The Boys In Blue

The Royals look to build off of last year’s World Championship.

2015 World Series Champions.

Fresh off of a World Championship, the Royals look to continue the success fueled by the past two seasons.

Though the bulk of last year’s team is returning, there were a few notable departures. Both players that were added at the trade deadline last year, pitcher Johnny Cueto and second baseman Ben Zobrist, changed teams during free agency. Cueto signed with the San Francisco Giants and Zobrist with the Chicago Cubs. Right fielder Alex Rios was not re-signed nor was relief pitcher Ryan Madson.

Despite losing those players, the Royals had a strong showing in the free agent market. The most important move of the offseason was re-signing leftfielder and franchise player Alex Gordon. Gordon has been a staple of the franchise and the Royals would have been hard pressed to replace him. Another key move was signing beloved catcher Salvador Perez to a restructured, long term deal. Additionally, they signed relief pitcher Joakim Soria who previously pitched for the Royals from 2007-2011. In order to sure up the starting rotation, the Royals re-signed Chris Young and signed Ian Kennedy from the San Diego Padres.

The signing of Kennedy has been questioned by many. Kennedy’s performance has seemed to be on the decline in recent years. His Earned Run Average (ERA) increased from 3.63 to 4.28 from 2014-2015. However, the Royals have had a knack for finding players who appear to be nearing the end of their careers and actually getting great production from them. The biggest examples would be Madson, Young and slugger Kendrys Morales from last year’s team.

One question that is looming for the Royals is who will play second base. Omar Infante is returning after a season-ending injury last year. He will be competing against Christian Colon, who is looking to become a full-time player in the Majors after two years serving as a reserve. Colon hit .290 in 107 at-bats while Infante hit .220 in 440 at-bats. Infante typically plays above average defense, but he lacks arm strength. However, he had surgery to fix a bone-spur in his right elbow, which should help his throwing. Colon has not played much second base in the Majors, so it’s unclear how he will do. Ultimately, it came down to how well Colon and Infante played this spring.

The other situation to watch is in right field. As of now, manager Ned Yost plans to have Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando platoon. Dyson will play against right-handed pitching since he hits left-handed. The right-handed-hitting Orlando will play against left-handed pitching. Dyson strained his oblique during spring training and will miss the start of the regular season.

On the mound, the Royals sport a questionable rotation. Edinson Volquez, last year’s World Series Game 1 starter, will head the rotation. He will be followed by third year fireballer Yordano Ventura, then Kennedy, Young and Kris Medlen. The Royals don’t necessarily have a go-to pitcher. They don’t have a David Price or Clayton Kershaw. However, top to bottom the rotation should be strong enough to win games and hand the ball off to the bullpen.

The bullpen should be one of the stronger points for the Royals again this year. The signing of Soria should help fill the void left by the injured Greg Holland. Wade Davis will return after having two of the best years ever by a relief pitcher. Luke Hochevar will look to improve after a strong season last year.

Kansas City should expect another strong season from the Royals. Despite the fact that many analysts and simulations have the Royals finishing lower in the division, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win the American League Central for a second straight year. A defensive team that can hit top to bottom and has a deep bullpen is what wins playoff games and that’s exactly what the Royals are. Plenty of household names are returning on the diamond to prove themselves yet again. This streaky, comeback-crazed team is poised to make a push for a third straight World Series appearance.