Predicting the Kansas City Royals’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
Predicting the Kansas City Royals' 2014 Opening Day Lineup
This won't be the first time I've talked about the Kansas City Royals' need for improvement on offense, and it surely won't be the last. This offseason brought some very promising changes to the team's top of the lineup, and these change undoubtedly make KC a better hitting team. We know where newcomers Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante will be penciled in, but how about the rest of the lineup?
We'll take a look today at what KC's 1-9 will look like come March 31st. Unless someone grossly exceeds expectations through Spring Training (or continuously fails to meet them), the following is assumedly what the Royals' Opening Day lineup should look like. Please keep in mind that, although I do feel confident in this hypothetical 1-9 at this point, it's all subject to change once the season begins.
Although the 40-man roster is full of promising talent, most of the spots in the order are already firmly taken. That's the kind of sturdiness through the lineup that a team on the brink of yearly relevance needs to see. Ahead, you'll find hitters on the hot seat, players on the rise and newly acquired talent to which KC devoted their finances in order to stay competitive. A lot of pressure rests on this batting order to be productive and give KC a chance at the playoffs in 2014.
KC has a variety of options at mostly every position, so alternative lineup options are almost countless. Regardless of depth, the Royals need offensive consistency to win. That means keeping the lineup close to my following prediction for Opening Day's batting order will factor greatly into their chances for future success.
1. Norichika Aoki
Norichika Aoki was acquired this year to step in as KC's leadoff man. Soon, we'll see if his .287 career average will translate to Kansas City.
2. Omar Infante
After a dazzling year with the Detroit Tigers last season, fans in KC are hoping Omar Infante will be able to replicate that success here and earn his $30.25 million contract.
3. Eric Hosmer
Eric Hosmer bounced back from a 2012 sophomore slump with a notably better 2013. Hosmer improved his average by a full .70 points and finished the year with 15 more extra-base hits. Fans everywhere should be excited to see what he's capable of doing this year.
4. Billy Butler
The team's offensive anchor is bound to improve upon last season's struggles, in which he still posted a .289 average with 82 RBI and 15 homers. Billy Butler is the epitome of a professional hitter and his dedication to the craft, not to mention the improvements ahead of him in the order, will make him better in 2014.
5. Alex Gordon
Alex Gordon notoriously struggles outside the lead-off spot, where his career average is .285 and his OBP is .358. If Gordo can help the team by moving from third base and learning an entirely new position (at which he went on to earn several Gold Gloves), I think he can handle the mental hurdle of changing roles offensively.
6. Salvador Perez
Salvador Perez, seen here looking adorably happy to be playing baseball again, impressed many in his first full season of play. 2014 could be a break-out year for the league's most valuable catcher.
8. Lorenzo Cain
Lorenzo Cain's year should be very intriguing. Cain is the kind of guy who could put up middle-of-the-order kinds of numbers, IF he can finally stay healthy for the majority of the season.
9. Alcides Escobar
Alcides Escobar showed up to camp this year looking bigger and stronger than ever. I'd like to assume hitting coach Pedro Grifol will work to distance the still-wiry shortstop's approach from the power-seeking style that limited his productivity last year.
Alcides started the season with 3 homers in the first 21 games, but once he returns to hitting for contact to all fields, he could be looking at a .265 average or better with an easy 20+ home runs. That's not bad at all for the lineup's weakest link.