MLB Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals: Top 5 Standout Players So Far This Spring

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Top 5 Standout Players So Far This Spring

Jennifer Hilderbrand - USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 season for the Kansas City Royals was a giant leap in the right direction. This young team in the American League Central is no longer a basement dweller. For the first time since 2003, the Royals finished above .500 (86-76), and it was their highest win total since 1989. To put in perspective how long ago that was, George Brett was still four years away from retiring and Bo Jackson was roaming the outfield.

The Royals have been in transition for a long time, and by the looks of things, they may be able to contend in the very near future. The biggest problem facing them is the fact they play in a competitive division with some really good teams. The Detroit Tigers, as always, will be the team to beat, with the surprise Cleveland Indians next. It may be a tight race for second between the Indians and Royals, and could also be the race for the Wild Card.

Last offseason, the Royals traded away their blue-chip prospect in Wil Myers (who became the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year), along with a few other players to the Tampa Bay Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis. This gave the Royals the ace pitcher they have been looking for to anchor the rotation. That trade, along with the progression of the young players already there, led to the vast improvement

So far this spring, the Royals have played seven games and are off to a decent start. No lineup is ever set in stone prior to the start of the season, with the exception of a couple larger market teams, so there is always a chance for a surprise.

There aren’t many surprises with who is performing so far, so I will be focusing on the top five players so far. Here is the list.

John Ginder is contributor for the Minnesota Twins for RantSports. You can follow him on Twitter @JGUpstateNY, add him to your network on Google, or “Like” him on facebook.

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5. Donnie Joseph, P

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In 2013, Donnie Joseph made his major league debut for the Kansas City Royals. He appeared in six games by the end of the season in a relief role pitching 5.2 innings, allowing no runs and striking out seven. His hits allowed and walks were a bit high at four apiece, but that is to be expected from a young arm at the start.

So far this spring, Joseph has pitched two innings without giving up a hit or walking anybody. He is also second on the team in strikeouts so far with four. He is slated to start the season in Kansas City out of the bullpen, and he could be an asset if he can keep his hits and walk totals down.

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4. Salvador Perez, C

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All-Star catcher Salvador Perez is next.

Perez has played in three seasons so far in his young career with the Kansas City Royals and has been excellent. His true first season as an everyday player was in 2013, and he didn't disappoint, batting .292 with 145 hits, 13 home runs, and 79 RBI in 138 games. His average dipped a bit after making the jump to starter, but that is nothing to be concerned about. Perez can hit for power, which is a great thing to have out of the catchers spot. This spring, he is 7-for-13 with a home run and four runs batted in. Perez could also see time at DH and quite possibly first base.

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3. Eric Hosmer, 1B

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Eric Hosmer burst onto the scene in 2011. Playing in 128 games his rookie season, Hosmer finished third for AL Rookie of the Year. This dynamic first baseman is going to be good for a long time. His statistics dipped a little during his sophomore campaign before regaining form last season. He is a Gold Glove winner and a player to keep your eye on. Hosmer collected 188 hits last season, which is 70 more than the year before. He finished 2013 batting .302 with an OPS of .801.

This spring, Hosmer is at mid-season form already. He is 7-for-13 with three doubles and a home run. I understand you can't put too much emphasis on gaudy spring numbers, but look for Hosmer to potentially be an All-Star this year.

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2. James Shields, P

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James Shields, or "Big Game James" as he is affectionately known around the MLB, was brought in last year to do a job and become the ace of the pitching staff. He did just that, going 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA, which was good enough to finish 11th in the AL CY Young Award ballot. Shields is durable and he showed that last season, making 34 starts. It was the sixth season in a row that he would start 33 or more games, and he proved to the Royals that they didn't make a mistake acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the rest of the team stays healthy and keeps improving, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Shields couldn't potentially be a 20-game winner. So far this spring, he has made two starts going four innings and allowing just one hit to go along with his three strikeouts.

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1. Mike Moustakas, 3B

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You would be hard pressed to find a hitter that is doing better this spring than Mike Moustakas. If there is anyone that needs a Spring Training as good as the one he has going right now, it's Moustakas.

The 2nd overall selection by the Kansas City Royals in 2007, "Moose" hasn't quite lived up to expectations yet. He struggles a bit at the plate, but has shown that he can hit and can get on base. However, 2013 was a down year for Moustakas, as he suffered the worst batting average (.233) and the lowest on base percentage (.287) in his young career. He has the tools to be a very good player and looks to be on his way if this spring is any indication. Appearing in six games so far this spring, Moustakas is 7-for-15 with three home runs and 10 RBI. The Royals will be thrilled if he can carry this over to the regular season.