CHICAGO, September 27, 2013 — Last year the Royals went 72-90 and finished in third place in the AL Central. This year they will again finish in third but currently have an 84-75 record. Nonetheless, it is time to wish the Royals better luck next year.
What Went Right: Alex Gordon has developed into one of the most underrated players in the league. Although this wasn’t his best year he still posted a .267/.328/.424 slash line with a 105 OPS+ and produced 4.1 WAR. Although there are better defensive metrics he also leads all left fielders in assists for the third year in a row with 17. Eric Hosmer is starting to hit like people expected after struggling through 2012. He has posted a .301/.354/.448 line with a 119 OPS+ which is good, but better when you consider that Hosmer is still just 23 years old. Eric Hosmer is under team control for four more seasons and the Royals are hoping he can lead them to the playoffs as early as next year.
James Shields came to the team at a price, but it was a rather high price in the form of Wil Myers. Shields did what the Royals expected him to do leading the AL with 221.2 innings while posting an ERA+ of 127. Shields’ ratios were all in line with his career lines so the Royals will have to hope that he can lead the staff to the playoffs next year as they just fell short this year.
Ervin Santana matched Shields quality start for quality start this year logging 211 innings with an ERA+ of 126. Santana has been far more erratic than Shields in his career and is a free agent after this year. With the dearth of pitching on the market it is likely that Santana will receive a multi-year eight figure deal so the Royals will have a decision to make regarding whether or not he is back next year.
Finally, the Royals bullpen was nothing short of sensational this year posting an AL low 2.56 ERA. Greg Holland had the best year of his career at closer, while Luke Hochevar, Tim Collins and Aaron Crow were all excellent in set up roles. The bullpen will be hard pressed to repeat these results based on bullpen variance, but they do have a good collection of young arms.
What Went Wrong: Mike Moustakas came up right around the same time as Eric Hosmer and was equally hyped, but has failed to live up to that hype. Moustakas posted just a .232/.285/.358 line which will be the wrong year of his young career. The Royals will be hoping that he bounces back next year, but if not the team may need to explore other options near the trade deadline.
The back end of the rotation let the Royals down as Luis Mendoza and Wade Davis started a combined 39 games before both were moved to the bullpen, while both posted an identical ERA+ of 76. The Royals will hope that Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura can fill those roles with better results next year. Alcides Escobar provided virtually nothing with the bat this year with a .234/.259/.301 slash line with an OPS+ of 53. While Escobar is solid defensively getting that type of production in the lineup, or lack thereof, can kill rallies, unfortunately top prospect Raul Mondesi Jr is still a few years away.
Finally, the price that the Royals had to pay to acquire Shields was high, as Wil Myers posted a .291/.351/.474 line with an ERA+ of 130. Plus Myers will not be a free agent until 2019.
What to Look for in 2014: The Royals will not be able to plan on their bullpen having the same type of success. The team will also need to decide whether or not to bring back Ervin Santana. The team will need improvements from the offense in order to balance out regression from the bullpen. If things break rightly the Royals may make the first playoffs for the first time since 1985, but if they sit tight and are not aggressive the window may close quickly.
Free Agents/Options: Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana, James Shields (Club Option), Jamey Carroll (Club Option), Carlos Pena, Miguel Tejada
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.