Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/17/14

Despite yet another fourth place finish in 2011, there were plenty of positives for the Royals. Alex Gordon finally had his breakout season, prospect Eric Hosmer made his major league debut and shined, and the team got some unlikely production from a pair of veterans in Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. The team looks poised for an improved season in 2012, led by Gordon and Hosmer.

Royals on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Top Ten Prospects
You May Say I'm a Dreamer

Depth Chart (as of 3/22)
C: Humberto Quintero
1B: Eric Hosmer
2B: Johnny Giovotella
SS: Alcides Escobar
3B: Mike Moustakas
LF: Alex Gordon
CF: Lorenzo Cain
RF: Jeff Francoeur
DH: Billy Butler
SP: Luke Hochevar
SP: Jonathan Sanchez
SP: Bruce Chen
SP: Felipe Paulino
SP: Danny Duffy
CL: Jonathan Broxton

New Faces
The team brought in Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois this week after the injury suffered by Salvador Perez this month. The top name brought in by the Royals was Jonathan Sanchez, who has excellent stuff, but has command issues as well. The team also signed former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, and after Joakim Soria's elbow injury, Broxton will look to claim the team's closer's role this spring. For some reason, Kansas City also brought in former Royal Yuniesky Betancourt, but only in a bench role. 

Departures
The Royals traded Melky Cabrera, last season's most shocking player of the year, to San Francisco in exchange for Sanchez. The only major league free agents that the team lost were soft-tossing starter Jeff Francis, reliever Aaron Laffey, and catcher Jason Kendall, who remains unsigned. 

Impact Rookies
With the departure of Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain (who came over in the Zack Greinke deal last winter) will take over as the team's every day center fielder. Everyone else was pretty much with the Royals last season, getting a taste of the majors. It'll be the first full-time action for Johnny Giovotella, though.

Position Battles
With Soria's elbow injury, the closer's role has been gifted to Broxton, a veteran with experience. Kansas City likely has a better option though, in Greg Holland. If Holland doesn't get the role right out of Spring Training, I'das  expect him to get it by the end of April. In case one of their five starters struggle, the Royals have a pair of 4-A options waiting in the wings in Omaha in Vin Mazzaro and Sean O'Sullivan. Veteran Kevin Kouzmanoff is fighting for a bench role, but Betancourt appears to be the favorite for that spot.

Injury Concerns
Perez just had surgery for a torn meniscus, and will likely miss most of the first half. It's a huge injury for the Royals, and is the reason they had to make the Quintero/Bourgeois trade. Soria has damage to his UCL in his throwing elbow, and it's probable that he'll require Tommy John surgery, which would put him out for the entire season. 

Burning Question
Are the Royals going to get enough out of their rotation to contend in 2012?

Best Case
The Royals young hitters go nuts, and the team is among the top 25% of the league in offense. The pitching isn't great, but they hold their own, and the young Royals push the Tigers for the division title.

Worst Case
The pitching is really, really bad, and the Royals continue to languish in the middle part of the division, not threatening for a playoff spot.

Realistic Prediction
Are the Royals a supremely talented young team? For sure. But are they going to contend this season? Probably not. If the team has everything go right, they could threaten the Tigers, but I think that's a pipe dream at this point because of their pitching staff.

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