In Kansas City, you could say they’ve experienced something of a rough patch.
By the numbers, here is what the Kansas City Royals have looked like since 1985:
- Since 1992 the Royals have three winning seasons
- The Royals haven’t made the playoffs since 1985, which was also the last time they won the World Series
- Since 1985 they’ve had ten managers (by contrast, the Braves (4), Twins(3), and Cardinals (3) have had ten combined
- Four expansion franchises have formed and participated in the World Series since 1985 with two of them (Marlins and Diamondbacks) winning at least one.
- The I-70 series (Cardinals/Royals) has been a one-sided affair when it comes to accomplishments as the Cardinals have 11 playoff appearances, two world titles, and five National League Pennants
I think you have a better understanding why the slightest activity in Kansas City is a cause for celebration?
Now for some good news Royals fans: your team is getting better in a hurry. Last year the Royals finished 71-91 and looked every bit of lost heading into the season. From the farm system, however, it was a different story. While fans were enduring another losing season at Kaufman Stadium (which we will talk about in a minute), they had to feel good with what was coming through their system.
Dayton Moore, the former assistant general manager in Atlanta, came to Kansas City and was hammered repeated for deals he made. Rightfully so, I wouldn’t say signing Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera as landmark moves for a team struggling to gain traction in an ever evolving American League Central. They couldn’t even take solace in their ace, as eventually he was shipped to Milwaukee. What we didn’t expect was both Cabrera (.305/18/87 with 20 steals) and Francouer (.285/20/87) to have career rebirths in the friendly confines of Kansas City.
We also didn’t see Alex Gordon, the former number one pick (2nd overall) in the 2005 draft, to finally put it all together…in left field? Here is a guy who was dubbed the next George Brett (poor soul) at third base in Kansas City. But he committed too many errors (44 from 2007-2010), didn’t hit like he did in the minors (11/40/.244 from 2007-2010), and was in danger of being labeled a bust. After moving to the outfield he became a completely different player. he hit .303 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI’s. The move to the outfield allowed him to clear his mind and concentrate on hitting. It also allowed him to win his first gold glove as he shined on defense as well with a .991 fielding percentage and 20 outfield assists (Francouer (16) and Cabrera (13) ensured no one was running on this outfield).
Most exciting of all is that Moore and manager Ned Yost decided it was time to get those young guns in Triple-A some experience.
Eric Hosmer, rated the number eight prospect in the minors, came up and put everyone on notice that first base was now his. He responded to his call-up by hitting .293 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s. Mike Moustakas started off slow, but finished with a flourish. While his overall numbers (.263/5/30) might not jump off the page, a closer look show a guy who went from hitting .263 and .160 in June and July, to figuring it out in August (.283) and September/October (.352). Both will need to improve on defense but both are still young (21 and 22 respectively). With those two, “veteran” Billy Butler (.291/19/95), Shortstop Alcides Escobar (who came in the Greinke trade and added 26 stolen bases and defense up the middle), and oncoming Salvador Perez, 21, who displayed some skill with the bat (3/21/.331) this lineup is nothing to mess around with.
On the mound, Moore made a trade in the off-season for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez (trading away Melky Cabrera), a lefty with talent and a lot of issues when it comes to control and getting rattled. He will join a rotation that I don’t see as particularly strong. Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies are serviceable, but neither will get you where you want to go throughout an entire season.
The Royals bullpen had huge potential, but with Joakim Soria going down for 2012 they just lost their best closer. While former All-Star Jonathan Broxton can fill in, questions still remain whether or not he has rid himself of the control issues that have plagued him since about the middle of 2009. While the line-up is capable of doing some damage, their rotation won’t allow them to compete once a lead is established.
Kauffman stadium has even gone through a rebirth of sorts. In 2009 renovations to “The K.” were completed, and because of the efforts of the community, the Royals organization, and community leaders they were able to secure the 2012 MLB All-Star game. A major opportunity in putting this organization back in the focus of baseball fans across the country.
While Moore has done a great job of procuring talent, he still has much work to do. Kudos to the job he has done to this point in making the Royals relevant despite their market. He will need to solidify the rotation and while help is on the way in the form of Mike Montgomery (#1 prospect in the organization) and Kelvin Herrera, Moore needs to shift his focus a bit to the mound as not to let the talent at the plate go to waste.
The Royals are a franchise on the rise. Which is good news considering there hasn’t been much going on in Kansas City since 1985.