2010 Kansas City Royals Preview

Rotation
Zack Greinke, RHP
Gil Meche, RHP
Luke Hochevar, RHP
Kyle Davies, RHP
Brian Bannister, RHP

Closers and Setup
Joakim Soria, RHP
Kyle Farnsworth, RHP

Starting Lineup
Scott Podsednik, CF
David DeJesus, LF
Billy Butler, 1B
Rick Ankiel, RF
Jose Guillen, DH
Alex Gordon, 3B
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Jason Kendall, C
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Player in Decline
Those stolen bases might look tempting, but Scott Podsednik benefitted from a .342 BABIP last year. That was about 20 points higher than his expected BABIP, and his career BABIP. A .270-hitting Podsednik isn’t so appealing, when you consider his lack of secondary skills.

Player on the Rise
Luke Hochevar’s career 5.88 ERA might make you want to turn and run, but his career FIP is a more palatable 4.67. He’s not star, but Hochevar has solid control, and an average whiff rate. Alex Gordon is another buy-low candidate, as many fantasy owners have been burned by the glacial start to his career.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Zack Greinke: Elite
Joakim Soria: Elite
Billy Butler: Average
Alex Gordon: Deep League
Rick Ankiel: Deep League

Top 10 Prospects
1. Mike Montgomery, LHP
2. Mike Moustakas, 3B
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Danny Duffy, LHP
5. Aaron Crow, RHP
6. Wil Myers, C
7. Tim Melville, RHP
8. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B
9. David Lough, OF
10. Jeff Bianchi, SS

Overall team outlook: A club of contradictions, the Royals boasts one of the best starting pitchers on the planet, an emerging slugger at first base, a still-promising third baseman, and a farm system fertile in pitching. Yet, GM Dayton Moore has shown an alarming affinity for low-OBP hitters with fatal offensive flaws. You can see a better future, but you have to squint really hard and pretend that Jose Guillen and Yuniesky Betancourt aren’t there.

The Starting Rotation: In 2009, Zack Greinke graduated from stealth ace to widely praised A.L. Cy Young award winner. He won’t come cheap, but with three plus pitches and superb control, Greinke has staying power. Gil Meche enters 2010 as a huge question mark. He topped 200 frames in his first two years in Kansas City (the first two times he accomplished that feat), with a FIP in the high 3.00s. But he paid for it last year, suffering back and shoulder injuries. Tread cautiously. No, Luke Hochevar isn’t likely to become an ace. However, the first pick in the 2006 draft has pitched more like a mid-rotation starter than his ghastly ERA would suggest. Expect a FIP in the mid-4.00s next year.

Former Braves prospect Kyle Davies still can’t find the strike zone with GPS tracking. As a fly-ball pitcher with average K rates, Davies has to hone his control to have fantasy relevance. Adding a cutter to his arsenal and using his change-up more often, Brian Bannister raised his ground-ball rate significantly. That helped cure the gopher-itis that plagued him in years past. Robinson Tejeda impressed in some late-season starts and misses bats, but he makes Davies look like Greg Maddux.

The Bullpen: Though he battled shoulder problems, Joakim Soria was lights-out when he took the mound. The Mexicutioner whiffed a career-high 11.7 hitters per nine innings, with personal bests in outside swing percentage, contact rate, and first-pitch strike percentage to boot. Soria’s health bears watching (he dealt with a shoulder injury in 2007, as well), but he’s as wicked as they come. Kyle Farnsworth missed significant time with a groin strain, but did manage to whiff more than 10 hitters per nine frames. Juan Cruz was sidelined with a shoulder strain, and has now hit the DL four seasons running. Control has never been his strong suit, and his K rate dipped last year. Tejeda could work his way into the set-up role if he’s not needed in the rotation.

The Starting Lineup: Turning 24 in April, Billy Butler began to tap into his power last year – with an ISO nearing .200 – while also increasing his walk rate. He’s a quality hitter now, and he’s still improving. Alberto Callaspo seems unlikely to repeat last year’s power outburst (his ISO was nearly 40 points higher than his minor league mark), though his bat still trumps Chris Getz’s. Friends don’t let friends draft Yuniesky Betancourt. Mike Aviles, returning from Tommy John surgery, could enter the picture. Alex Gordon’s 2009 was wrecked by a hip injury, and he needs to answer questions about his ability to handle lefties and breaking stuff. Don’t make the mistake of writing him off, though. Despite those faults, he has been a league-average hitter, and there’s still potential for more.

David DeJesus offers steady, if unspectacular, production. Scott Podsednik’s return from the dead was fueled by a very high BABIP. Buyer beware. Slowed by shoulder, Achilles, and groin injuries, Rick Ankiel hit a wall (literally and figuratively) in 2009. If he can remain upright, he’s a good bet to return to his aggressive, slugging ways. Hitting became so unnatural to Jose Guillen that he tore his knee putting on a shin guard. Save yourself the pain of drafting him. Jason Kendall barely slugged .300 last season, and, at 35, he’s not suddenly going to revert to his halcyon days as a Pirate.

The Bench: A former first-round pick of the White Sox, Josh Fields lashes lefties and can actually draw a free pass every now and then. However, he has whiffed in over a third of his Major League plate appearances and is allergic to sliders. Getz makes plenty of contact and can swipe bases, though he offers little pop. He’ll battle it out at second base with Callaspo. Switch-hitter Brayan Pena provides more lumber than Kendall, though his receiving skills are poor. Mitch Maier doesn’t offer much upside. Grit isn’t a fantasy category, so feel free to ignore Willie Bloomquist unless you’re really desperate for stolen bases.




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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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