Jason Dannelly’s Annual KC Royals Preview.


Welcome to the Burch Smith Era

Well here we are again! Opening day is upon us and it’s time to strap in for 162 games where the summer sun beating down on our backs as we watch the boys in blue take the AL Central and head to the World Series.

Wow. . .these are. . . really good drugs.

I’m kidding, no drugs were taken during the writing of this preview although by the end of the season that might be a different story. To be honest if there is anyone that has that positive of an outlook on this season for KC you might want to get a hair sample and send it off to the lab.

This morning I went to my real job excited about the prospect of coming home and writing out my forecast on the upcoming season for the Royals. I was just about ready to punch out for the day before the news broke that Salvador Perez would miss 4-6 weeks with a torn MCL because he was injured CARRYING HIS LUGGAGE.

That’s not a joke. That’s a real thing.

So now with less than 24 hours to go before the first game of the year KC will be relying on the best hair in baseball, Drew Butera, to be the man behind the plate. While there are definitely worse options one can hope Butera can be his usual self on defense and slightly above average on offense to help the Royals through the early part of the season. One real advantage is Butera has been with KC for three seasons, so he is familiar with what’s going to be thrown at him.

The pitchers for KC are basically like a package of Starburst. That one is pretty good, that one sucks, I kinda like this one, throw that one away and I guess I’ll take that one if you don’t have anything else.

Danny Duffy gets the start on opening day for KC and is easily the most solid arm in the rotation. Duffy has days where he looks like one of the best pitchers in all of the majors and could prove to be a lightning rod for the Royals on the mound. Hopefully this season he stays healthy and can move forward as a premier pitcher in baseball.

As for the rest of the starters there is some real promise but to be honest I wish there were a couple more youthful arms that were ready to step up. Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel both has experience and can eat up innings but neither get you all juiced up when you see they are starting. Nate Karns is due for a breakout season and could be a pleasant surprise after recovering from injury last season. Right now, I foresee the No. 5 starter for KC to be a revolving door this season of Jakob Junis, Eric Skogland, Trevor Oaks and Miguel Almonte. Part of me hopes that Kyle Zimmer could put it all together and become the prospect we all wanted him to be but right now he just needs to have a season where he stays healthy.

Out of the bullpen the Royals will rely on Kelvin Herrera as their closer. After that. . .there aren’t a lot of names that give you a bunch of confidence coming into the season. Brandon Maurer and Willy Peralta have experience in the big leagues and might be the next most reliable. Peralta had a good career with Milwaukee so hopefully he can transition into being able to throw one or two decent innings every few days. Justin Grimm was also added in the offseason and hopefully he can return to his 2015 form where he had a 1.99 ERA and opponents only batted .178 against him.

If anyone has a breakout season for KC, please let it be Burch Smith. Smith is a Rule 5 pick for KC and he has some of the best lettuce in the game. If he cuts his hair, send him packing. Smith throws hard and could be one of those guys you can get one solid inning from every few days. He’s been in the upper 90’s and over 100 in the past.

The Royals picked up Lucas Duda during spring training to be the replacement to Eric Hosmer at first base. The loss of Hos stings but as some of my southern friends like to say “He gone” and it’s time to move on. Duda is a suitable replacement while KC develops another young talent somewhere in the minors.

Whit Merrifield will anchor down KC at second base after being dangled in trade rumors all offseason. I’m very happy KC didn’t deal him for the simple fact he is probably KC’s most versatile player in the field and has swung a decent bat the last two years.

Alcides Escobar is back at shortstop and there are no secrets about what the Royals are getting from him. A great glove in the field, a free swinging, below average bat and a guy who will play everyday as long as he doesn’t have a major injury. I wish I could tell you Esky is going to break out and bat .290 this season but I have a feeling it will be closer to .219.

Mike Moustakus is coming off of a giant season where he was suppose to sign a huge contract and leave the Royals in his rearview mirror. But then the actual market for third basemen caught up with Moose and he’s back in KC. With no long term contract I expect Moose to stay hungry and have another decent season.

Jorge Soler is slated as KC’s everyday right fielder and hopefully his bat wakes up and allows him to be a contributor this season. Paulo Orlando waits in the wings to split time with Soler when KC moves him to DH or with anyone else in the outfield.

Jon Jay has been brought into KC to replace Lorenzo Cain in centerfield. Jay look’s like he could be a plug-n-play replacement for Cain. He has a decent bat, pretty decent in the field and has plenty of experience.

Last and certainly not least is Alex Gordon he will anchor the Royals in left field. He’s the best defensive left fielder in the game. I’ll argue with you about that. As for his bat. . .let’s roll the dice. Gordon just can’t seem to figure it out at the plate. In 2011 he batted .303 and everyone sad “Ah HA! He’s got it!” But in the last two seasons Gordon has batted .220 and .208. He has to produce for KC to win games. End of story.

Cheslor Cuthbert will start the season as the Royals’ DH with Soler also garnering some of those duties. When Cuthbert gets to play everyday he has proven to be a fairly consistent hitter. Let’s hope that holds true with him as a DH instead of an everyday position player.

This is going to be a really tough season for KC. They have a lot of new faces and an obvious drop off from where they were just a few years ago in terms of young talent. Add that to the fact the Indians are poised to win the AL Central and the Twins are the new hot team in the AL. The Royals aren’t climbing Mount Everest but it certainly isn’t an easy task to be a contender in their own division.

In my opinion a .500 season for KC would be a huge victory from where they are being projected. The experts are saying anywhere from 69 to 74 wins. I’ll be slightly more optimistic than some and peg the Royals at 74 wins this season but those numbers alone tell you that it isn’t going to be easy this year.

Regardless of all of that we can at least be thankful for one thing. . .baseball season is back. Since moving to the land of Fargo a few years ago I’ve certainly come to appreciate baseball season a lot more simply because baseball means summer and warm temperatures. I know that I’ll definitely be needing some warmer thoughts given that the forecast for the upcoming weekend is for 1-3 inches of snow and a high temperature on Saturday of 17 degrees.

Deliver me green grass and sunshine. . .please. . .I’m begging.

Enjoy the season!



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