The White Sox won just six out of 18 games against the Kansas City Royals last season, and for those who followed the team closely, even that six seems like a high number.
While those pesky Royals beat the Sox brains in, the fact is that Kansas City went 22-32 against the rest of the division, was a 90 loss team, and had the same problem they did for really the past two decades: pitching.
However, a couple of key moves combined with a young, improving and already talented lineup could,
and probably will, mean that the White Sox will not be the only AL Central team that has trouble with
the Royals in 2013.
An Impactful Offseason
The biggest trade of the winter was initiated by Kansas City, as after many years, the team finally
decided to be bold and trade a package of prospects centered around “can’t miss” prodigy Wil Myers to
Tampa Bay for proven ace James Shields, pitcher Wade Davis and utility man Elliot Johnson. While many
may not consider James Shields an ace, numbers say otherwise, as his WHIP, ERA, IP, K and win totals
have been comparable, and often better, than the likes of Zach Grienke the last two seasons.
Shields and Davis solidify a rotation that’s undergoing a total makeover, and with good reason. The team
used 13 starting pitchers last season, and six of those guys ended up with ERAs north of five. Kansas
City also acquired Ervin Santana from the Angels, and the three new pitchers will likely join the only
two consistent starters the team had last season in Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen. That rotation gives
Kansas City their strongest rotation they have had in recent memory.
The rotation woes do not reflect the bullpen, however, as it consists of a young group of guys that drew
praise from Sox hitters last season on a few occasions. KC let fan-favorite and oft-injured closer Joakim
Soria walk this off-season, but Greg Holland showed he can handle that role last season by saving 16
games in 20 chances. He headlines a group that consists of 2011 All-Star Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera,
and left-hander Tim Collins; all of whom were solid in their roles last season.
With the influx of starters coming in this off-season, 2012 rotation guys like Luis Mendoza and former number one pick Luke Hochevar seem like prime candidate to pitch out of the 2013 bullpen, making it even more formidable.
Offensive Development A Scary Thought
Kansas City did not do much to boost their lineup, though they probably didn't need to. Despite winning just
72 games in 2012, the Royals were seventh in the majors in hitting (.265), and the incredible amount of
youth amongst their position players suggests that number will only improve. Not one Royals projected
starter is 30, and of their three 29 year-olds, two of them (Chris Getz and Jeff Francoeur) really aren’t
main cogs in the lineup to begin with, while the other is Alex Gordon.
Billy Butler and Alciedes Escobar are both just 26 and emerged as very good players at their position last season, and fellow 26-year-old Lorenzo Cain improved as the season went on. Catcher Salvador Perez hit above .300 last year after returning from injury and is just 22, and while corner infielders Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were streaky last year, both are below 25 and have shown flashes of being elite middle-of-the-order hitters.
Needless to say, Kansas City’s lineup scares me.
So, what is a realistic expectation for the Royals in 2013? It’s pretty clear the Detroit Tigers are the
team to beat in the division, but can they close the gap in the standings on our White Sox? Lord knows
the gap looked completely closed on the field last season when the two teams met.
The question with the Royals has always been the youth and pitching. Now, the pitching is improved, and the team is a year older. While the Tigers are still the gold standard and probably your AL Central division champion once again, Kansas City can, and probably will, give the White Sox a run for their money as a wild card representative.