A statement that the Kansas City Royals will not be very good in 2011 is easy to dredge up from this time every year for the past decade. But at last, there seems to be hope on the horizon. No longer are the Royals sodden down with a bevy of dead contracts for unproductive players. Gone are Jose Guillen and Kyle Farnsworth and Yuniesky Betancourt. Instead they have a bunch of cheap placeholders who are equally inept, but not as expensive and certainly not long term burdens. And the great thing about the term "placeholders" is that it means that there is a future in Kansas City.
It had to be painful to part with Zack Greinke. The pitcher and the team had been through so much together. Together they had worked to bring Greinke out from the cold and into one the elite performers in baseball. But it was the correct move with the way Greinke had been thinking in the last ten months. Time will tell if the prospects they received in return will pan out. But the great thing about the haul is that it simply adds to what is already one of the deepest taken systems out there.
But the divesting of Greinke means that the Royals have moved on from six of their seven most expensive players of last year and instead have talent on the horizon and some already expected to start getting their feet wet in 2011. So yeah, Royals' fans will have to deal with Jason Kendall, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur for a year of pain, but a slew of talent is on the way and even if half of them make the grade, the Royals should be super competitive perhaps even by 2012.
For pitching prospects, the Royals have Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, Chris Dwyer, John Lamb and the newly acquired Jake Odorizzi. Position prospects also abound in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Will Myers and Christian Colon. And this Fan wouldn't give up on Kila Ka'aihue despite his slow start last year or Alex Gordon who still has time to rein in his talent. It's an exciting time to be following the Royals, which is the first time in ages that there is reason to say that.
As for the upcoming year, Bruce Chen is back (cheaply) and the Royals replaced Brian Bannister with Jeff Francis, which should be worth about five wins alone. Their rotation could be very decent if everything works out. The bullpen got a lot better after Ned Yost took over last year and team seemed to respond positively to him.
Lorenzo Cain should get the starting center field job over Melky Cabrera, who is neither a good hitter or a good center fielder. Cabrera is at best a fourth or fifth outfielder. Both Butler and Ka'aihue are decent first baseman and whichever doesn't play first can DH. If the Fan ran the Royals, dollars wouldn't be wasted on a lumbering DH on the market for what is going to be a year in waiting anyway. Aviles should start at second over Getz, who simply can't hit. Both are pretty unsavory at second, but Aviles showed some bat life last year. Alcides Escobar might benefit from a new scene. He's got talent and perhaps he'll blossom as the Royals shortstop. He can't be any worse than what they have had the last couple of years. Mitch Meier showed promise and can play a corner spot in the outfield. As for Kendall behind the plate? Well, that contract will run out sooner or later.
The Royals could have a decent season and at least put a product on the field that is entertaining. But whatever the outcome of 2011, the real hope in Kansas City is the road ahead. Greinke couldn't wait. But this Fan can't wait either. It's going to be fun to watch.