After a 75 win season, the Kansas City Royals finally found themselves out of the cellar.
The Royals still haven't made a playoff appearance since 1985.
But if the Arizona Cardinals can make it, ditto the Tampa Bay Rays, why shouldn't the folks in Kansas City get a chance in the spotlight.
Besides, the fan bases are similar, no one cares because of a crappy product.
All that aside optimism has taken over pessimism in the BBQ capital of the world because of A) playing in terrible division and B) an influx of young talent.
But fans are expecting more than a third place finish with 83 wins like the 2003 season.
Sure, it's going to take a bit of luck on a couple of fronts but some of the dreams fans may have about this team aren't unreasonable.
Let's say for example that much heralded pitching prospect Luke Hochevar takes the gigantic leap toward superstardom this season.
Now a 6-12 record with a 5.51 ERA doesn't exactly instill confidence in fans, Hochevar's age, 26, and pedigree, high first round draft choice, means it's his time to shine. On top of that Hochevar just completed his rookie year and may have just needed seasoning.
The top half of the rotation is solid as well, headlined by "I can't believe this signing worked out" Gil Meche and Zach Greinke.
Meche took a hefty chunk of change from Kansas City to anchor the staff and has filled the position with surprising consistency. For all intents and purposes, Meche put up a career year but he should have more gas in the tank at just 30-years-old.
Greinke, on the other hand, was sort of a reclamation project after quitting baseball and dealing with psychological problems after being a first-round draft pick by the Royals. He finally put it all together in 2008 and won 13 games with 183 strikeouts and a 3.47 ERA.
The news gets even better when you take into account that Greinke is only 25-years-old.
Even the bullpen looks outstanding at first glance. It features all-star closer Joakim Soria along with recently signed acquired relievers Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz behind him. Even Ron Mahay was a valuable commodity with a 3.48 ERA.
Given some of the shrewd moves made in the offseason, this offense may be vastly improved as well.
Outfielder Coco Crisp and first baseman Mike Jacobs join a potentially talented bunch that features certfied contributors such as outfielders David DeJesus and Jose Guillen.
The offense as a whole though, will be judged by the performances of the much-heralded trio of prospects.
Shortstop Mike Aviles hit .325 in his first full season while designated hitter Billy Butler and third baseman Alex Gordon didn't live up to their billing.
Butler shook off early season struggles to bat .275 with 11 home runs and could see signifcant boom in his power categories this season while Gordon showed signs of life in his second full season hitting .260 with 16 home runs.
If the pieces fall into place, Kansas City could surprise everyone.
photo credit: Hipolito Designs
- Tuesday, March 3, 2009
- Posted by M.J. Hartwig at 12:50 PM