Since Baseball Prospectus unveiled their PECOTA projections at the end of January for the upcoming Major League Baseball season, people have been asking, “Are we missing something?”
That is especially true as it concerns the KC Royals.
I watch a lot of MLB Network and the analysts and former players are constantly asking “Am I missing something?” From Brian Kenny to Tom Verducci to Royals Kool-Aid drinker Dan Plesac wonder what they are missing when it comes to the extremely low win projections for the Royals in 2015.
Coming off an American League title and battling the SF Giants to seven games in the World Series (and winning eight straight playoff games along the way), PECOTA has the Royals winning just 72 games in 2015 (72-90). That is the exact same record they had in 2012, before back-to-back winning seasons. These projections have the Royals as the second-worst team in the AL, with Minnesota just two games worse. These projections even have Houston better than the Royals.
Sure, I wasn’t a big fan of a few of the Royals offseason moves, like signing Alex Rios and Kendrys Morales. But are they really that much worse than the last two seasons?
Anthony Castrovince wrote a few articles over the last two weeks for Sports on Earth regarding the “Top Ten” in MLB. He ranked the Royals as the tenth best team. He has the Royals as the second best team in the AL Central, as Detroit comes in at number four. I don’t expect the Royals to repeat as AL Champs in 2015, but I also do not see them returning to form as cellar dwellers either.
Pretty much everyone believes that the Royals bullpen is the best in baseball, with the three-headed monster of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland. Add to that veteran Jason Frasor for an entire season and a healthy Luke Hochevar looking to capture his 2013 success again and this bullpen may be better than in years past. Castrovince also ranked the Royals as having the best bullpen.
Castrovince also ranks the Royals defense as the best in baseball. They are coming off three Gold Gloves for the second straight season (Alex Gordon in left field, Salvador Perez at catcher, and Eric Hosmer at first base). Alcides Escobar is widely viewed as one of the game’s best defenders at shortstop, though he tends to be overlooked. Lorenzo Cain showed the world how good he is in both center and right field during the postseason.
So what are we missing?
The Royals have a lot of questions marks going into the season, but what team doesn’t.
Can Danny Duffy rise to the occasion? How much will the rotation miss James Shields? Will Yordano Ventura’s workload the last two seasons come back to hurt him? The same can be said for Salvador Perez behind the plate.
Will Mike Moustakas ever hit? Can Eric Hosmer find his power (can anyone really)? Will the new additions rebound from lackluster 2014 seasons? Can Lorenzo Cain and Omar Infante stay healthy? Will the bullpen continue to be dominant? Will Alex Gordon’s wrist issue linger even after surgery?
If any of the answers to the above questions are negative, then the Royals will have to rely on their minor league system (or trade one of their dominant relievers) to stay afloat. The farm system isn’t stocked with top level position player talent (though they have a few outfielders who could easily step in), but the Royals do have young pitching that could be ready to contribute by midseason.
Many feel that the Royals will feel extra pressure this season after their 2014 playoff run, but really, the pressure is only going to come from the fan base and the players themselves. The projections do not have the Royals above 80 wins (Vegas odds have them at 79.5) and a few other than PECOTA feel that number is too high (former Cleveland Indian Jensen Lewis thinks the Royals will win less than 79.5).
So, these projections should only fuel the fire for a hungry group of players who ended the 2014 season with a sour taste in their mouth. They were so close to accomplishing their goal, only to be shut down by Madison Bumgarner.
2015 is a new season and hopefully this group of Royals can continue to prove the doubters wrong once again.