It is finally here. After another disappointing season, we have survived the six months of the off-season. We have seen the Kansas City Royals respond to fans by making some real roster changes. Pitching has been at as a premium. Rightfully so and we have recounted this topic extensively. The rest of the roster looks pretty similar but will be asked to do much more than the performances in 2012 that ended in a 72-90 record. Its been 10 years since the Royals played .500 or better baseball for an entire season. It is time we get back to that. I took a look at a month-by-month breakdown and predicted where the team will stand.
It may sound cliché but the first month of the season may be the most important of the year for the team. The Royals have a series against all four of the divisional opponents, two at home and two on the road. From gauging fan interest through FanFest, Twitter, ticket sales and more, it is a safe assumption that there is more excitement surrounding the young squad than in recent memory. The minor league performance by this lineup deserves the hype but now guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have to come out of the gates hitting. This month will go a long way in seeing if this team is ready to compete.
April record: 14-11
Royals will ride a high into May after a big series win over the Cleveland Indians to close April. May is filled with daunting opponents names that have been a postseason fixture. With series against the Rays, Yankees, Orioles, A’s,Cardinals, and Rangers, Kansas City will face more than half of last year’s October competitors in addition to a series with the Angels. Pitching will be important to stabilize a young team faced with more pressure than they have seen awhile. James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie will do a solid job shutting down lineups and keeping the Royals confident. I see veteran leadership of Gordon and Butler helping us pull out big series wins over the Yankees and Angels as Baseball Tonight on ESPN starts noticing what is happening in KC. Kansas City is going to head into the summer months just a game back of the Wild Card and nipping at the Tigers heels.
May: 16-13 (30-24 overall)
After a hot May to stay in contention against tough competition, the arms slip up in June. Look to the injury bug to hit right before the Tommy John re-enforcements are ready. Butler has always been known for having a hot June and I won’t expect in different this month. The Royals will have their highest run producing month but shaky starting pitching will also lead to the most runs allowed in any month. So bottom feeders at the start of the month (Twins and Astros) will help the Royals maintain a winning record for the month.
June: 14-13 (44-37 overall)
July hits and the Royals are right in the middle of the playoff race. Although Shields and Co. have been a great asset to the team, no pitcher stood out quite enough to earn an All-Star game nod. However Salvador Perez has went about his business all season and is known around the league as the only catcher on the same level as Yadier Molina. Perez maintains his high BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to have a .306 BA and 10 home runs at the break. Perez, along with the consistently awesome Billy Butler, represent the Royals at the All-Star game. It will be the first time the Royals have had more than one All-Star since 2003 (figures). The Royals farm system has once again proven to be deep and a new wave of talent should be ready in two years. However, the team wants to make a playoff push and needs to add a lefty-hitting outfielder to platoon (or hopefully replace) Jeff Francoeur. Dayton Moore won’t be a major player at the deadline for pitching as Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will both be ready for action along with young flamethrower Yordano Ventura. Unfortunately, the product on the field slips a bit with tough series against the A’s, Orioles, Tigers and a healthy Yankees squad. The Royals have their first losing month, albeit just barely.
July: 12-13 (56-50 overall)
The Royals are playing meaningful baseball in August. That has a nice ring to it doesn’t it! The Royals will benefit from an easier start of the month with series against the Twins, Mets, and Marlins. Alex Gordon proves that he was the biggest All-Star snub of the year by winning AL Player of the Month along with firmly planting himself as the best defensive left fielder. Unfortunately series sweeps by the Nationals and Blue Jays to end the month cause the team to fall a few games back in the Wild Card chase. However, the Royals remain a part of all the national discussions on playoff contenders.
August: 15-14 (71-64)
Well on their way to having the best attendance at Kauffman stadium in the 21st century, the Royals are in battles throughout the month of February. Six early games against the Tigers do not bode well for the team as the powerful Detroit lineup is on pace to set team record in runs for a season. Danny Duffy is a pleasant surprise in the final month of the season, creating a lot of buzz for him being the future of the rotation. In the end, the team was never able to get hot enough down the stretch. The Royals finish the season with their final seven games on the road and aren’t quite able to get back to .500 for the month as Moustakas and Perez both cool off in September.
September: 13-14 (84-78)
My final record prediction for the 2013 Kansas City Royals is 84-78. It is considered a success by many and the optimism for 2014 will be highest it has been since the early 90′s. In fact, it is the best Royals record since 1993 when Kevin Appier led the AL in ERA. The team was playoff contenders until the end but stumbled to finish seven games back of the second Wild Card spot. (The least amount of wins, dating back to 1997, that it took to win the AL Wild Card has been 91.) The Royals finish second in the AL Central, 11 games back of a Detroit Tigers team that boasted one of the best rosters going into the season. A season with many “if’s” from the start finished with many successes. The young hitters (Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, and Cain) all improved from 2012 and have regained the reputation as the best young collection of hitters in all of baseball. With Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura both looking like possible Cy Young candidates down the road, the future is shining bright in Kansas City. The Royals are back.