The 2012 season is sure to be exciting, at least. Whether that means contention or something less, 2012 will be possibly the most exciting full season since Chuck Norris was starring in Walker, Texas Ranger.
However, 2012 is also a season of confusion and the unknown. We've all discussed the rotation many, many times over (I vote for going back in time and getting Nolan Ryan to pitch for us). We've all discussed the endless possibilites of Eric 'Savior' Hosmer, Mike 'Moose' Moustakas, Michael 'Monty' Montgomery, and even to a lesser extent people like Bruce 'F'n' Chen. We've talked about the endless leadership of Jeff 'Frenchy' Francoeur and his resulting extension, the amazing season of Alex Gordon and his chances of replicating, and the hope that Chris 'Look-I-Hit-the-Baseball-Past-the-Infield-for-the-First-Time-in-a-Week' Getz does not return.
However, there are plenty of Royals who we have forgotten in the hype. These Royals are equally important in the 2012 season, and these are Royals who need to have good years for our Boys in Blue to do well. Here are some questions about the Fogotten Royals, and my predictions to them. What do you think?
1. How much will Billy Butler produce next year?
Butler has gotten a tremendous amount of dislike for only being one of the most consistent hitters in the league. His career OPS+ is 120 (which is already higher than Mike Sweeney's career OPS+, by the way) and he has a couple more years left before he hits the proverbial 'peak'. Who will Billy be in 2012? Will he be the quietly fantastic 2010 with an OBP approaching .400? Or will he be the second half 2011 with a SLG north of .500? No one is talking about Billy's 2012 because we all assume he's going to be good. But I think he has a chance to put it all together and be awesome like he's never been. I don't know about you, but a 2012 line of .300/.370/.500 line isn't out of the question.
2. Joakim Soria: Jekyll or Hyde?
Despite all the talk about the rotation, not many people are discussing who Soria will be in 2012. His struggles this year were disturbing. Will he return to 2007-2010 Soria? I think there's a 50-50 chance that he will either return to his former glory or suffer a continued steep decline.
3. Bubba Starling's Debut
Will Bubba succeed? We haven't really talked about this so much, but granted he hasn't played in the minors yet. In light of Rany's analysis of high school draft picks, I'm a little iffy on his chances of being a straight-up star. I guess we won't know for a while.
4. Ned Yost's job security
Should he be secure? Is he the right man for the job? I disagree with a lot of Yost's managerial moves, mostly his inability to use his bench and his refusal to think outside of the box with closers. Is he worth it though? Who would be better?
5. Alcides Escobar's lack of hitting.
Sure, Escobar can field like a monster. But he certainly can't hit like one. If Escobar doesn't improve, does that diminish his value? Do we start to look for other more complete shortstops? If this is Escobar's hitting ceiling, I would have second thoughts about playing him everyday. If his defense declines, he loses all of his value. At least he was almost four and a half times as valuable as Betancourt (2.2 WAR to .5 WAR).