Our previews of the teams in the American League march on. Click here to see the other posts in this series.
It almost seems a bit premature to be writing this. No one expects the Royals to be any good in 2011. However, for long-suffering Kansas City fans hope may finally be emerging. According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, the Royals have “the deepest farm system in baseball.” The team is reported to have a slew of pitching and position prospects on the cusp of breaking into the Majors. Yankee fans need only point as far as Jesus Montero and Phil Hughes to demonstrate how exciting it can be for new prospects to break into the game. Even if the team is bad it can be exciting to follow the development of a top talent, and the Royals are said to have a few such players in the system. So, Royals fans have that going for them.
Unfortunately this isn’t a preview about the Kansas City farm system. This is a preview of how a team that went 67-95 in 2010 will fare in 2011. For readers who like to get straight to the point, the answer is not much better. For those of you who love numbers, the performance of the 2010 team is below. The data are taken from Baseball-Reference.
I’ve met a few Kansas City fans over the years, and each one has been a knowledgeable, dedicated baseball fan, which is why it pains me to say that the numbers above look like a team that would lose almost 100 games. It jumps out immediately that the team didn’t have a single 20-plus homer bat in the lineup and lacked a single starter with an ERA+ above 101. That’s a bad combination. The Royals did have a surprisingly strong bullpen, led by the amazing Joakim Soria, but the relievers are only as strong as the scenarios they inherit. Judging by those numbers they inherited a lot of base runners and deficits.
As I hinted earlier, 2011 doesn’t fare much better. As always, because they were kind enough to project the team’s 2011 lineup so I wouldn’t have to to, the numbers below come from RotoChamp. I’ve provided the CAIRO projection and RotoChamp’s proprietary projection. Something unusual happened with the Royals. The two systems disagree about the potential lineups for the team, which is why a bit more data is below than usual for my contributions to this series.
If the Royals’ problem in 2010 was a combination of bad hitting and bad pitching then I regret to announce formally that 2011 doesn’t project to be much better. That said, there are some improvements on the hitting side. If you trust RotoChamp then Kila Ka’aihue may actually break the 20-homer mark next season. In addition, Billy Butler is legitimate with the bat. That’s about it. Looking on the more conservative, CAIRO side of the ledger, apart from those two only Alex Gordon figures to have an OBP above .340. The roster contains a lot of weak hitters and castaways after that, including former Yankee and current donut-eater Melky Cabrera, who was cut from the CAIRO lineup, but figures to pick up where he left off according to the RotoChamp projection.
The hitting in 2010 may have been bad, but the team’s real weakness was its starting pitching. Zack Greinke regressed considerably from his phenomenal 2009 and the team didn’t have a quality starter after that. Greinke was traded to Milwaukee this past offseason (and is hurt currently) and the Royals don’t have much to replace him. Not a single one of their starters projects to have an ERA below 4.20 according to either projection system. Not a single one of them projects to have a WHIP below 1.35. Heck, only two of them project to strike out more than 100 batters. Put another way, all these guys project to be bad, really bad.
Joakim Soria remains a beast, but for whatever reason neither projection system is forecasting anyone in the bullpen apart from him. He’s good, but he’s not THAT good. Besides, as the closer he won’t figure to get many chances with such an awful rotation.
In aggregate, the Royals may actually project to be worse in 2011 than they were in 2010, when they lost 95 games. The hitting is just as weak as it was in 2010 while the pitching is worse. Greinke wasn’t the monster he was in 2009 last year, but he was better than every single starter Kansas City is forecast to put on the hump this season. That loss alone is worth a win or two, and probably more. Its safe to say Kansas City is not about to become the power of the AL Central in 2011. If there is a silver lining to this horror story its that the secret of the Kansas City farm system is definitely out of the bag. With any luck for the long-suffering Royal fans those prospects will end up as good as advertised, because this year isn’t going to be any better than the suffering of recent seasons.
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