bell is a good manager who has been in charge of simply terrible teams. At least he’s had experience in the area.
• Owner David Glass said he’d up the payroll, and he did by $22 million, pushing player salaries beyond $55 million.
• G.M. Allard Baird signed vets but also, for the most part, has made sound value judgments.

INTANGIBLES AND/OR OTHER STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES:

• Buddy Bell—should be a good leader for this developing team.
• Can pitcher Zack Greinke, who seemed to have so much promise in 2004, rebound from a terrible second season where he went 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA.
• New pitching coach Bob McClure is handpicked by Bell; he’s got a very important job.

CONCLUSION:

This team is improved. How much? That’s the question. Can they get out of the cellar? Probably not this year, but they can make some positive steps towards becoming a force in a very tough division. If Bell can bring discipline, a long-term view, and positive mentoring, this can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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