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Kansas City Royals - 2007 Team Preview
Predicted Finish
71-91
5th Place
AL Central

by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
March 17, 2007

2006 Record - 62-100, 5th Place AL Central, 34.0 behind the Twins
2006 Runs Scored - 757
2006 Runs Allowed - 971
Pythagorean Projection - 63-99



I have always loved the uniforms of the Kansas City Royals. I think the Royals, Cardinals, Orioles, and Athletics have the best uniforms in baseball – simple, elegant, and not afraid of their team colors. In this era in which team uniforms are becoming more and more homogenous, the Royals color scheme and uniform font are classic.

That such a wonderful uniform has been placed on the backs of such a terrible team the last five years is a travesty.

Consider: the Kansas City Royals have lost 100 or more games in four of the last five seasons. Only the Philadelphia Phillies of 1936 to 1942, who did it five out of six seasons, and the Washington Senators (Part II) of 1961 to 1964 have bettered this feat.

That being said, the 2007 Kansas City Royals really do look much better than 2006 counterparts. If Emil Brown, David DeJesus and Mark Teahan can log 150 games each in the outfield, Alex Gordon and Ryan Shealy can hold their own in the infield, and Angel Berroa can post even a slightly below average season at shortstop, the 2007 Royals may surprise some people.

By winning 70 games.

Catcher
2006 Starter - John Buck, Paul Bako
Projected 2007 Starter - John Buck, Jason LaRue

John Buck enters his fourth season with the Royals. His bat shows some pop, and he finally got his on-base percentage over .300 last season, but he is truly in danger of being a prospect bust for the Royals. Veteran Jason LaRue will chase Buck for the starting job, and both will see playing time, and mid-way through the spring, it appears as though the crafty veteran may have taken the job from the incumbent.

First Base
2006 Starter - Doug Mientkiewicz, Ryan Shealy
Projected 2007 Starter - Ryan Shealy, Ross Gload

What are the odds that Doug Mientkiewicz and Mark Grudzielanek, the two players with the longest (12 letters), most difficult to spell, and most difficult to pronounce last names in the history of major league baseball, would end up in the same infield last season?

Doug M. is gone now, which potentially paves the way the emergence of Ryan Shealy. Shealy is a difficult player to gauge, because he has had success in the majors as well as the minors, but much of that success came with Colorado and Colorado Springs, and now he plays in Kauffman Stadium. He has had success getting on base in the past, but also strikes out a lot, and his time with the Royals last season was nothing to write home about. His 15/50 BB/K will have to improve.

Gload, on the other hand, has had significantly less success at either the major league or minor league level, and is what we would term an “empty average hitter.” His career average of .298 has not been enough to get his OPS over the league average for his career.

Second Base
2006 Starter - Mark Grudzielanek
Projected 2007 Starter - Mark Grudzielanek, Esteban German

Quick, name the best offensive player on the Royals last season. It wasn’t Reggie Sanders, Mark Teahan, David DeJesus, or (despite his back-to-back 150 hit seasons) Emil Brown, but rather Esteban German. Okay, so he only had 279 at-bats. He hit .326 with a .422 on-base percentage and posted a 40/49 BB/K ratio while playing every position other than right field, catcher, and pitcher. At 28, 2006 was German’s first full season in the majors, an obvious warning sign, but German should see some serious playing time if Grudzie starts to play his age.

Shortstop
2006 Starter - Angel Berroa
Projected 2007 Starter - Angel Berroa, Andres Blanco

How does a team lose 100 games in a season?

Angel Berroa’s 2006 season was one of the worst offensive seasons in major league history. This is not an exaggeration. Consider:

- OPS of .592 good enough for a 48 OPS+
- BB/K ratio of 14/88
- hit into more double plays than doubles (21 vs. 18)

Most of the worst offensive seasons in major league history have come from shortstops. This fact, however, does little to mitigate how terrible Berroa has been since winning the Rookie of the Year in 2003. Apparently, Berroa has been working out extra hard this off-season, promising Kansas City fans that they will see the 2003 Berroa in 2007. That would be a significant feat, but it sure would be helpful.

The problem for the Royals is that Berroa’s job is not in danger. Andres Blanco is a smooth fielding, light hitting shortstop whose minor league numbers do not impress. Alex S. Gonzalez, who was on the 40 man roster in January, has since retired.

Third Base
2006 Starter - Mark Teahan
Projected 2007 Starter - Alex Gordon

2007 should mark the arrival of super-stud third baseman Alex Gordon, as Mark Teahan has been playing right field this spring. Gordon, the 2005 Baseball America College Player of the Year, ripped it up in Double-A last season, his first season of professional baseball. In 135 games, the 22-year old hit 29 homeruns, scored 111 runs, drove in 101 RBI, stole 22 of 25 bases, and posted a .325/.427/.588/1015. Apparently, the Royals have decided the time is now for the youngster, and he could easily be this team’s three-spot hitter by year’s end.

Left Field
2006 Starter - Emil Brown, David DeJesus
Projected 2007 Starter - Emil Brown

How do you lose 100 games in a season?

Emil “Back-to-Back” Brown led the Royals with 147 games, 527 at-bats, 41 doubles, 81 RBI, and 59 walks, and narrowly missed leading the team in on-base percentage with .358. These are uninspiring team leader numbers. Emil Brown is a team leader for the Royals. There are many teams for which he would not be an every day player.

Center Field
2006 Starter - Joey Gathright, David DeJesus
Projected 2007 Starter - David DeJesus

No matter what anyone tells you, the biggest factor for the Royals in 2007 is David DeJesus. DeJesus’s on-base percentage was consistently over .400 in the minor leagues from 2002 to 2004, but it has hovered around .360 in the majors. If DeJesus can play 150 games in centerfield and put up an on-base percentage of .380 or higher, the Royals will not be able to avoid scoring runs, and their pitchers will have more consistent support in the outfield than they did a year ago.

Right Field
2006 Starter - Reggie Sanders, Emil Brown, Shane Costa
Projected 2007 Starter - Mark Teahen

How do you lose 100 games in a season?

Last season, Shane Costa and Reggie Sanders had OPS of 709 and 729, had a combined on-base percentage of .304, and had a combined BB/K ratio of 34/115.

Royals Fun Fact - Mark Teahan was the only major leaguer with ten or more attempts to not get caught stealing in 2006 (10-0).
Having Teahan as their every day rightfielder represents a huge upgrade for the Royals over Reggie Sanders. I personally thought Sanders played last season simply to get his name on the 300-300 list. Imagine my surprise when he didn’t retire this off-season. Teahen has had some minor issues adjusting to the outfield this season, but a full season of his bat should compensate for any defensive miscues he may make in right field.

Designated Hitter
2006 Starter - Mike Sweeney, Matt Stairs,
Projected 2007 Starter - Mike Sweeney, Reggie Sanders, Esteban German

It should send a cold chill up the spines of Royals fans to look at the Royals depth chart and see Mike Sweeney slated to start at DH and bat cleanup. No one in the organization considers (or should consider) Sweeney a legitimate candidate to play a full season with his constant bad back. Expect German to see time at DH, especially if Grudzielanek is solid this year. Sanders will see more time at DH than in the outfield at his age.

Reserves
Projected 2007 Reserves - Reggie Sanders, Joey Gathright, Aaron Guiel, Shane Costa.

It is always good when one seasons’ starters becomes a subsequent seasons’ reserves, because it is a solid indication that the team has upgraded.

Pitchers

How does a team lose 100 games in a season?

Of the six main starting pitchers and five main relief pitchers listed for the Royals last season, not a single one had an ERA under 4.40, and only two relievers managed an ERA under 5.12. One the team’s entire roster from last season, only Todd Wellemeyer (3.63 in 57.0 innings), Adam Bernero (1.38 in 13.0 innings) and Mike MacDougal (0.00 in 4.0 innings) posted an ERA below 4.26.

This is not good.

2006 Front Three Starters - Mark Redman, Runelvys Hernandez, Scott Elarton, Luke Hudson
Projected 2007 Starters - Gil Meche, Odalis Perez, Luke Hudson

That this group is an improvement over last year's group does not make them good.

Gil Meche got a big contract from the Royals, and became the symbol of the absurd contracts given to mediocre pitchers this off-season. Of course, no Royals starter posted an ERA under 5.00 last season, and Meche did it for the first time since 2003 last season, so this may be a positive addition for the Royals.

Odalis Perez actually improved when he came over to the Royals from the Dodgers in the middle of last season. Perez is quite good when he gets around 200 innings in a season, but he has only done so twice, and not since 2004.

Luke Hudson was awesome in nine starts for the Reds in 2004, with nothing since. His career K/BB ratio of 162/119 is dead-ball era bad.

2006 Rest of the Rotation - Not Worth Naming Here
Possible 2007 Starters - Jorge de la Rosa, Zack Greinke, Brian Bannister, Todd Wellemeyer

The Mets made a bad move when they traded Brian Bannister for Ambiorix Burgos trade last December. The Royals gave up a fireballer with no control and got Bannister, who was successful every step along the way before his decent debut with the Mets last season could easily be the Royals top starting pitcher by the All-Star break.

Has Zack Greinke conquered the personal demons that plagued him so badly that he almost quit baseball last season? He has the talent to be a big league pitcher. From here, Greinke could still turn into the next Jeremy Bonderman, but he could also turn into the next Rick Ankiel.

Jorge de la Rosa apparently has a spot in the rotation locked down, which is odd because he has never been successful at the major league level, and his 114/106 career K/BB ratio makes Luke Hudson look like Curt Schilling.

Relief Pitchers
2006 Relievers - Ambiorix Burgos, Andrew Sisco, Joel Peralta, Jimmy Gobble, Elmer Dessens, Todd Wellemeyer
Projected 2007 Relievers - Octavio Dotel, Wellemeyer, Gobble, Peralta, David Riske, Joakim Soria

The appearance of the name Octavio Dotel on the Royals depth chart should force any Royals fan to make the sound that one makes when one has been punched in the stomach.

Wellemeyer, who has gotten lit up in his attempts to become a starter for the Royals this spring, has decent career K/IP but joins Hudson and de la Rosa on the All Dead-Ball Era Team when it comes to K/BB.

Joakim Soria is an interesting player. He is a former Mexican League star who was the property of the San Diego Padres who pitched the third perfect game in Mexican League history less than a week after the Royals took him in the Rule V draft from the Padres. He is a 6’3”, 180 pound 22 year old who is three years removed from Tommy John surgery. Soria could be a major surprise for the Royals in 2007 since he will be on the 40 man roster all year.

Outlook for the Season

Look, I want to say that “this is not a bad team” as much as anybody. I want the 2007 Royals to be the 2006 Marlins very badly. But two factors really kill this team – the AL Central division is just very strong, and the Royals pitching staff, while improved, is simply not very good.

What I see in the 2007 Royals is a team with good components – Gordon, Teahan, DeJesus, Bannister – that will need to acquire some top quality pitching in the coming years.

And I don’t mean Gil Meche and Luke Hudson.


Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at asher@baseballevolution.com.

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