I have a little concern about the starting pitching. Like the young offensive players, they have LHP Dan Duffy, LHP Mike Montgomery and Jeremy Jeffress ready to contribute. In the meantime, they added LHP Jonathan Sanchez from the the Giants for OF Melky Cabrera. Sanchez was injured in 2011, finishing 4-7, 4.26 in 19 starts after going 13-9, 3.07 in 33 starts and 205 K in 193 1/3 IP in 2010. Luke Hochevar (11-11, 4.68 in 31 GS) is probably still the number one starter, with the Royals still expecting more from. Bruce Chen (12-8, 3.77 in 25 GS) will be expected to eat innings and Felipe Paulino (4-6, 4.11 in 20 GS) surprised after coming over from Colorado. They are hoping to pitch well enough until Duffy and Montgomery are ready. Aaron Crow was a reliever last season (4-4, 2.76 in 57 games) and could be a factor in the rotation at some point.
The bullpen looks extremely solid. Joakim Soria (5-5, 4.03, 28 saves) had a dissappointing season in 2011 and is looking to bounce back. Jonathan Broxton comes over as a free agent from the Dodgers and will either close or be the 8th inning set-up man. He only pitched in 14 games for the Dodgers last year, but in 2009 he was 7-2, 2.61, 36 saves and had 114 K in 76 IP. If he can revert back to that, it would be a steal. Crow and 22 year old LHP Tim Collins (4-4, 3.63, 68 games in 2011) join Greg Holland, who was unhitable in the second half of the season (5-1, 1.80, 46 G and 74 K in 60 IP). Blake Wood and Louis Coleman and former Twins LHP Juan Mijares make the Royals bullpen as good as anybody. Unfortunately, outside of Soria, Broxton and maybe Crow, the rest are unknown. As deep as they are, the game could be a six inning game for Kansas City.
Last season, they got an unbelievable season from Melky Cabrera (.305, 18, 87, 102 R, 201 H, 44 2B, 5 3B in 2011). Cain gets the chance to be the CF of the future (just 6-22, RBI in 6 games in 2011 after hitting .312, 16, 81 and 16 SB with AAA Omaha). Hosmer was great, hitting .293, 19, 78, and along with Billy Butler (.291, 19, 95, 44 2B), Gordon (.303, 23, 87, 101 R, 45 2B) and Jeff Francoeur (.285, 20, 87, 47 2B, 22 SB) have a very strong middle of the order. Perez got his contract extension as he is expected to be the catcher for the next several years. At age 21, he hit .290, 10, 53 between AA and AAA in 2011 and .331, 3, 21 in 39 games for the Royals. Though the Royals may have other plans, I like the idea of Yunieskey Betancourt and Alcides Escobar playing 2B and SS, respectively. Betancourt (.252, 13, 68) will give depth to the lineup and hopefully not give up too much defensively, that is the major concern. Escobar is looking to build on 2011, where he hit .254, 4, 46 and 26 SB.
The Royals have their team that they will being going to war with for the next several years. Outside of 2B and maybe Francoeur, nobody is going anywhere for several years. The pitching is the key to how far they will go. While Duffy, Montgomery and Crow are going to be major factors in the rotation for the future, they have to be able to get hitters out now to be competitive. Sanchez should bounce back and Chen, Hochevar and Paulino need to pitch better to make this team as good as needs to be. The bullpen will be among the best in baseball, as long as everybody remains healthy. Vegas gives the O/U at 80.5, I go with the over, but not by much. I say, 82-80, which will be good enough for 2nd place in the AL Central. This will end a streak of nine consecutive losing seasons and 17 in the last 18. If this holds up, they can go for an unprecidented two consecutive winning seasons, something that has not been done since 1993-1994 when Hal McRae was the manager.