The Kansas City Royals are 10-5, one of only four teams in the AL with 10 wins, and currently only a game back of the Cleveland Indians (a team I could just as easily write this post about) for first in AL Central. The Royals are 4th in the majors in runs, 3rd in hits, 3rd in doubles, 3rd in stolen bases, and 2nd in fewest walks issued. So I now pose the question: Are the 2011 Kansas City Royals real contenders with staying power or will they soon be swallowed up by the rest of the division and settle back into the bottom of the standings?
The Royals season definitely hinges on their pitching so that’s where I’ll begin. Aaron Crow has been lights out in the bullpen picking up for the injured Robinson Tejeda. Crow has yet to allow an earned run in 8.2 innings of work and has struck out 10 and only walked 2. I like Crow and personally, I think he’s the real deal. If he can prove it, he’ll be a vitally important part of the Royals ‘pen going forward and a key to their success. In a similar vein, Jeremy Jeffress has only pitched in 15 career games at the big league level but has been extremely effective and, along with Crow and Joakim Soria (who will figure it out) could anchor a really strong bullpen.
In the starting rotation, Jeff Francis has yet to win a game but has an ERA of only 3.00 and leads the team in innings pitched. He’s been effective in the past with Colorado and has shown this far that he can certainly regain his high quality form. Luke Hochevar is the man. Though he’s given up 6 HRs already, the ace of this staff has 16 Ks and only 22 hits surrendered in 25.2 innings pitched and a 1.01 WHIP. He can be one of the best starters in the league and, in the absence of Zach Greinke, is going to step up for KC. Bruce Chen is a serviceable starter but isn’t really a good option on a team with contending aspirations and Kyle Davies and Sean O’Sullivan (who is really a middle reliever) aren’t good enough right now and should prompt GM Dayton Moore to look to make a move if the Royals continue to play well.
Alex Gordon is hitting out of his mind right now, batting .365 with 8 doubles and a team high 11 RBI. Could this be the breakout season we’ve all been waiting for? The answer to that question has a huge impact on the Royals fortunes going forward.
Billy Butler continues to anchor the offense from the DH spot but his year he’s had help from Jeff Francoeur and his 11 RBI, Melky Cabrera’s .328 AVG, and Alcides Escobar’s 3 SBs. Escobar, by the way, is the guy the Royals got back for Greinke and is going to be a top shortstop going forward. Kila Ka’aihue needs to step it up as his .179 AVG out of the 1B
spot isn’t going to cut it.
The Royals offense needs to hold it together until Mike Moustakas can make his much anticipated debuet later this year. Guys like Matt Treanor, (one of my favorite players because this is his wife) who has played well since Jason Kendall got hurt, need to continue to have success.
Overall, I think this team has a ton of potential and if everything falls together right, (like it mostly has been thus far) could hang around well into the summer. The Tigers, White Sox, and Twins are deeper though and have stronger rosters overall. The Royals may make a run at it in 2011 but will most likely fall short. Watch out for them in 2012.