Kansas City Royals 2017 Team Preview

2016 Recap: 81-81 3rd in the AL Central. After a magical two year run that saw the Kansas City Royals scrap and claw their way to two American League Pennants and a World Series title, the magic wore off (thank God) in 2016 for KC. Injuries early in the season to outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon on top of already being without third baseman Mike Moustakas really tested the depth of the Royals organization. The pitching that had carried K.C. through the majority of the previous two seasons wasn’t quite there either, leaving the Royals short of a third straight trip to the postseason. This season is crucial if they want to keep this run going as a lot of their key players are in the final season of their respective contracts. If the Royals decide to let the majority of their core walk, this could turn into a rebuilding process quickly.

Offseason Moves:

Significant Additions: OF Jorge Soler, 1B/OF Brandon Moss, RHP Jason Hammel, LHP Travis Wood, RHP Nate Karns

Significant subtractions: DH Kendrys Morales, RHP Yordano Ventura (RIP), RHP Wade Davis, OF Jarrod Dyson, RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Dillon Gee

Projected Lineup and Breakdown:

  1. SS Alcides Escobar
  2. 3B Mike Moustakas
  3. CF Lorenzo Cain
  4. 1B Eric Hosmer
  5. C Salvador Perez
  6. LF Alex Gordon
  7. RF Jorge Soler
  8. DH Brandon Moss
  9. 2B Whit Merrifield

The additions of power bats Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss give the Royals the deepest lineup they have had with this group and a healthy Mike Moustakas could make this lineup even more dangerous. If healthy, you could see potentially 6 players in this lineup hit 20 or more home runs, a dynamic Ned Yost has not had at his disposal as Royals manager. This lineup is not perfect by any means however, Yost insists on having Alcides Escobar hit lead off despite having an on base percentage below .300 in three of the last four season. Alex Gordon was low key really bad last season and although some of that may be contributed to his injury, Gordon’s numbers have been trending downward over the last few seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is hitting eighth by mid season.

Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:

Rotation-

  • LHP Danny Duffy
  • RHP Ian Kennedy
  • LHP Jason Vargas
  • RHP Jason Hammel
  • LHP Travis Wood

Bullpen-

  • RHP Kelvin Herrera – Closer
  • RHP Joakim Soria
  • LHP Matt Strahm
  • RHP Peter Moylan
  • LHP Scott Alexander

What saved the Royals pitching staff from being a total disaster last season was the breakout of young lefty Danny Duffy. After starting the season in the bullpen, Duffy finally put all of his skills together to put up ace like numbers for KC striking out over a batter an inning and bringing his walk rate down to 2.10 after struggling with finding the zone of the majority of his career. Duffy’s 179 innings were by far the most of his career so it will be interesting to see how he holds up this season I would expect the elite skills to continue even if Duffy does need a DL trip at some point. Veteran Ian Kennedy is the one stable arm in this rotation outside of Duffy as Jason Hammel continues to break down in the second half of seasons, Travis Wood is better suited for the bullpen and pinch hitting while Jason Vargas is probably better suited for my softball team that is starting up again in June. This rotation could end up being a real problem in 2017. The Royals pen isn’t quite what it used to be, but it should still be in the top half of the league. The guy to watch here is lefty Matt Strahm. A starter in the minors, Strahm came up last season to throw 22 lights out relief innings posting a 1.23 ERA with 30 punchouts. A power arm like that is just what the doctor ordered after losing Greg Holland and Wade Davis the last two seasons.

Fantasy Analysis:

Stud: RP Kelvin Herrera. It’s kind of insulting to put a closer as a team’s stud, but it is what it is frankly. The Royals do not have a true stud fantasy player regardless of what their fans may tell you. Herrera will finally get his shot to close full time in 2017 and I expect him to finish the season as one of the league’s best. A career strikeout rate of 9.09 and a groundball rate just below 50% are the two key ingredients that make Herrera so dominant. Currently going after the elite closers such as Jansen, Chapman and Britton, Herrera has a great chance to join that group by seasons end.

Sleeper: OF Jorge Soler. I have had a man crush on Soler since he came to the big leagues, but between injuries and a loaded Cubs outfield, Soler has never really the opportunity to stick as an everyday player. That is all set to change this year for Soler and if he can stay healthy I fully expect a 30 homer season from him and at pick 288 I expect I’ll be getting Soler a lot this season.

Bust: OF Lorenzo Cain. I like Cain the player a lot, but he will turn 31 just after the season starts and he has yet to play more than 140 games in a season during his career. His power has also come and gone in relation to how healthy he is that season. Too much variance for a guy you are drafting to be a key part of your team (130th overall). I’ll pass on Cain at that draft day price.

2017 Record Prediction: As I stated earlier, 2017 could go many different ways for KC as their core of Hosmer, Cain, Escobar, and Moustakas are eligible for free agency after the season. Kansas City is never a big player in free agency so if they get off to a slow start this year they could move some of or all of this group rather than risk losing them for nothing in free agency. I think they’ll be good enough to avoid that scenario, but it’s definitely in play. 84-80. 2nd in the AL Central.

-Randy Haines

Check out our other 2017 team previews here.

Photo Credit: MSN

Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs

Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 3/16

Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC

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