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2006 Preview: Kansas City Royals

by Scott Glab, Baseball Evolution
March 11, 2006

2006 Team Preview: Kansas City Royals


2005 Record: 56-106 (5th Place)

2005 Runs Scored: 701

2005 Runs Allowed: 935

Expected 2005 Record: 60-102


Royals manager Buddy Bell has a career 388-530 mark, good for a .423 winning percentage.  If the Royals duplicate that rate, they will finish with 68 wins in 2006.  By setting a franchise record with 106 losses last season, 68 wins would be a massive improvement.  The Royals made an effort to show their fans that they are interested in fielding a competitive team this year by being very active in the bargain-rate, over-35 free agent market this offseason.  But they also persist in playing a lot of youngsters who they hope will develop faster with major league experience, even though they aren’t hot stuff yet.  What does this mixture look like?





2005 Starter: John Buck


Projected 2006 Starter: John Buck


            The Royals like what they get from Buck as a defensive catcher.  Though still a young 25, he seems destined to develop a Matheny-type reputation as he gets older.  His OPS was pushing .700 last year.  If it can crawl above that mark, the Royals should be in good shape.  Paul Bako provides an adequate veteran replacement when Buck needs to rest.



First Base


2005 Starters: Mike Sweeney, Matt Stairs


Projected 2006 Starters: Mike Sweeney, Doug Mientkiewicz


            Mike Sweeney is a very fine high average, medium power hitter who is a lock to throw his back out for at least 30 games a year.  For this reason, he plays a lot of DH too.  But instead of Matt Stairs slagging around first, the Royals signed Mientkiewicz as a defensive whiz at first.  He’s horrible offensively, but if he can corral all the wild throws that are expected to come his way from SS and 3B, he may prove valuable.



Second Base


2005 Starters: Ruben Gotay, Tony Graffanino, Joe McEwing


Projected 2006 Starter: Mark Grudzielanek


            Grudzy has been a consistently decent hitter in the twilight of his career, and has improved to an above-average defender.  But the wisdom of signing a 36 year old to play second for two years is always questionable.  Having said that, a lot of other teams would have liked his services, and he is a definite improvement over last year. 



Third Base


2005 Starters: Mark Teahen, Joe McEwing


Projected 2006 Starter: Mark Teahen


            Teahen is a 24-year old who many scouts believe will mature into an incredible offensive player.  In the meantime, he posted a .685 OPS last year and was probably the worst defensive third baseman in the majors last year.  The Fielding Bible calls him “ghastly.”  Twice.





2005 Starter: Angel Berroa


Projected 2006 Starter: Angel Berroa


            Though sub-par offensively, Berroa is a quick and impressive athlete.  This must mean he’s a good shortstop, right?  Wrong.  In one of its more thoughtful analyses, The Fielding Bible states it thusly: “His basic problem is that he just has no judgment.  He doesn’t anticipate, he doesn’t think through the play; he just reacts.”  He is credited with making 23 fewer plays to his right than the average SS in 2005. 


Combining Berroa with Teahen, the left side of the Royals infield should drive their pitchers crazy throughout the season.





2005 Starters: Terrence Long, David DeJesus, Emil Brown


Projected 2006 Starters:  Reggie Sanders, David DeJesus, Emil Brown


            When Reggie Sanders turned 35, instead of declining as one would expect, he has slightly improved almost every aspect of his game.  Last year at age 37, he hit 21 homers in 93 games and stole 14 of 15 attempted bases.  If he can keep it up, the Royals will be set in left this year.  But beware the spectre of instantaneous decline, known in some circles as the Ghost of Steve Finley.  Emil Brown was one of the best offensive right fielders in the AL the first half of last year, but that was largely due to slow starts from Manny Ramirez and company.  Dave DeJesus just signed a five year contract, and the Royals hopes he develops into their next great center fielder, despite no real indication that he has anything spectacular to offer.  


            Matt Stairs should share the DH duties with Mike Sweeney, as well as playing a bit of OF.  However, Chip Ambres and Aaron Guiel will be the OF replacements when good fielding is required.





2005 Front Three Starters: Zack Greinke, Jose Lima, Runelvys Hernandez


Projected 2006 Front Starters:  Runelvys Hernandez, Scott Elarton, Redman and Greinke later


            Lefty Mark Redman, who came over from Pittsburgh in an offseason trade, was supposed to be the ace of this staff.  However, he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee March 6th and will not be available until May.  Zack Greinke has left camp for personal matters and is reportedly seeing a sports psychologist.  So there are only two semi-sure bets left in the Royals’ rotation:  free agent acquisition Elarton, who has matured to become a completely average pitcher at age 30; and Hernandez, who reported overweight despite an underwhelming first season as a full-time starter, and could easily ‘attitude’ himself out of a job before the Royals break camp.  


            The biggest positive in the Royals rotation is the addition-by-subtraction of Jose Lima, who had an all-time boner season with a 6.99 ERA in 32 starts last year.



Other 2005 Starters: D.J. Carrasco, J.P. Howell, Mike Wood, Denny Bautista


Other Possible 2006 Starters: Howell, Wood, Bautista, Joe Mays, Jeremy Affeldt


            The Royals’ top starters were their worst pitchers last season.  These bottom feeders were marginally more effective, and should perform similarly this year.  Affeldt is a lefty with wicked stuff who has yet to be a consistent performer in the big leagues, partly due to injuries.  Wood could be an average starter in the mold of Elarton.  Beyond these two we have Joe Mays, who missed all of 2004 with injury, and had opponents hit .318 off of him last year.  D.J. Carrasco walked more men than he struck out last season, and Howell’s ERA was 6.19 in 72.2 innings.


            "We have some depth," manager Buddy Bell said.



2005 Top Relievers: Mike MacDougal, Andy Sisco, Ambiorix Burgos, Leo Nunez, Jimmy Gobble, Affeldt


Projected 2006 Top Relievers: MacDougal, Sisco, Burgos, Elmer Dessens, leftover non-starters


            This group may be the strength of the entire team.  The were surprisingly effective last season, with MacDougal emerging as a reliable closer and Rule 5 acquisition Andy Sisco posting a 3.11 ERA and getting some very valuable big league experience at age 22.  Burgos is a year younger than Sisco, and has one of the coolest names in the game to go with a good upside.  If Affeldt’s health holds up, he may be forced into the rotation because there are other young pitchers that the Royals may want to work out of the bullpen.



Final Word:


            Someday, Andy Sisco will be a force among starting pitchers in this league.  Someday, John Buck will be called a ‘proven winner’ by commentators both local and national.  Someday…well, that’s about all I feel comfortable predicting for this bunch.  Even if all their veteran signings exhibit a decline in skills from 2005, they would still likely represent an improvement at their respective positions.  If some of their very young talent like Sisco and Greinke develop faster than expected, and Buddy bell finds the most effective mix of pitching arms from a myriad of options, this group could surprise a lot of people by winning over 70 games.  Realistically, they should finish par for a Buddy Bell coached team with 65 to 68 wins.

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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Scott Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at
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