KFFL answers important fantasy baseball questions about each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Kansas City Royals?
If Eric Hosmer is so good, then what went wrong?
Shields: KC's best pitching bet
What, a .232 batting average and 14 ding dongs aren't what you expected?
The Royals may have asked too much of him by slotting him third or fourth in the order to open the season, but that's where he'd hit for most of 2011. In pivotal spots like those, some players tend to press if they're struggling, and his inexperience would've exacerbated the issue. After the break, Hosmer felt he'd let his swing become long because he'd become overly aggressive in an attempt to make up for his slow start.
But such demands are highly unlikely to be the sole cause, if even the main one, of the left-handed batter's disappointing showing. In spring exhibition action, Hosmer gave the Royals a scare when in the field he dove for a ball and landed awkwardly on his right shoulder. After an evaluation, everything seemed to check out, and he enjoyed a fantastic spring. In late September, though, he left a contest because he experienced discomfort in that shoulder. An MRI later confirmed that he had a strain in his rotator cuff.
Had Hosmer's ST injury been so slight that it didn't register as anything of concern, initially? Had it worsened, very slowly, throughout the campaign, only to culminate in the slight tear that finally alerted him of its seriousness? Did the first baseman take each of his swings in 2012 with a tiny puncture in the wall of his faculties? Unlikely. But it begs inquiry about their relation. Thankfully, the ailment didn't require surgery, and he'll be healthy when camp begins.
Hosmer is almost assuredly too good to struggle in that manner forever, and there may be some physical explanation for his downturn. But he's not a base-stealer of the order his 2012 theft total (16) suggests; his aggressiveness probably came about because of his desire to contribute. And he still has to learn to deal with adversity and adjust to it against the best competition available.
It's easy to forecast a bounce-back campaign for KC and the sunshine man at the cold corner. But because it's easy, others will be expecting it, too. He has great ability but is also a first baseman; his upside in the short term may not allow his numbers to stand out. He warrants a solid bid, but don't break the bank just because Hosmer, 24, should be better than he was in 2012.
In this club's remade rotation, where's the smart money going?
In short: As long as you define "smart money" as "any money," James Shields is your only bet. Last season, he sort of split the difference, to the good, between his awful 2010 and brilliant 2011. His 8.82 K/9 and 2.29 BB/9 are ace-like figures, and he escapes the grind of war in the AL East. There's no reason not to expect the righty to put up very good numbers, perhaps even in the win column.
Jeremy Guthrie rewarded the Royals after they acquired him last year by posting a 3.16 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. The right-hander remains an innings-eater through and through, however. The lone, significant change is what could be a full season's worth of home innings in environs that are pitcher-friendlier than those to which the fly-ball pitcher had grown accustomed.
Ervin Santana wrapped up shooting of the film in which he plays Edward E. Nigma, so he'll be ready for spring training. This righty has produced some outstanding outings, occasionally looking like Dr. Freeze-the-hitter. The 2012 drop in his velocity and his somewhat checkered injury history warn you not to take too much of a chance that this season will be filled with them, though.
Will Wade Davis prove that he's worthy of a rotation spot now that he's free of the Tampa Bay Rays? His numbers in his attempts while with his first team don't signal that dividends will be immediate. Will Luke Hochevar put it all together to claim the spot that Davis aims to steal? Only some ST noise would even lend hope to that scenario. Will Bruce Chen be anything more than a somewhat worse, left-handed version of Guthrie? Uh, probably not.
And so KC has little of substance, beyond Shields, but at least there should be more experience in the rotation than there's been in other recent incarnations. That counts for something, right? Roto owners should stay alert for the impending returns of righty Felipe Paulino and lefty Danny Duffy. Each is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and each - particularly Paulino - has the ability to usurp a rotation spot once he proves that he's healthy.
Who's KC's next big-time youngster now that they've dealt Wil Myers?
Sorry, suckers. That was it!
The Royals have finally decided to mortgage a portion of their future, which also included pitcher Jake Odorizzi, in a seeming attempt "to go for it." Which is a respectable act. But, as a result, the rest of their top prospects - which are still quite good, at least according to Baseball America - aren't even close to debuts.
Carrying the torch, for the intents and purposes of this exercise, is the club's major league catcher, Salvador Perez, who'll be 23 in May. The organization expected his above-average defensive ability to be the primary source of his contributions. His superb plate discipline would keep him afloat, at minimum, while he learned to translate the raw power locked inside that 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame into bombs to drop.
A pretty serious knee injury in March derailed his train, but Perez rehabbed with a vengeance and played in 76 games last year. His 437 major league at-bats have produced a .311 batting average and 14 home runs. Apparently, he learns faster than Kansas City thought.
He certainly looks like No. 1 catcher material already. Perez's aptitude for making contact minimizes the risk involved in pursuing him for fantasy purposes. The allure of 15 or 20 homers from him in addition to a quality average should make fantasy owners ready to pony up. Be careful not to overdo it, and Perez should make some of your money back, at least.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.