Making predictions before the season starts is kind of a worthless endeavor but as baseball fans, it sure is fun. We will quickly forget those predictions on which we missed the target and humbly claim expertise on those which prove correct. Hey, we all do it, so today, I’m going to have some fun and throw my darts. I will take a look at the Royals and make my predictions for their season. This will give you a little idea what to look for in 2012.
CATCHER – The Royals will live with the Humberto Quintero/Brayan Pena platoon for a couple of months. I think the estimation of Salvador Perez’s return not being until late June is conservative. I look for him to return in late May or early June. Whichever catcher maintains his roster spot when Perez returns may get a few games as Salvador works himself back into the lineup but will see little action late in the season.
1B – Eric Hosmer will be a star eventually. While I think he will make strides in that direction, he won’t make it this season. He will approach .300 and I expect about 22 Home Runs. His defense, which graded out poorly last season, will be much improved this year. Consider him a very good player who gains much needed experience in 2012.
2B – The Royals will finally realize that grit does not win baseball games and finally get rid of Chris Getz. This decision will be quickened by Johnny Giavotella, who again tears up AAA pitching. Gio will make a return to the Royals in late May and will hit around .260 with some pop. I am scared Getz will again fail and instead of bringing up Giavotella, the Royals will make Yuniesky Betancourt the everyday second baseman. Yuck!!!
3B – Mike “Moose” Moustakus will actually become an above average 3-bagger. He will not hit for the average Hosmer will but could actually develop more power. Moose will push his average up to around .275 and will push toward 25 HR. He won’t be as consistent as Hosmer either, but will offer good power in 2012.
SS – Alcides Escobar will continue making watching defense fun. This dude is spectacular. Hitting Coach Kevin Seitzer will continue to mold Escobar into a solid line drive hitter. .265 with 30 steals at the bottom of the order will spark the offense.
LF – Alex Gordon just inked a nice contract and will continue to be a fan favorite. I look for his average to drop toward the .280 range and for his home runs to peak over the topside of 20. He will continue to lead off and will prove his Gold Glove was no fluke.
CF – Lorenzo Cain will turn into a solid starting center fielder this season. His speed and glove will make us forget the Melk Man, even if his bat doesn’t match Melky’s breakout 2011 season. Manager Ned Yost loves to run, so Cain may steal 25 bases. Fifteen dingers and a .275 average would satisfy me.
RF – Jeff Francoeur will settle into the player he was a year ago. He will never be a star but 20 homers and 15 steals is pretty solid. Frenchy seems to love working with Kevin Seitzer and has learned to spray the ball, improving his average. Frenchy will always take his hacks but is a little more under control now. His incredible arm makes up for Francoeur being a little over rated defensively but he is still above average in right.
DH – I think Billy Butler will become a star in 2012. Country Breakfast can flat out hit and he is being driven by improved offensive players around him. Butler will finally realize his power and turn some of those doubles into round trippers. .300/28/110 is a realistic line for Butler and I will stand by that prediction.
The Bullpen – Joakim Soria is gone for the year (maybe for good as the Royals will never pick up an $8 million option). Jonathan Broxton was named the closer last night but he has yet to go in back-to-back games and has a history of injuries. I think Greg Holland may eventually take the job and become very successful because he has the stuff and mentality to succeed as the closer. Either way, they are an impressive 1-2 punch late in the game. A guy to watch is Kelvin Herrera. This kid has eye popping stuff and will probably serve ass the 7th inning guy. He will pile up strikeouts as he toils in anonymity in KC. This group is a strength and will continue to excel.
(*Note – In all honesty, I wrote this yesterday and predicted Holland would be named closer and would not relinquish the job. Technically, I am already 0 for 1.)
The Rotation – Better known as the “reason the Royals don’t have a chance to win the AL Central”. This being said, I do not think it will be as bad as people think. Luke Hochevar is on the brink of a breakout season. Jonathan Sanchez is a K machine. Danny Duffy will be inconsistent but will take a giant step forward. Bruce Chen will be solid if not woefully unspectacular but he won’t match his 2011 numbers. I have a hard time believing Luis Mendoza will fool major league hitters on a regular basis (hope I’m wrong). The biggest wild card here will be what happens when Felipe Paulino returns from the DL. My prediction is he will go to the bullpen until Mendoza starts getting pummeled and will again look good as a starter. As the season progresses, with its inevitable injuries and poor performances, youngsters Mike Montgomery (if he can somehow find a way to manage the strike zone) and Jake Odorizzi could make late season appearances.
Overall – I think the AL Central is a weak division with one elite team in the Tigers. The other four teams are trying to rebuild to some extent. I predict that the Royals’ young offense and slightly improved rotation will be enough for Kansas City to take second place in the division, edging out Cleveland and Chicago. Too much has to go right for KC to win more than half their games but I am going to predict 80 wins for the Royals in 2012. With the emergence of Butler, Hosmer, Gordon, and Moustakus, the Royals will be an offensive force but their rotation will continue not to scare anyone.
Billy Butler is my pick for the Royal Player of the Year and Luke Hochevar as the Pitcher of the Year.
There you go. After the season is over, I will only recognize those predictions in which I was somewhat close.
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