MLB Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals: Predicting the 2014 Starting Rotation

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Predicting the Starting Rotation for the Kansas City Royals in 2014

Ned Yost
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After a 86-76 2013 season, the Kansas City Royals are looking to take the next step and get into the playoffs in 2014. In fact, the Royals haven't made the playoffs since 1985. But they have been taking strides in the right direction every year since 2009. They have won more games in each of the previous five seasons. Only missing the playoffs by 5.5 games in the Wild Card race in 2013, I'm sure the Royals' goal for 2014 is to get into the playoffs to fight for a chance at a World Series championship.

Having an improved offense from a year ago will help the Royals be in a better position for a playoff push. Manager Ned Yost must be pleased with the additions of All-Star second baseman Omar Infante, and former Milwaukee Brewers leadoff man Norichika Aoki. These additions, along with veteran first baseman-turned-designated hitter Billy Butler, should help the progression of the young guys in the lineup. A bounce-back year from outfielder Alex Gordon will definitely add a boost as well.

Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson are in competition for the starting center field job, and the team would love to get more consistency out of one of their top prospects from a few years ago in third baseman Mike Moustakas. Another guy that is hopeful to regain his 2012 form is shortstop Alcides Escobar, who hit .293 with 35 stolen bases that year. If that project fails, the Royals do have journeyman Pedro Ciriaco, a career .277 hitter with spotty playing time with four different teams.

The pitching staff of the Royals is actually one of the most secure staffs in all of baseball heading into March. That can change with injuries and things of that sort in Spring Training, but as of right now, they have a solid four at the top and very little competition, if any, for the fifth spot in the rotation. This is as solid as a pitching staff the Royals have had in some time. So, barring injuries or major surprises, the Royals' pitching staff in 2014 should be as follows ...

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1. James Shields

James Shields
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

After seven years with the Tampa Bay Rays, James Shields came over to the Royals prior to the 2013 season and became the ace of the staff. In 34 starts last season, he went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA and 196 strikeouts in over 228 innings pitched. If he has a year similar to last year, he will put the Royals in great position to get a win every fifth day.

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2. Jeremy Guthrie

Jeremy Guthrie
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The 34-year-old Jeremy Guthrie has been around since 2004, but only started pitching in more than 10 games a year in what was his official rookie season in 2007. Guthrie has at least 30 starts and 180 innings pitched every year since 2008. He is a veteran guy who can show the young guys the ropes. At the very least, he has always been an innings eater, which is a great help to any team in the majors.

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3. Jason Vargas

Jason Vargas
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

At only 31-years old, Jason Vargas has a lot left to prove and can be a great No. 3 starter for the Royals. They Royals acquired him from the struggling Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was one of the lone bright spots on an Angels team that has World Series expectations but fell short of making the playoffs in each of the last two years.

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4. Bruce Chen

Bruce Chen
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Chen is the oldest man on the staff at age 36. He has pitched for nine teams over his 15-year career and has plenty of experience. After getting shelled for a 5.07 ERA in 2012, Chen bounced back with a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 2013. Only 15 of his 34 appearances last year were starts, but he has much more experience than the rest of the guys on the staff.

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5. Danny Duffy

Danny Duffy
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Duffy was brought up at the end of last season and pitched phenomenally. In five games, all starts, he went 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA. He was limited to 24.1 innings pitched, but had 22 strikeouts and only yielded a .213 batting average against him. He is another young guy that the Royals need to play well and take the next step in becoming a solid major league starter.