By David Miller @DavidMillerRant on March 27, 2014
Nothing is guaranteed in MLB but the Kansas City Royals have just about guaranteed themselves a spot in the fight for the American League Central division title. They look clearly better than the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox and at least a little more stable than the Indians. The question is whether or not they can fight it out with the Detroit Tigers. This lineup looks plenty good enough to me for that to be a reality.
Aoki was brought in to do two things well. He is to contribute to the best defense in baseball so that it remains so and to set the table from the leadoff spot in the batting order. The Royals need him to get on base regularly and make some pitchers pay attention to him while the guys behind him get on, move him over and drive him in. Look for him to be good enough at this job to be a huge bonus to the team.
If Aoki was brought in to set the table, Infante was brought in to keep the hits coming and get more people on base for the big hitters coming up behind him. Defense isn't an issue for Infante either. These two moves at the top of the batting order might be the key to the Royals being able to compete head to head with the Tigers; which will be the key to beating them in the division.
Though he might not compete for the league MVP, Hosmer will need to be one of the top run producers for the team itself if they are to battle the Tigers. He looks like he is more than ready to go after a good spring. I wouldn't call it a breakout season that is on the way but don't be surprised if he makes a little more noise than recent years.
Butler is a big comeback candidate this season. He might or might not hit in the cleanup hole all year depending on how well he hits but he really needs to perform at his previous level. If not for the team only then he needs to up his 2013 game for himself. He could return to being one of the better DH's in MLB if he does things well this season.
Gordon has been one of the more appreciated players in MLB since long before the Royals were considered a threat. Well, at least a few years. The 2014 season is certainly another one where the Royals need for him to be at his best. Chances are good that he will be just that.
Each passing year sees Perez more highly regarded than the year before. He is growing quickly into one of the top few catchers in the game. A great 2014 will help the Royals as well as further improve his standing as one of the better catchers in baseball.
If Moustakas has as good of an offensive season as it appears he could have, he might move upward in the batting order. This is a deep lineup anyway though so he could stick here or close to here. Either way the Royals are right to assume he will take a step forward this season offensively.
Any passing season could be the one where Cain lets his potentially show through. Even if he stays on par to what he has done in the past he will be effective enough for this team. Of course if he takes a step forward in consistency it would only make the Royals that much more dangerous with the bat.
Escobar has his moments on offense but his main role is to be a solid defensive shortstop. He does that plenty well enough for the Royals to be good at short. He'll toss in a few homers and 50 to 60 RBI however and that will be good for him.
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