Kansas City Royals

Players To Watch: Kansas City Royals

Let's see what the Royals have to offer mixed leagues in 2011...

  • Billy Butler, 1B.  Took a mild step back in power in his age 24 season.  I don't see why Butler can't provide a .300-20-100 season next year, and fantasy leaguers sometimes take him early in case he's ready to truly break out.  He trimmed strikeouts and improved his walk rate this year.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt, SS.  16 homers and 78 RBIs, that's a quality mixed league shortstop.  Six of his homers were "just enoughs," so maybe look for 10 bombs in 2011.
  • Mike Aviles, 2B.  He qualifies at shortstop too if your league uses a 10-game requirement.  Nice bounceback year for Aviles, who had a lost 2009 due to elbow surgery.  He's got a little pop, and he attempted to steal over 15% of the time he was on first base.  Quality middle infield sleeper.
  • David DeJesus, OF.  His best season was cut short in July due to thumb surgery.  He's always provided sneaky value in average and runs.
  • Wilson Betemit, 3B.  Massive .297/.378/.511 line in a half season.  He won't do that again, but he could certainly hit 20 home runs given 600 plate appearances as the team's regular third baseman.  Think about him for your CI slot if it's really, really late.
  • Alex Gordon, OF.  Only played 10 games at 3B this year.  He says he's going to "dominate" next year, and I could see him matching Ned Yost's 20 home run, 80 RBI suggestion.  If he runs a little and his average isn't horrible, there could be some value.  You'll be able to get him late.
  • Kila Ka'aihue, 1B.  Another huge year at Triple A, as well as six home runs in the bigs in the final month.  There's at least some chance of 25+ home runs and a quality OBP.  If he appears to be in line for regular duty come March, take a look.
  • Zack Greinke, SP.  Unless he's traded to the Yankees or something, he could be a nice value pick next year.  SIERA puts him at 3.70 this year as opposed to his 4.17 ERA.  He admitted in September that he felt burnt out and unmotivated at times, so there is a mental component.  Certainly capable of a sub-3.00 ERA again.
  • Luke Hochevar, SP.  We talked about him yesterday - interesting, but no need to draft him.
  • Gil Meche, SP.  Also not worth drafting.  Maybe a healthy Meche could give you another 2008, but his shoulder probably won't allow 30 starts.  He could end up as Soria's setup man and therefore a dark horse for saves.
  • Joakim Soria, RP.  He may be the game's best closer; he should go earlier than the ninth round this time.
  • Mike Montgomery, SP.  Well-regarded 21-year-old lefty prospect.  He was decent at Double A, and could have some big league success in 2010, but I'd be surprised if he made a fantasy impact.
  • Mike Moustakas, 3B.  Recently turned 22; hit .293/.314/.564 with 15 home runs in 236 plate appearances at Triple A.  He was incredible at Double A and could be an immediate .300, 25 home run threat as a rookie.  I imagine he'll start at Triple A.  Keep an eye on his performance and prepare for a potential June call-up.
  • Eric Hosmer, 1B.  Just 21, he finished the year at Double A.  Hosmer has mammoth power, slugging .615 with 13 home runs in 211 PAs there.  If Ka'aihue struggles and Hosmer is raking, the Royals could bring him up.  Like Moustakas, he could make an impact right away.

Closer Report: Kansas City Royals

Royals closer Joakim Soria is currently being drafted in the 9th round.  Given his ridiculous skills, that's a reasonable place to take him.

Who's behind Soria on the depth chart?  Assuming Kyle Farnsworth goes to the rotation, I'd place Juan Cruz is second in line.  Cruz had an awful 2009 amid a shoulder strain, but he still throws 94 and is earning $3.25MM.  Should he fail to crack the rotation, Robinson Tejeda is another setup candidate (11.8 K/9 in 42 relief innings last year). 

Will KC Help Mike Jacobs?

The Royals acquired Mike Jacobs to provide power at first base in 2009.  Can Jacobs match his 32 HR from 2008?

For lefthanded hitters, Dolphins Stadium inflates homers by 5%.  Meanwhile, Kauffman Stadium deflates lefty homers by 14%.  So, the ballpark switch alone could cost Jacobs three bombs (all else being equal).

Of course, all else isn't equal.  Jacobs goes to the harder league, and he's 28 now.  Without engaging in any real math, I'm comfortable knocking him down to 25 HR.  Throw in the weak AVG and there's not much here.  Quietly, Josh Phelps might be able to do the same thing for the Giants if he gets the playing time.

Undervalued Royals

When I go digging for sleepers/undervalued players, I often look to the Royals.  They're just a low-profile club and have been for years.  Some players to consider for 2009:

  • Alex Gordon, 3B.  Gordon had a slight gain in slugging and a large gain in walk rate.  Sadly, he attempted fewer steals per times on first base.  He's progressed slower than we'd hoped, but maybe next year he puts up the .280-30-100-90-15 line.
  • Billy Butler, 1B.  He slugged .476 after the break, flashing 20 HR potential.  He needs to improve against righties though.
  • Mike Aviles, 2B/SS.  Eligible at two crucial positions, and didn't slump much as the season went on.  No one thinks he's a .325 hitter but he still looks like a solid late option.
  • Ryan Shealy/Kila Ka'aihue, 1B.  Nothing amazing, but if one of these guys locks down a full-time job he could pop 20 HR.
  • Zack Greinke, SP.  Even with the breakout he might last til the 9th or 10th round.  He looked great in terms of strikeout and walk rates.  Solid pick who will probably last longer than he should.  180 Ks is hard to come by, and maybe the .312 BABIP comes down and brings his WHIP with it.
  • Gil Meche, SP.  Same analysis as Greinke, only slightly less so.  I wouldn't mind having both of these guys in my '09 fantasy rotation, yet they won't require early picks.
  • Joakim Soria, RP.  It would not surprise me to see Soria undervalued in a technical sense - a nasty 40-save closer can generate a lot of fantasy value.  Soria in the 6th or 7th round is probably a win for your team, though it's still recommended to wait back and get next year's Soria many rounds later or off the waiver wire.
  • Kyle Davies, SP.  I am intrigued by Davies' September - 2.27 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 3.43 K/BB.  He did get to face the Mariners and A's that month, however.  Probably too risky for most mixed leagues.   

No Restrictions For Greinke

Zack Greinke owners may be concerned that he'll face a 152 inning cap this year, since he pitched 122 in '07.  However, the 24 year-old did toss 183 innings back in '05. 

I asked Royals beat writer Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star whether the team is contemplating shutting him down early.  He said, "Greinke said there are no plans to back him off."  So, I guess that's that unless the team springs it on him a month from now or he shows signs of fatigue.

Is This The Year For Alex Gordon?

I've ranked Alex Gordon 13th among third basemen, with a .267-18-71-71-16 projection in 522 ABs.  It'd be worth $6.  Gordon's being drafted in the 12th round, 11th among 3Bs.  I don't have a big problem with this (though Kevin Kouzmanoff in the 20th could approximate his value).

This post by Rany Jazayerli explains why Gordon could have something of a breakout this year.  He makes a strong case for Gordon turning doubles into homers as a sophomore.  Suppose Gordon hits .280-25-85-85-16 - that'd put him right up there with Garrett Atkins and Aramis Ramirez!  Ahead of Chipper Jones, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adrian Beltre.  Hopefully Gordon gets off to a decent start and keeps the #3 spot in the order.

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