Pressing Questions: The Kansas City Royals

Roto Arcade

Controversial, lopsided trades are a staple in baseball. Over the years, numerous unbalanced swaps have occurred, leaving fanbases both perplexed and pissed. Pittsburgh’s shipping of Jose Bautista to Toronto for ‘iconic’ catcher Robinzon Diaz back in 2008 immediately comes to mind.

Soon, Royals GM Dayton Moore’s December shipping of uber-prospect Wil Myers to Tampa, along with pitchers Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard, in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis may be viewed with similar bewilderment.

Myers, the organization’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, clubbed 37 homers over 522 at-bats between Double and Triple-A last year. A rare blend of raw power, patience and high-contact (.304 BA at Triple-A in '12), he has future All-Star written all over him. At 22, he’s on the precipice of becoming a middle-of-the-order producer for years to come. Tampa scored a stud.

As Big League Stew commented back in December, the move is a bad one for a club that hasn’t finished with an above .500 record in nine years. Worst yet, it hasn’t punched a playoff ticket since the days of teased hair, parachute pants and whatever the hell this was (1985). The deal was just another example of how front offices overvalue starting pitching, choosing to give up untapped offensive talent for hurlers that, despite a solid track-record, are not true difference-makers.

To help decipher the meaningful from the meaningless, here are five additional pressing questions about the Kansas City Royals entering 2013:

Q: What the heck happened to Eric Hosmer? Will he be a bargain or a bust?

A: A buzzy pick in drafts last spring, Hosmer failed to carry momentum over from a stellar offseason and Cactus League performance. His double-digit contributions in homers and steals were serviceable but an abysmal .232 BA and lack of RBI punch was a far cary from the .300-30-100-100-15 season many in the fantasy industry predicted. A rotator cuff tear down the stretch only heightened owner disdain.

This spring, Hosmer seriously needs to drink a pint of Billy Butler’s sweat. His contact and walks percentages were strong a season ago (82 CT%, 9.4 BB% in '12), but a rise in groundball rate coupled with a humiliating .127 ISO don't lend hope for a sudden power onslaught. Still, he's just 23 and has plenty of room to grow. He's reportedly very motivated and grateful for the learning experience. That glass half-full approach along with other adjustments should help him regain some owner confidence in challenging leagues. However, first base's expansive depth makes him a CI-only option in 12-team and deeper mixers. For now, expect modest gains in 2013 (FF: .270-19-75-75-15).

Q: Need for speed. Who you got in a fantasy footrace: Lorenzo Cain or Alcides Escobar?

A: Cain. It's likely Escobar will swipe more bases than the outfielder, but Cain's expected across-the-board contributions make him the more valuable of the two and a definite late-round sleeper in mixers. Fully recovered from groin and hip flexor setbacks that undermined his 2012 campaign, the outfielder is penciled in as the Royals' primary leadoff man entering spring training. Recall over just 222 at-bats last year, he strung together an appealing line (.266-7-31-27-10) which, on a per game basis, ranked solidly among OF5s and ahead of notable names Ichiro Suzuki, Shane Victorino and Drew Stubbs.

Cain will likely go undrafted in 12-team mixers with shallow benches, but he shouldn't. His underlying profile suggests he could be a 15-25 contributor in 2013. If he can stay upright and draw more walks (6.1 BB% in '12), he is in prime position to also chip in 85-plus runs. In other words, he's a Shin-Soo Choo type, a stats buffet that should satisfy most owners' appetite for multicategorical production.

Q: The Moose was loose over the first half of the season as Mike Moustakas raked a .268-15-47-41-3 line over 298 at-bats. However, after the break he clubbed just five more homers and hit .211. What side will we see in 2013: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

A: Maintaining consistency is one of the hardest achievements for an established veteran, let alone a young player trying to find his way. Moustakas' rapid decline in the second half left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, but his torrid start showcased exactly the type of producer he could be. At the break, he was the 10th-best hot corner in Fantasyland. However, spurred by a sharp rise in strikeout percentage and giant drop-off in ISO (.113 over second half), he was the 30th-best after the Midsummer Classic.

As Ned Yost recently told, Moustakas is just "scratching the surface" offensively. The skipper feels sometime in the very near future the hot corner will assert himself as an annual .275-30-100 hitter. I'm optimistic that happens this year. The experience gained and lessons learned last year should greatly aid him in his star quest. With an early ADP of 181.4 (3B13), the 24-year-old is highly underrated.

Q: Is anointed closer Greg Holland on the brink of a breakout?

A: Holland was quite the rollercoaster ride last year. His promise of a breakthrough season quickly evaporated after getting destroyed in April (11.37 ERA). But after Jonathan Broxton was shipped to Cincinnati at the deadline, he was given a second lease on life. This time, Holland seized the moment. From August 1 on, he was 16-for-18 in save opps, posting a 1.98 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 11.53 K/9, overall the seventh-best output among eligible RPs according to Baseball Monster.

Holland enters the exhibition season fixed atop Yost's ninth-inning depth-chart. Because of his high strikeout rate and ability to coax numerous grounders, he's a strong candidate to finish a top-10 closer. His 194.7 ADP is reason No. 3,156 why chasing saves in the early rounds is completely idiotic.

Quick Hitters...

With so much young talent already on the major league roster most of the Royals' top prospects will log time at low levels this year. However, a couple unheralded youngsters could make some noise at some point. Outfielder David Lough has a decent shot of making the opening day roster after logging 59 at-bats with the senior club last year. Prior to his late-season promotion, he notched an interesting 491-.275-10-69-69-26 line at Omaha ... Highly ranked southpaw John Lamb, nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, is a hurler to watch. He won the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year award in 2010 and responded well when he returned to the mound last summer. If Wade Davis or Bruce Chen falter, he could be the next man up ... I'm one of Salvador Perez's biggest fans after his late charge helped me win AL LABR last year, but don't overpay for his services in 2013. Any catcher with a BA above .275 is a luxury item, but it's doubtful he'll surpass the 20 HR threshold. At every professional level, he's never posted an ISO above .175. Think of him as a poor man's Mauer ... Which Alex Gordon will we see this season? Probably a mixture of 2011 and 2012. His power numbers dipped a season ago, largely due to a rise in groundball rate and sharp decline in HR/FB percentage, but he still boasts an excellent eye and ripe age (29). Bill James' projection seems spot on -- 624-.284-19-78-95-11 ... If Ervin Santana can overcome his nasty case of gopheritis from last year (1.97 HR/9), he could prove profitable as a back-end starter in deep leagues. His 2.18 K/BB was in line with previous seasons and his 1.16 GB/FB actually increased slightly. An ERA in the low-to-mid 4s along with double-digit wins and 150-160 Ks are in my fearless forecast.

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