The New Year is only hours away now, but fans of the Kansas City Royals are more concerned with February 10 than they are January 1. After revitalizing the franchise and the fanbase in 2013, analysts and fans alike wonder now if KC can build upon last year’s success. So, will the Royals be better or worse next season than they were in 2013?
Offensively, it seems almost certain that KC will be much-improved. With the acquisitions of not only Norichikia Aoki and Omar Infante, but also lesser-mentioned players like Danny Valencia and new backup catcher Francisco Pena, the Royals should project to be a better hitting team both in power and hitting for average. Aoki will lead off games and set the table for the big bats in the heart of the lineup, which should account for several Royals putting up improved numbers this season. Infante fills the team’s biggest hole offensively, and Danny Valencia provides a backup plan for just in case Mike Moustakas can’t get it going in 2014.
The biggest question for the Royals’ success next year will be their starting pitching. With the inevitable loss of Ervin Santana and the addition of Jason Vargas, KC sees at least a minor downgrade in productivity. However, the team has expressed that Wade Davis, Luke Hochevar, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura will all be fighting for the final two spots in the starting rotation. There lies the biggest opportunity for improvement for KC in the upcoming season. If a combination of two of those pitchers can do better than the bottom two pitchers from the previous season, it could be enough to compensate for the downgrade from Santana to Vargas. To be conservative, the Royals will probably have a slightly worse starting five than last year, but until youngsters like Duffy and Ventura get a chance to show their stuff this will be hard to determine.
All in all, the Royals have a successful offseason to thank for projecting them as a slightly better team in 2014 than in 2013. Here’s to hoping that isn’t just wishful thinking. Happy New Year, Royals fans.