Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Training Spotlight: Kansas City Royals

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There was a time when the Kansas City Royals were one of baseball's most exciting teams. Fans of the 70's/80's era remember well many famous thrilling battles against the New York Yankees. Their franchise record 102 win season of 1977. World Series victory over state rival St. Louis in 1985 and a long list of fan favorite players.

It's been a very long time since Kansas City's glory years. Only three winning seasons since 1990. Over the years future stars washed out. Current stars bolted. Team finances and ownership concerns. Dwindling attendance. There was even a period of time when ownership entertained moving the franchise.
2011 represents a new season filled with hope and renewed enthusiasm. Former players and coaches are praising this young Royals team. Quite a few recent KC squads were praised in recent years. What's the difference between recent past lip service and current prognostications? Talent.

Poor pitching and weak team defense haunted this club for years. Pitching talent is nothing to write home about but will receive a boost with solid gloves backing them up and making plays for a change. Luke Hockevar, Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies and Vin Mazzaro represent their projected rotation. Who? 2011 rests on their shoulders. For better or worse. None posted any sort of consistency in their short careers. KC's bullpen has talent and every bit of it will be needed to shut down hitters when starters struggle. Manager Ned Yost hopes relievers aren't burnt out by over use before the All Star break. Royals hidden strength is opponents over confidence vs perennial losers.

Royals starting lineup is young, aggressive and tearing it up in Cactus League games. Don't go rushing to draft Royals hitters for your fantasy team because of the spring power numbers. Their stats are inflated due to playing games in hitter friendly Arizona. However, this new group of KC hitters will score plenty of runs in 2011. Around the horn: (1B) Kila Ka'aihue, (2B) Mike Aviles, (SS) Alcides Escobar, (3B) Wilson Betemit. This crew comes to play. If spring plate discipline carries over into regular season games then opposing pitchers will have their hands full. Batting coach Kevin Seitzer installed a new attitude into these young hitters. Results have been great so far.

Roaming the spacious outfield in Kauffman Stadium will be (LF) Alex Gordon, (CF) Melky Cabrera & (RF) Jeff Francouer. Melky's spring has many wondering if this former Yankees future star finally put it all together. He's ripping everything in site this spring. Spending time with Seitzer and legendary George Brett is paying early dividends.

How many wins Kansas City records after 162 games is anyone's guess. Expect a new look team. New found enthusiasm. Better chemistry. Greater talent. There's finally a reason to watch Royals games again.


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