The Royals are on the national stage, a stage they don't often share, so we thought we might do a service to you East and West Coasters and introduce you to the Kansas City Royals. You may be used to watching ESPN and likely weren't even aware that we have a baseball team in Kansas City, but our Royals have been a part of Major League Baseball since 1969! You know those guys in the gray and blue jerseys losing to the New York Yankees on hot July weekends over the last decade? That's us!
The difference now is, the Yankees are sitting at home, and we're the ones playing for a championship. For real! So here is your introduction to our local nine.
Nedgar "Ned" Yost
Nickname: Frank Yost
Yordano Ventura's Nickname for him: Nedyo
Ned Yost was a light-hitting catcher who worked in the Braves organization with our General Manager Dayton Moore before being tabbed to run the Milwaukee Brewers. He became the first manager to be fired with two weeks to go before his team made the post-season. Dubbed "Nervous Ned" for the way he panicked during the stretch, Yost was hired to run the Royals in 2010. Ned favors "small-ball" relying on bunting, stealing, and gritting your way to victory. Some have labeled him a dunce, while others say he's merely an idiot. Ned ain't care.
Catcher: Salvador Perez
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Salvy
Salvador Perez is one of the best catchers in the game, known for his defensive prowess (2013 Gold Glove Award winner) and emerging power. He is a two-time All-Star who started this year for the American League, and is the team leader on the field with great leadership skills and an endearing attitude. Salvy is known for wearing women's perfume behind the plate and holding impromptu interviews with his teammates, making him the most likeable player in the league, and a natural to take over hosting duties for the Tonight Show someday.
First Base: Eric Hosmer
Royals Review Nickname: Crime Horse
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Hossy
Eric Hosmer is a former first-round pick who burst onto the scene with a terrific 2011 rookie campaign, but has been a disappointment offensively since then. He came on strong at the end of last year to resurrect his season, and seemed to heat up at the end of this year before getting hurt. He is known for having a strong glove, winning the 2013 Gold Glove, although the metrics find him a bit overrated. He is one of the cockier leaders on the club, and motivates his teammates with wise words such as "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHH!" and "ARGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"
Second Base: Omar Infante
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Omary
Omar Infante is a 13-year Major League veteran signed to a four-year deal last winter. The deal initially pleased Royals fans because he wasn't Chris Getz, but soon horrified Royals fans because in the light of the morning after, they realized they had signed a 32-year old with a bum shoulder to a four-year deal. Omar hit second for most of this year, despite a down year, leading to calls to demote him in the lineup. Ned Yost said demoting him lower in the lineup would be "stupid", then did just that a few days later.
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Esky
Alcides Escobar is a slick-fielding shortstop who has shown flashes of offensive capability in his five-year career. He has good gap power and is a very adept base-stealer. Although the metrics rate as average, Escobar is known for making flashy plays on the field, although he can flub the routine plays from time-to-time. He was recently promoted to leadoff hitter where he has excelled, leading the club to believe he could be the long-term solution there despite a complete inability to get on-base consistently in his career (.299 career OBA).
Third Base: Mike Moustakas
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Moosey
Mike Moustakas is another high first-round pick by Dayton Moore who has been a bit disappointing in his four-year career. Moustakas is a terrific defender and has great pop when he runs into a fastball, but has been an out-making-machine for most of his career. Dubbed "Moose" by antler-wearing fans, Moustakas is known for his love of Olive Garden restaurants and tutelage of young children. He and Eric Hosmer are buddies4life.
Left Field: Alex Gordon
Royals Review Nickname: Lo, Danger Ox!
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Gordy
Alex Gordon grew up a Royals fan in Nebraska, and was a College Player of the Year as a Cornhusker. Drafted #2 overall by the Royals, he was initially considered a bust as a third baseman until he moved to left-field and become the best defensive left-fielder in the game. A three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star, Gordon has become one of the most valuable players in baseball. He is known for his intense workout regimen and diet habits.
Center Field: Lorenzo Cain
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Cainy
Lorenzo came to baseball late, picking up the game in high school after being cut from his basketball team. He was acquired by the Royals in the Zack Greinke trade, but had trouble staying on the field due to injury his first few seasons in Kansas City. An improved training regimen allowed him to stay on the field in 2014, where he put together his finest season and emerged as one of the best defensive players in the game. Cain was sixth among all Major Leaguers in dWAR (but not nominated for a Gold Glove oddly). He frequently moves to right-field late in games to make way for Jarrod Dyson in centerfield, but is gifted enough to play all three outfield positions. The ALCS MVP has inspired a popular T-shirt (STILL FOR SALE!)
Right Field: Nori Aoki
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Aoki-ey
Nori Aoki was a six-time Gold Glover in Japan who came to the United States a few years ago with the Brewers. The Royals acquired him last winter for reliever Will Smith, although Aoki's offensive numbers took a dive. The left-handed hitter can still get on-base at a decent clip, although he lacks any kind of power. Known for his high-contact and odd swings, Aoki looks a bit like Ichiro Suzuki at the plate. Aoki has also been known for baffling plays in the field, including winning the $10,000 prize at America's Funniest Home Videos for taking a baseball to the groin. He is one of the most photogenic players in baseball.
Designated Hitter: Billy Butler
Nickname: Country Breakfast
Ned Yost's Nickname for Him: Butler-y
Billy is a long-time Royal and former first-round pick and All-Star with the club. He is seventh in franchise history in hits and is a career .295 hitter. However, he has drawn fan ire for being only a designated hitter due to defensive limitations, for not hitting for more power, and for hitting into a lot of double plays. In the end, he's still pretty beloved for being a big ol' fat lunk who just loves to get out there and hit doubles in the gap.
Erik Kratz: Kratz was a mid-season acquisition from Toronto who is rarely seen because Ned Yost would play Salvador Perez at catcher even if Salvy had Ebola.
Jayson Nix: I'd introduce you to Nix, but even we don't know him. He has like 8 at-bats with the team and is on the roster over Christian Colon for mystifying reasons.
Jarrod Dyson: Dyson is a terrific base-stealer who will often enter games late to pinch-run and/or come in for defensive purposes. The former 50th round pick has become a decent hitter as well against right-handers. Dyson has confidence and drew heat in the ALCS for confidently (and correctly) predicting the Royals would not return to Baltimore. He also dances on the basepaths, (inspiring a t-shirt of his own!), does backflips after wins, and goes by the nickname "Mr. Zoombiya."
Terrence Gore: Gore is a 13 year old child (well, he looks like it at least) who is the fastest person in Major League Baseball. He is used exclusively as a pinch-running specialist.
Josh Willingham: Willingham is an eleven-year Major League veteran acquired mid-season from the Twins. Willingham is known for drawing walks and hitting home runs. Up until a few weeks ago, he was sixth among active-players for most games played without a post-season appearances.
The starting pitchers:
Nickname: Big Games James
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Shieldsy
James Shields is a TOUGH, COMPETITOR, who CHANGED THE CLUBHOUSE and caused the Royals to reach the post-season...and has been a bit disappointing in post-season play. He never asked for the moniker "Big Game James", but he certainly hasn't lived up to it. Shields was acquired int he controversial trade with Tampa Bay along with Wade Davis for uber-prospect Wil Myers and pitcher Jake Odorizzi.
Nickname: THROW FIRE (well, not his name, but that's what he does).
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Yordy
Ventura is known for throwing white-hot fastballs of incredible velocity. He owns the Major League record with the fastest pitch, recording a 103 mph fastball, and has thrown the third-most 100 mph fastballs in baseball. Still just a rookie, Ventura is of slight-build, leading to injury concerns, but was healthy this year, saved for two missed starts due to an "valgus stress overload."
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Guthry
Guthrie was acquired from the Rockies for pitcher (in the very loose-sense of the word) Jonathan Sanchez, then liked it so much here, he re-signed a long-term deal. Guthrie is one of the more likeable guys on the team, smart, articulate, serves as a translator for the Latino players, engaging with fans on Twitter, he's a guy who just seems to love being a professional athlete. Known for his extensive shoe collection and Backstreet Boys fandom, Jeremy can be a bit difficult to watch at times due to his flyball tendencies. His pitching isn't always pretty, but he does seem to find a way to grind through many starts without doing much damage.
Ned Yost's Nickname for him: Vargy
Vargas was mocked initially upon signing with the Royals after the club said they had a "significant announcement" when announcing he had signed last winter. However Vargas turned in a very solid performance this year, although he faltered a bit down the stretch. The left-hander will not overpower many hitters, but like Guthrie, seems to find a way to grind through six innings without giving up many runs. He is also known for his "O" face made after Lorenzo Cain's awesome catch in Game One of the ALDS.
Tim Collins: The tiny (5'7'') left-hander can throw hard, but has trouble with command and was demoted much of the year. He will likely only be used in mop-up duty.
Wade Davis: Davis is a former failed starter who has excelled as the 8th inning guy this year, putting together one of the finest relief seasons in recent memory. Part of the Shields trade, "K'd Davis" was third in WPA in the league this year.
Danny Duffy: The "Duff-Man" was a starter much of the year, but missed a late September start due to injury and the club claims they didn't like his mechanics upon returning. Duffy is a Tommy John surgery-survivor who came back with reduced strikeout numbers, but better command and enjoyed a career best year. He is known for being amped up, with a signature phrase of "GNAR!"
Brandon Finnegan: Finnegan is a rookie who was pitching in the College World Series for TCU just a few months ago. The first round pick has already become one of the top options coming out of the bullpen, and has been nails so far, earning his "bulldog" reputation.
Jason Frasor: Old "Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs" was acquired mid-season by the Rangers and has proven to be a solid reliever, although he has been used mostly in lower leverage situations.
Kelvin Herrera: Herrera is the 7th inning guy who brings serious heat with the 2nd most 100 mph fastballs in baseball this year.
Greg Holland: Holland is the closer and goes by the nickname "Dirty South." One of the best closers in the game, Holland has 113 saves in 124 opportunities in his career, despite his small stature and unheralded prospect status.
These are the names that will appear on your 2014 World Champions t-shirt someday, so learn them, live them, love them.