2014 Outlook: Kansas City Royals

2014 Outlook: Kansas City Royals
January 17, 2014, 3:00 pm
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2013 record: 86-76, 3rd place in AL Central
Manager: Ned Yost, 5th season
Estimated 2014 payroll: $90 million
Key additions: OF Norichika Aoki, 2B Omar Infante, LHP Jason Vargas
Key losses: RHP Ervin Santana, LHP Brcuce Chen, C George Kottaras

Projected lineup
RF Norichika Aoki
2B Omar Infante
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Lorenzo Cain
SS Alcides Escobar

Projected rotation
RHP James Shields
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Wade Davis
LHP Danny Duffy

Top relievers
CL Greg Holland
RHP Luke Hochevar
LHP Tim Collins

Biggest questions entering 2014
1. Where will the power come from? Though the Royals hit a collective .260 in 2013 (fifth in the AL), they ranked dead-last with only 112 home runs. They need somebody to produce some more power from the heart of their lineup. Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon all have the ability to hit 25-to-30 homers. Kansas City would love to see at least two of those three actually do it and take some pressure off a very good pitching staff.

2. Was Jason Vargas worth the money? Needing a replacement for free agent Ervin Santana, the Royals went out and signed Vargas for four years and $32 million. That's a major commitment to a left-hander with a career 51-58 record and 4.30 ERA, especially one who benefitted from pitching in large parks in Seattle and Anaheim. Kansas City sure hopes Vargas pitches up to the contract and is a strong No. 3 starter behind James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie.

3. Is this finally the year in K.C.? Do you remember the last time the Royals reached the postseason? You have to go all the way back to their World Series championship in 1985. That's the longest drought in baseball. This, however, might just be the year it finally happens. The Royals have a good rotation, a great bullpen and an exciting, young lineup. They might not be able to catch Detroit for the AL Central title, but a Wild Card berth absolutely looks attainable.