Series Preview: Kansas City Royals (April 22-24)

2007 At-A-Glance

Run Creation AL Rank
Runs 13th
BA 11th
OBP 13th
SLG 14th
Run Prevention AL Rank
Runs Allowed 8th
Walks Allowed 7th
HR Allowed 10th
Def. Efficiency 11th

For the first time in four seasons, the Royals did not lose 100 games, and for the first time since their unexpected success in 2003 Kansas City didn't look that far from becoming competitive once again. The starting staff showed the greatest improvement; in 2006, only three pitchers made 20 or more starts, and all three sported ERAs over 5.00. In 2007, two starters posted ERA+s over 120 (Gil Meche and Brian Bannister), and both were acquired during the winter before.

In the bullpen, Joakim Soria, a Rule 5 draft pick, was successful as the closer almost from the beginning of the season. Jimmy Gobble, in his first full season in the bullpen, found his niche as a matchup leftie. David Riske again pitched well in  a setup role.

The offense wasn't very good, scoring only 706 runs, but there were some key pieces in place by the end of the season. Alex Gordon made his major-league debut on Opening Day and acquitted himself very well, playing better as the season went on. 21-year-old Billy Butler supplanted Mike Sweeney as the team's full-time DH, hitting from the get-go. Ross Gload, acquired for the overhyped Andrew Sisco, gave the Royals cheap production at first base.

But even with several shrewd moves moving the Royals away from laughingstock territory, there was still work to be done for GM Dayton Moore:

Important Offseason Transactions

11-28-07: Signed RHP Yashuhiko Yabuta to a two-year contract

12-6-07: Signed OF Jose Guillen to a three-year contract

12-14-07: Traded RHP Billy Buckner to Arizona for IF Alberto Callaspo

12-20-07: Signed LHP Ron Mahay to a two-year contract

12-27-07: Signed C Miguel Olivo to a one-year contract (TO)

1-3-08: Signed RHP Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract

1-21-08: Signed RHP Brett Tomko to a one-year contract

3-26-08: Traded a PTBNL to Colorado for RHP Ramon Ramirez

Among others, Mike Sweeney left via free agency. Emil Brown was non-tendered in December.

The Guillen signing stands out among the other moves. The Royals really need power, and if Jose can stay in the lineup, he'll be good for 50 extra-base hits. Callaspo looks like a good pickup considering their lack of middle infield depth. Otherwise, there isn't that much to get excited about. I had no idea that Hideo Nomo was still looking to play in the big leagues, let alone still good enough to pitch there, although he didn't last long (DFAd yesterday). 

Strengths and Weaknesses

The bullpen, anchored by Soria, may be the best the Royals have had in years. The front end of the rotation looks pretty good, especially if Zach Greinke can complete his comeback. 

As with many rebuilding teams, depth is an issue, especially in the rotation -  how top prospect Luke Hochevar pitches will be a big key. Tony Pena isn't the long-term answer at short, and second baseman Mark Gruzielanek isn't getting any younger.

2008 Outlook

The Royals won't be a serious contender in the AL Central, but they are a vastly improved team. Gordon and Butler are only going to get better, and if their older core (Teahen, DeJesus) can stay healthy, the offense should be a lot more potent.

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