SURPRISE, Ariz. — All eyes were on spring sensation Yasiel Puig on Wednesday, when his Los Angeles Dodgers played the Kansas City Royals. Puig is having a monster spring. Two hits in his first two at-bats Wednesday raised his average to .521 and made him 6-for-6 in his last two games.
Across the field, though, were two guys also having great springs, two guys who aren't getting hyped as much as Puig and two guys whose team is an MLB-best 18-6 this spring. On this Arizona afternoon, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain were just as good, if not better, than Yasiel Puig.
Moustakas was 3-for-3 with a home run, a single and a double, raising his spring average to .460. Cain, meanwhile, was 2-for-2 with a homer and a double. He's now hitting .474.
Yes, it's spring training. And, yes, the wins don't count, just like the batting averages don't get you anything. But for a team like the Royals — who finished in last place in 2009, last in 2010, second-to-last in 2011, then a middle-of-the-pack third place in 2012 —every step forward matters.
This year, there's excitement in the Royals clubhouse about a collection of young players who are about due for a break-out season. This was Royals skipper Ned Yost before Wednesday's game:
"I think Salvador Perez is really going to establish himself as an American League star this year," Yost said. "I think Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas [are going to break out]. And I think you're going to really see Lorenzo Cain break out this year. It's early and everybody has high hopes, but these kids are blessed with a bunch of talent and I think those four kids particularly have a chance to break out this year."
Perez? Yes. Many baseball pundits are expecting big things from the 22-year-old Venezuelan catcher. Hosmer and Moustakas? Sure. These third-year guys, 23 and 24 respectively, were supposed to have their big years in 2012, but neither totally delivered. The talent certainly is there.
And Cain? His name doesn't ring out like the other guys, but that's because the 26-year-old outfielder battled injuries for half of 2012. Ask around and he's got folks excited.
Mike Moustakas is one of the young Royals eyeing a break-out season."It's a new year," Moustakas said. "Whatever happened last year is over with. I'm a completely different player this year. As baseball players, we gotta have a short-term memory. We forget what happened last year. This year's a new chapter.
"It's exciting to be a part of what we are building here."
Perez said it's exciting to see this group of guys — who he came up though the minor leagues with — all together in the major leagues now, all staring potential in the face.
Cain sees it too.
"We have a lot of young talent," said Cain, who came to the Royals in the Zack Greinke trade, but played in Triple-A with the other three. "All of us with one or two years in the big leagues. A lot of guys can break out."
Here's the part where you say, "Sure, but don't just talk about it, show us." And so does Cain.
"At the end of the day, we have to go out and do it," he said. "That still has yet to be seen. We'll see once the season gets rolling."
These Royals, they might not finish higher than third this year. Heck, they might slip back to fourth again, behind a loaded Detroit Tigers team, an energized Cleveland Indians and a Chicago White Sox squad you can't count out.
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But if these young talents blossom like they could, Kansas City will be a fun team to watch. This year, and in the future.
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