Yesterday the Royals Review staff graded the offseason and gave thoughts on how much pressure is on Dayton Moore and Ned Yost to succeed this year. In Part Two, we take a look at what player is important to the team, and we try to predict how the team fares this year.
Q: Who is the person most important to the Royals success in 2013?
Craig Brown: The most important person for the Royals this year will be Eric Hosmer. For all the chatter about the improved starting rotation, people seemed to forget this offense regressed in 2012. They finished 4.17 runs per game, third worst in the league. If Hosmer can't fill the middle of the order and the heavy lifting is once again left to Alex Gordon and Billy Butler this is going to be another long summer.
Old Man Duggan: I don't think there's any way to look at that question and not say it's Eric Hosmer. Any hopes at contention hinge upon Hosmer looking the part of superstar. 5.0+ WAR? Hope is alive and well, and Moore's offseason might just end up being vindicated.
Clark Fosler: Hard to argue with most people’s assessment that this guy is Hosmer, not just for 2013, but for the future of the franchise the next three seasons. While maybe not quite as important as Eric, I would add that Wade Davis (again not just for 2013 but for several years beyond) is extremely important. If his role remains as a number four starter in 2013, that means Santana and Guthrie are performing decently and an effective Davis could actually give Kansas City a decent rotation. If one of those two falters, an effective Davis would keep the rotation from being a disaster.
Connor Moylan: James Shields. If Hosmer struggles, there are other players in the lineup who could pick up some of his slack. If Shields struggles away from Tropicana field and without the Tampa defense behind him, then the rotation will likely look awfully similar to last season's rotation.
Jeff Zimmerman: Wade Davis. He has to be able to cut it as a starter and not get relegated to the bullpen. Ned and Dayton has emphasized he can be a productive starter. He better be, but I have my doubts.
RoyalsRetro: It has to be Eric Hosmer. People seem to give the offense a pass because (a) no one can be as bad as Jeff Francoeur was last year, not even Jeff Francoeur; (b) most of the hitters are young and should only get better; and (c) Sal Perez and Lorenzo Cain were hurt.
The only problem is (a) Francoeur CAN be that bad and he WILL play; (b) I think we are seeing the full potential of Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Sal Perez; and (c) Sal Perez and Lorenzo Cain are hurt a lot and are likely to be hurt again in the future. So that puts a lot of pressure on Eric Hosmer to go from terrific looking rookie to mystifying awful sophomore back to terrific looking All-Star first baseman. If he truly can walk on water, now is the time to do it.
im_not_that_bright: The consensus seems to be Eric Hosmer, and I would agree. With Gordon, Butler, and even Frenchy, you pretty much know what you're getting. Hosmer being successful or a failure will have the most impact on the offense this year.
Q: What player most badly needs a good year for his career's sake?
Craig Brown: Hosmer's ceiling is circling the drain. The All-Star potential we hoped for has been replaced by crossing our fingers that he can be league average at first. It's not like a bad season will end his career, but I shudder to think what would happen if he puts up back-to-back clunkers.
Old Man Duggan: There are two ways to look at this question. In terms of having a shot at becoming a Major League regular, Johnny Giavotella would need to do what he has failed to do thus far- seize the opportunity when he is granted a shot by the inevitable Chris Getz injury. He's most likely a no-glove, Quad-A hitter, but he'll have to hit when given the chance to ever have a shot. In terms of a financial future, then obviously Ervin Santana needs to right the ship and prove that 2012 was the fluke, not the norm. A solid rebound means tens of millions of dollars for Santana on the open market next offseason.
Clark Fosler: Lorenzo Cain is not a young player anymore and needs to show that he can a) stay healthy and b) consistently hit major league pitching.
Connor Moylan: Jeff Francoeur. If he has a not awful season, I imagine Moore will sign him to another contract extension. If he continues to play horribly, then there may not be a team willing to offer him a major-league contract.
RoyalsRetro: I think if Luke Hochevar does not show himself to be a capable reliever, we won't see him in a big league uniform ever again.
Jeff Zimmerman: Lorenzo Cain needs to stay healthy to have a career. If he is hurt this season, he may not get any more chances to play.
im_not_that_bright: Definitely Hochevar. If he is miserable in the bullpen this will be his last year in the major.
Q: Complete this sentence: "On July 4, the Kansas City Royals are......"
Connor Moylan: ...playing the Cleveland Indians at home.
im_not_that_bright: ... hovering around .500 with the management of the team practically planning the Plaza parade.
Clark Fosler: ....one game under .500 and seven back of the Tigers.
Craig Brown:...entrenched in the middle of the division and shopping Ervin Santana.
Jeff Zimmerman: ....the name of the Omaha AAA team again.
Old Man Duggan: ....trying their damnedest to celebrate our nation's independence from its oppressors while licking their wounds, sitting ten games back and hurtling toward another sub-.500 season.
RoyalsRetro: ....five or six games out of a wild card spot, foolishly rumored to be considering dealing good prospects for established Major Leaguers because they think they are "in it."
Q: Can you envision a realistic scenario where the Royals reach the playoffs this year?
Old Man Duggan: No.
Clark Fosler: I can, but a LOT has to go right. First off, the Royals have to stay healthy as this is not a deep club right now. The big four in the starting rotation have to perform at the level that Dayton Moore envisions and the bullpen must be what many of us expect it to be. The Royals need a breakout year from either Hosmer or Moustakas and can have very little regression from Gordon, Butler, Escobar and Perez. They also need solid offensive contributions from one of Cain, Francoeur and Getz and for the other two to not be part of the ‘worst regulars in baseball’ discussion. All that could happen and I still don’t think the Royals catch the Tigers.
The hope would be that the AL East and West would beat themselves up enough to allow a 90 win wild-card team into the mix. That is the scenario that gets Kansas City to the playoffs. It’s a lot of ifs, but I am pretty sure that I could not have summarized the scenario that gets the Royals to the post-season in just two paragraphs in any prior year.
Craig Brown: Since the Tigers are going to run away with the Central, the best hope is for the wild card. And that's not even much of a hope. Never say never, but I'm thinking this team has a less than one percent chance.
RoyalsRetro: I mean if the Orioles can win 94 games I feel like anything is possible. The Royals can make the playoffs if they get extraordinarily lucky in one-run games and the bullpen is the best in the league. They'll need the offense to be at least average, and that will require Hosmer being close to an All-Star, Sal Perez being an All-Star and rightfield and second base not being complete black holes of production. They'll need to stay healthy, particularly in the pitching rotation. But this projects as a 78-82 win team, which is a lot easier to see making the playoffs if you squint and imagine some luck, than a team that throws Sidney Ponson out on opening day, bats Mike Jacobs cleanup, and projects to be a 70-74 win team.
Connor Moylan: It's certainly easy to envision a scenario where that happens, because I've been envisioning scenarios where the Royals make the playoffs for my entire life. The error bars in projections are wide enough that Kansas City certainly has a chance to make the postseason.
A potential scenario: the Royals play above their heads in one-run games, a la Baltimore last season, while the top team's in the AL West and East beat up on each other, driving their win totals down. The White Sox and Indians both implode, allowing the Royals to feast upon three weak team's in their division. As long as the team holds their own against Detroit, they could accumulate enough wins to grab a wild card slot.
im_not_that_bright: Yes, but trying to figure that out is depressing. It would involve the following:
1. Detroit implodes for some reason. I don't think it likely, but I guess anything is possible.
2. Cleveland and the White Sox are where most people think they are and not better than they seem on paper. This would be more possible.
3. Shields performs at a high level. This is also quite possible but is not as sure as if he were Verlander or Price.
4. Three of the other starters are league average to a little above average. Between Santana, Guthrie, Davis, and Mendoza it is entirely within the realm of possibility that all of them are horrible this year. Hopefully it doesn't happen, but it is possible. The Royals need at least three of them to be decent, which is less likely but it is at least reasonably possible.
5. Gordon, Butler, and Perez perform where they are expected to and don't take steps back. Hopefully this is quite likely.
6. Hosmer has significant improvement over last year. I have no clue on the likelihood of this.
7. Francoeur performs so badly right away that the Royals replace him for most of the year with a replacement level player. I think this is actually quite possible.
So, I guess there is hope because while it is unlikely the Royals make the playoffs, it is at least within the realm of possibility. Most years a scenario with the Royals making the playoffs involve asteroid strikes and sinkholes. Hey - it's progress.
Jeff Zimmerman: On opening day, Verlander, Cabrera and Fielder all collide on an infield pop fly putting all three out for the season.