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Six bold predictions for the 2017 Royals

I predict the Royals win between 1 and 162 games.

Kansas City Royals Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

It is prediction season and you can see some of the prognostications made by our venerable writing staff that will almost certainly turn out to be not true. But being wrong won’t keep pundits from continuing to make predictions, and I will continue my tradition of making bold pre-season predictions on the Royals. You can see how I fared in my predictions for last year, but this year will be different!

Here are six bold predictions for the Royals this year.

Raúl Mondesí will not be demoted despite his struggles at the plate

The Royals raised some eyebrows giving Mondesí the starting second base job after he hit .367 in spring training, although most of those hits were not against Major League-quality pitchers. Mondesí exhibits tremendous tools and has the most potential upside out of any second base candidate, but he hit just .185 in 47 games with the Royals last year, and has really failed to put up solid offensive numbers in any level of the minor leagues in his career.

However, with the Royals it seems to be more about tools than results. Mondesí can absolutely fly, and the Royals will likely see his speed as a major asset. He also has the tools to be a plus defender. He has enough pop to reach double digits in home runs, if he can make enough contact. That will be more than enough for the Royals to justify to themselves to keep Mondesí in Kansas City for the entire season, even if he continues to struggle to hit .200 while striking out over 30% of the time.

The Royals seem to believe in a “sink or swim” philosophy with developing their top hitting prospects. Alex Gordon was hitting well under .200 as late as June of his rookie year, but the patience in him paid off, as he hit .282/.327/.473 over his final 95 games. Mike Moustakas was under the Mendoza Line as late as August, but went on a tear to hit .379 over his last 36 games. Perhaps Mondesí too can figure out how to improve his pitch recognition at the Major League level, but his minor league track record is a far cry from those All-Star players.

Brandon Moss is going to hit the Rivals restaurant in right field

The Royals brought in Brandon Moss to do two things - chew gum and hit home runs. And he’s about out of gum.

The Royals signed Moss in a flooded market for designated hitters in part, due to his price, and in part, due to his ability to play the field. But I think another big reason they chose Moss over some other options was they believe his power can play at Kauffman Stadium - or any stadium. Brandon Moss does not hit wall-scraping home runs. Brandon Moss hits mammoth, soul-crushing, “hide your wife and kids” home runs. Chris Young knows.

We already saw how Moss’s power plays at Kauffman when he crushed two home runs in the 2014 Wild Card game while with the Athletics. Only seven hitters in baseball averaged more distance on balls hit than Moss last year. You can see where his home runs last year would have landed at Kauffman Stadium.

I’m just saying, if you’re sitting out on the Party Deck, keep your head on a swivel when Moss is up.

Jorge Soler will smack 20 home runs but will be a lightning rod all season

Right field has seemed to be where the Royals keep their whipping boy lately. Nori Aoki amused us with his foibles, but drew ire for his bizarre defense. Alex Rios had his moments in the post-season, but seemed lackluster at times, especially when he didn’t know the game situation. Oh yea, and both got hit in the nuts. Tough gig.

The new whipping boy seems likely to be Jorge Soler. Acquired for popular cyborg closer Wade Davis, Soler already had a target on his back and lofty expectations to live up to. He comes to Kansas City with some red flags - a history of injury, poor defense, some attitude concerns, and not quite living up to his power potential. A poor spring training performance and an early injury that will likely keep him out the first week of the season will not get his Royals career off to a good start.

Still, Soler does have tremendous power. Even with his disappointing numbers with the Cubs, if you pro-rated his numbers for 162 games he would have 20 home runs. The problem is getting him to 162 games. I think Soler will bounce back in April and begin swatting home runs at the K. He will draw plenty of walks as well, making him one of the more valuable hitters in the lineup. But his defensive issues and a perceived lack of hustle at times will probably keep Royals fans from embracing him this year.

Hopefully he can just avoid getting hit in the nuts.

Salvador Pérez will be the lone Royals All-Star

Unless Russian hackers get involved, I don’t see Royals fans stuffing the ballot quite like they did in 2015. Last year, only Salvy and Hosmer were voted in, but I don’t see Hosmer eclipsing Miguel Cabrera, among others, again. Mike Moustakas may be the best hitter for the Royals this year, but the American League’s third base tree is having a bounty with Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Kyle Seager, Evan Longoria, and the ageless Adrian Beltre all strong candidates to get selected.

Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon also face stiff competition in the outfield that will keep them out. Danny Duffy is a candidate as a starting pitcher, but pitcher performance is hard to project, and even if he is good, if his turn in the rotation comes too close to the All-Star Game, he may have to skip the Midsummer’s Classic.

Kelvin Herrera is another possibility as a reliever, but remember it won’t be two-time All-Star Game winner Ned Yost selecting the team this year, it will be Indians skipper Terry Francona, who would be likely to take both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Other top relievers like Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna, and Zach Britton may make it tough for Herrera to get his chance.

So I think it will just be Salvy starting behind the plate for the American Leaguers. And the lack of Royals will probably mean the NL has a chance to win for the first time since the game was in Kansas City in 2012.

Hunter Dozier will get 400 plate appearances with the Royals

Dozier was the top hitter in the Royals’ minor league system last year, but he got kind of lost in the shuffle and was not mentioned at all as a possibility to make the Opening Day roster, because he is blocked at every possible position he can play. But that versatility will come in handy, because as the Royals found out last year, players get hurt. A lot.

Last year, the Royals were simply average in the number of injuries they suffered last year - it is quite possible this year could be even worse, what with the core of this team being another year older. Dozier is likely to be one of the first players called up to fill in, but unlike Peter O’Brien or Ryan O’Hearn, Dozier can fill in all over the field - first base, third base, corner outfield - he has even played some shortstop in his professional career.

Dozier is 25 - not young at all for a prospect - and he seems to be about Major League-ready. He may be blocked for now, but these things have a way of working themselves out. Dozier will get his opportunity this year. And he could get plenty of them.

There will not be a July firesale, but there may be some surprising trades

Dayton Moore came into this winter with two clear paths - either go all-in for one last run with the core of his team before they hit free agency, or begin the firesale now and start rebuilding the next championship Royals club. Dayton surprised many observers when he created his own third option - reload and keep the window open a bit longer. By extending Danny Duffy and trading for Nate Karns and Jorge Soler, Moore ensured that a few key pieces will be in Kansas City beyond 2017.

It seems likely that he will take the same approach this July. Dayton does not seem to be one that believes in undertaking a complete firesale - he has spoken too much about fielding the best team he can and owing it to his players to put a winning team on the field. He also has a fierce belief that the team can compete no matter the circumstances, no matter how many games back they are in the standings. Remember, they were under .500 in July in both 2014 and 2016 and held off on trading players away, only to make a run in August. There is no reason this team cannot win 15 of the next 20 at any time, in his mind.

Instead, I would look for the Royals to make more “reloading” trades this July. Dayton talked about the possibility of being more “creative” with deals in the future. Perhaps they trade a young player like Cheslor Cuthbert to fill a need with another young player at another position. Maybe a veteran does get traded, but it is for a Major League-ready player that can help right away. But there is no urgency to trade impending free agents away. Even with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Royals will get a compensatory pick at the end of the first round for any free agent that rejects a Qualifying Offer and signs a contract worth $50 million or more. That gives Dayton Moore even more cover to hold tight in July and see if his team can make a run - and even possibly re-sign their players.