2010 Season Forecast: Kansas City Royals

Last Five Seasons:

2009:  65 –  97 (Tied for last in AL Central)
2008:  75 –  87
2007:  69 –  93
2006:  62 – 100
2005:  56 – 106

Runs Scored: 686 – 13th in the AL
Runs Allowed: 842 – 12th in the AL

The pitching of Cleveland meets the offense of Seattle.

2009 Season in Review:

Trey Hillman was able to ride the success of Zach Greinke only so far – and the lack of production at too many offensive positions combined with some poor starting pitching meant that Greinke’s success meant avoiding 100 losses (again).

Did you know that after beating Seattle 3 – 1 on May 7th, the Royals were 18 – 11 and leading the AL Central?  A losing streak kicked off and by May 25th, the Royals fell under .500 at 22 – 23.  That means that Kansas City went 47 – 86 after that hot start…

Fun stat: Royals cleanup hitters hit .211, slugged .315, and had a .280 OBP.  There are players who slug .600 – but the Royals clean up hitters didn’t ADD UP to that number.  Ouch.

Starting Pitching:

Zack Greinke had the best season for a starter in a LONG time…  Gil Meche isn’t a horrible second starter, despite the big paycheck, though he is showing signs of being more frail than first thought.  Kyle Davies can’t be a long term pitcher unless he learns to strike people out.  And he’s not even as good as another no-K pitcher, Brian Bannister.  Luke Hochevar occasionally shows signs of being a really good AAA starter and will be in the rotation.  Guys like Davies and Bannister need air-tight defenses to be successful but do you see any really good fielders below?  The Royals need to stop trying things like giving chances to Sidney Ponson…

Relief Pitching:

Closer Joakim Soria is the real deal – gets outs, keeps people off the bases.  They had one guy who was surprisingly good (Robinson Tejada) and another who was surprisingly bad (Yasuhiko Yabuta), and a bunch of guys who didn’t matter (Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Cruz, John Bale, Roman Colon, Bruce Chen).


Replacing Miguel Olivo and John Buck with Jason Kendall, who comes over after signing a two-year deal.  I get that Olivo is rather error prone and Buck isn’t a budding all-star.  But they put 80 runs on the board (combined) and are far, far younger than Jason Kendall, who is better defensively but only puts 50 runs on the board in a season.  And that’s giving Kendall the benefit of the doubt, because if you went by handling the staff, nobody wants the lack of production found in the Milwaukee pitching staff.


Billy Butler is a very good hitter who may one day become comfortable playing first base.  Chris Getz comes over to play second base from the White Sox where he proved nothing as a hitter but is about 15 runs better defensively than Alberto Callaspo.  Callaspo can hit, though, so he will likely play somewhere.  You’d love for Mike Aviles to come back – working through back injuries (among other problems), Aviles went from Rookie of the Year to Mario Mendoza and that won’t help managers.  At short, the Royals are trying Yuniesky Betancourt, who isn’t going to help the Royals offensively or defensively.  He’s just sort of there.  Alex Gordon was once projected to be a star isn’t, and Mark Teahen – who can and did play everywhere and contributed a little bit offensively – is now with the White Sox.  Another former Royal?  Mike Jacobs played himself out of a job at first.  Does anyone other than me think that Kila Ka’aihue isn’t given a real chance, rather than spending good money on Mike Jacobs?


Signing Coco Crisp for the 2009 season was a bit of a nightmare, especially watching his salary get spent on the DL and his on-field production falling off.  Mitch Maier got a few innings and plays hard if not productively.  He’s Dave Martinez (some old Cub fans might remember him) at this point, and not quite that good.  David DeJesus is a pretty good outfielder and a pretty good hitter – a poor man’s Carl Crawford.  Jose Guillen not only underperformed at the plate but is a liability defensively in right field.  Looking forward, the team paid good money for a fading and ineffective (and now add injury prone) Rick Ankiel, and added White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik, who is Juan Pierre with a bit better arm.  Willie Bloomquist returns as a fourth/fifth outfielder.

Down on the Farm:

Kila Ka’aihue could be a prospect – but another year at AAA wasn’t as good.  He’s 25 and wasted in this organization.  Brayan Pena is close to being ready as a catcher, hitting .307 in limited time at Omaha – and he’s also getting old for a prospect (28 in 2010).  The best pitcher, Luke Hochevar, isn’t ready for the big leagues yet but the Royals don’t have better options right now.

The best pitchers at AA Northwest Arkansas are relivers Chris Nicoll (7 – 0, but a bit wild and his ERA was 3.50) or either Greg Holland or Aaron Hartsock.  Former 2nd round pick, Jeff Bianchi, showed signs of putting his career together, hitting .300 at A+ Wilmington and .315 with a little power and speed at AA.  I like David Lough even more – and he’s just 23.  More power, better batting average, fewer years in the system.  He’ll be in the outfield soon enough.

Danny Duffy, a twenty-year-old fire baller, had a solid run at A+ Wilmington, and teen Mike Montgomery will be on the Royals staff by the end of 2010 if not 2011’s Opening Day roster.  Both have control, good K/9 ratios, and winning records.  They’re just too young right now.

Looking Ahead to 2010:

Can this really be a better team in 2010 than 2009?  Does the pitching look better this year?  It’s the same rotation hoping that Greinke is still this good.  If he comes down to earth to where he’s just ordinary good, that’s a loss of 35 runs on the defensive side.  The bullpen isn’t deeper.  The catching has gotten older and Kendall is going to lose his reputation for game management if he has another off year with a staff.

Then you look at the lineup.  They’ve gotten 30 runs worse at catcher.  They could be 20 runs better in the outfield (Podsednik instead of Crisp/Maier in the outfield), but the infield isn’t getting better because if Aviles comes back he’s just being as good as Teahen and Getz isn’t going to hit.  Defensively, this is a poor infield – nobody can field for them.

I have a hard time seeing the Royals as better – and they may be worse.  The staff will likely allow about 875 runs and the offense will be lucky to score 700 runs unless (a) the Royals let Brayan Pena catch and (b) Aviles hits like he did in 2008 and (c) Jose Guillen does SOMETHING.  You never know.  As such, I see the team winning about 63 games.  Another long season in KC – and another three to five year plan will likely have to start in 2011.

Pettitte Back in 2010; Hall of Fame Theories

Sources say Andy Pettittle will play ball in 2010, following a successful season (and postseason) with the Yankees.  All that’s left is to work out a deal with the Yankees.  [ESPN]

Miguel Sano, a Dominican prospect who is the property of the Minnesota Twins, got his work visa – which means he can start his professional career in the US.  Because of issues with Dominican players falsifying names and ages, Sano and his parents needed to fulfill DNA testing and bone scans to confirm his identity and age before he could sign.  Sano is 16, and received a bonus north of $3 million to join the Twins organization.  [ESPN]

Tampa and Texas have shown an interest in Cubs outfielder/malcontent Milton Bradley.  The hold up?  Figuring out how much cash Cubs GM Jim Hendry is willing to give up to make the deal happen.  [MLB]

What’s Your Take?

As today is the opening day of the baseball meetings in Indianapolis, MLB revisited some of the best deals of the last 40 years.  They opened with Nolan Ryan, who was acquired by three different teams – California, Houston, and Texas.  Now, seriously.  Ryan was singularly a unique talent, but did he really change the fortunes of the teams he joined?  No, he did not.  I see an off season article in my future…  [MLB]

SI’s Sky Andrecheck reviews the Hall of Fame voting patterns for four veterans (Dawson, Morris, Blyleven, and Lee Smith) and whether this is the year any of those four break through.  [SI]

Happy Birthday! Johnny Bench, as good a catcher as ever lived, and pitch man for Krylon Paint back in the day (“no runs, no drips, no errors”), was born on this day in 1947.

Before I give the list, Shane Mack (1963) also celebrates today.  The first foul ball I ever got came off the bat of Shane Mack.  Jeanne had given me season tickets to Royals games in 1998 for Christmas.  A foul ball had rarely come near me in some 30 years of going to games – but that year, Jeanne was a ball magnet.  She only attended nine games with me, but in the first two she attended, we had one come right to my seat.  In an early April game, a nearby guy knocked both of us over to take the ball away.  But two weeks later, she attended one where Mack DRILLED a liner right at her.  She was holding a coke and a tray of nachos and wanted to lean left out of the way.  However, I leaned her way (in part to protect her, in part to make a reach for the ball.  Everyone else was ducking for cover.  The ball nicked my middle fingertip, smacked the chair behind Jeanne, and bounced up in the middle of the the group (six rows off of third base, on the edge of the outfield grass).  I reached up and got it – was on the Jumbotron.  Still have the ball.

Others celebrating with cake, cards, or remembrances include: Hobe Ferris (1874) a teammate of Rube Waddell with the Browns and Millers, no-hit pitchers Bo Belinsky (1936) and Don Cardwell (1935).  Belinsky’s was the first in Angels history – his fourth win after joining the Angels in 1962 after coming up in the Orioles chain.  Cardwell’s was the first where a pitcher was making his first start with a new team after arriving in a trade.  Cardwell was a Phillie who came to the Cubs for Tony Taylor…  I can still see and hear the highlights (Jack Brickhouse with the call) – Brickhouse was urging Moose Moryn to race in and take a ball off his shoetops (“Liner to left – C’mon Moose…  He got it!  Don Cardwell throws a no hitter!!!”)…  Continuing…  Rich Coggins (1950), Paul  Dade (1951), Scot Thomson (1955), Ozzie Virgil (1956), Tino Martinez (1967), Eric Chavez (1977), Ryan Theriot (1979), and Fausto Carmona (1983).