Of course, the Royals could look much different next season, but in regards to the present, the team may have a little more than just one more run in them. Former first round pick Hunter Dozier should be ready to be the team's starting third baseman next season. Hosmer is the face of the franchise so it would be stupid if the Royals chose not to commit to him long term. And that leaves just Cain and Escobar, the two main pieces in a Milwaukee Brewers trade for right handed pitcher Zack Greinke after the 2010 season. If the Royals are confident in Paulo Orlando to be the team's long term right fielder, then Soler can play center in 2018, his natural position. Overall, this season is not as much a make or break season for the team as has been reported, assuming they step up and sign Hosmer.
The Royals added outfielder/ first baseman Brandon Moss, who hit 30 home runs last season for the St. Louis Cardinals to replace designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent. After the sudden loss of Ventura, the Royals signed pitchers Jason Hammel and Travis Wood, both from the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, to add some depth to their starting rotation.
If the Royals want to return to the form of a year ago when they were coming off their first World Series Championship in 30 years, they need to get more out of outfielder Alex Gordon. Signed to a new four year, $72 million contract, the left hand hitting left fielder hit just .220 and had an on base plus slugging less than .700, all while missing time due to injury. Moustakas is coming off a season in which he played in just 27 games. Cain also missed significant time, playing in just 103 games. First baseman Hosmer saw his batting average drop 31 points last season and that could be a reason the Royals have chosen to wait instead of committing themselves long term. Whit Merrifield will be the team's starting second baseman with Soler getting the nod over Orlando in right field.
The biggest concern right now for the Royals is the status of catcher Salvador Perez, who injured his knee during the World Baseball Classic. If Perez is out a long period of time, Drew Butera will be the starting catcher. Ironically, Perez' injury occurred during a game between Venezuela and Italy and it was a home plate collision with Butera that injured his knee. Initial hope is that the swelling in the knee will subside, but any loss of Perez will set the team back both offensively and defensively. The starting lineup I would start 2017 with for the Royals is Escobar SS, Moustakas 3B, Cain CF, Hosmer 1B, Soler RF, Moss DH, Perez C, Gordon LF, Merrifield 2B. The Royals bench will be led by Orlando, third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, outfielder Billy Burns, infielders Raul Mondesi and Christian Colon and back up catcher Butera.
The Royals best two starting pitchers last season were Duffy (12 wins, 3 losses, 188 strikeouts in just under 180 innings pitched) and Ian Kennedy (11-11, 3.68 earned run average). Adding Hammel and Wood give the team veteran depth but comes with questions. Hammel has traditionally been a very good first half pitcher, but has struggled mightily in the second half of each of the past two seasons. Wood is attempting to return to the starting rotation after spending most of the past two years as a relief pitcher. Duffy made a similar transition last season- maybe his presence can help Wood out. Jason Vargas made three starts last September after missing most of the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Karns has struck out 270 batters in just over 265 career innings pitched and hope is he will be a mainstay in the rotation at some point in the season. Chris Young is coming off a dreadful 2016, a product of a very bad walk rate of 4.4 per 9 innings pitched. It also did not help that he surrendered 28 home runs in just under 89 innings pitched.
Having Kelvin Herrera gave Royals General Manager Dayton Moore the confidence necessary to trade Davis to the Cubs. Joakim Soria pitched to an over 4.00 ERA last season and nearly a 1.500 WHIP which needs to change if the Royals want to be as effective late in games as they have been over the past three seasons. The Royals do have a series of proven arms competing for spots, including Al Alburquerque, Bobby Parnell, Chris Withrow, and Brandon League. Karns could be a relief option, as well as Wood, of course.
Left hand pitcher Matt Strahm should be able to help the Royals out this season, likely as a relief pitcher as the team looks to cut down his innings. Dozier may be stored away in Triple- A so he can get himself ready to be the team's starting third baseman next season. Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio is interesting as well, as his home run power could be penciled in to the Kansas City starting lineup in 2018. Peter O'Brien is probably best suited to be a designated hitter, but he does have some power. Almost enough not to ignore. Hope is, O'Brien gets a shot to be the team's designated hitter and if he does, Moss can move to right field to share some time with Soler. I am intrigued by 20 year- old catcher Meibrys Viloria, who seems possess a lot of the tools to be a solid, all around player.
I think the Royals are more than a "Get the band together one last time" team. They should be able to hold their foundation together for a number of seasons and should perform much better than they did last season when they finished at 81-81. To me, this was an easy pick as Las Vegas gave them an over/ under number of 80.5. I will take the over, as the 2017 Royals will finish the season at 88-74, third place in the American League Central division. This, however, will be good enough to make the postseason as a Wild Card team. Please stay tuned to see where they will be headed to.