Out on a twig: Royals will win AL Central Division


APRIL 2015 – Finally, five months after finishing 90-feet short the 2015 MLB season is upon us.

Of course I am referencing Alex Gordon standing on third base with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of World Series Game 7 in the Kansas City Royals’ 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Billy Butler, James Shields, Nori Aoki and Aaron Crow are gone from that 2014 American League championship club.

New arrivals are Kendrys Morales, Edinson Volquez and Alex Rios. Most Royals fans have been eagerly waiting the upcoming season as if it was Christmas all over again, and why not, we had been talking about making the playoffs for nearly three decades, and at last it came to fruition in 2014.

Of course, all of you – okay maybe a handful of you — have been anxiously awaiting my annual Royals BLT article in which I make predictions that fall in the category of Branch, Limb or Twig.

The past two years I have missed the Royals’ victory total by one and I did predict a post-season appearance in 2014 (see last year’s article!). I can hear the readers’ hands clapping as they read this. I humbly accept your applause and praise.

This year brings new hope and lofty expectations for most KC fans as we pray last year wasn’t a fluke, but a harbinger to more playoff games at Kauffman Stadium. So without further ado, here are my BLT projections and let me know what you think.

BRANCHES: Usually a 70 percent chance or better.

1) The Royals will hit more than 100 home runs this year. Pretty easy choice here even though we accumulated 95 last year. How we won 89 games with less than 100 dingers is a testament to the pitching and defense. The additions of Rios and Morales should easily vault us into the triple homer digits.

surplusexchange.org2) Mike Moustakas will improve on last year’s numbers. After hitting just .212 with 15 homers, Moose’s postseason gave us further hope that the 25 year old can fulfil some of the expectations we have had for him.   Remember, he hit 25 bombs in 2012. Temper your expectations as I predict a .240 with 18-20 dingers this year.

3) Yordano Ventura will lead the team in wins, and maybe even ERA. This is sort of a branch/limb prediction as I feel he matured as the post-season began.   Many feel he can among the elite AL pitchers in the near future. Maybe he can fill the shoes of Bret Saberhagen, who won an AL Cy Young Award his sophomore season in 1985 and pitching the Royals to a triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Seven of the World Series.

4) The Royals bullpen will still be solid. That is stating the obvious. The HDH show was epic and their numbers may never be matched again. However, the return of Luke Hochevar and Jason Frasor will only make this overloaded right-handed bullpen more solidified. I can’t say the vaunted trio at the end will all have ERAs below 1.50 again, but Greg Holland is one of the game’s best closers, with Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera throwing heat to set him up.

LIMBS: Less than 50 percent chance.

1) Morales will lead the team in homers. I know he had 34 in 2009 before breaking his leg in a celebration after a walk-off homer for the Angels. He did rebound with 22 and 23 HRs in 2012 and 2013, only to dip last season after not signing until June. Last year Gordon had 19, Salvy had 17 and Moose banged 15 homers, so the competition isn’t strong. Sure, it depends on how much he plays and if he stays healthy. But I like him at DH with the supporting cast around him.

2) Alex Rios will hit at least 15 homers and steal at least 15 bases. A few years ago this would be a solid branch; however, some fans scratched their heads when we signed him for 2015 after last year’s sagging numbers. I love this transaction and hope to see the 34 year old surpass both stats and I don’t see any reason why he can’t.

3) Salvador Perez will have a down year. Ok, I can’t be overly optimistic with every player and I especially hate to pick on fan-favorite Salvy. However, we saw him run out of gas down the stretch. His average has dropped the past three years even though he increased his home run total by four last year. Perez set a record for innings and games caught last year, so manager Ned Yost needs to find a way to give him more time off, keeping him fresher. If he does, that means less at-bats. If he doesn’t, we may see him drop again. This is one limb I hope that snaps.

4) The Royals will blow past the Vegas prediction of 81 ½ wins. It’s hard to believe the powers to be think we are not as good as 2013 and 2014.   Yes, other teams made moves that look to improve them on paper, but didn’t we do that as well?

TWIGS: Usually, my unique picks.

1) The Royals FINALLY make a midseason, blockbuster move to increase their chances of winning the division. I am going on hope.   Many feel the Larry Gura for Fran Healy trade may have been our best trade during the season. We have extra talent; let’s go after a big name rent-a-player this year and compete with the big boys.

2) Eric Hosmer to hit 20+ home runs and hit higher than .300. Super twig in some people’s eyes, but I believe in the Royals first baseman. Last year was very disappointing, but again, his postseason performance showed us and the baseball world what he can do. My crystal balls sees Hosmer having a breakout year.

3) The Royals will win 87 games this year.   Ok, it’s down two from 2014, but this is still high on many experts radar. I believe the overall offense will improve and recent acquisitions will help us forget the loss of James Shields to the San Diego Padres.

4) Yes, we will win the AL Central Division. No smoke and mirrors here as you know I am a realist who bleeds blue in the summer. Sure, the White Sox and Tigers are projected to win 84-85 games, and the Indians have improved, but I believe the Royals are better than all three. This will be a tough race and I see this team heading into 2015 with the intensity and drive to take the division.

Well, there you go. I’m pumped and excited for the upcoming season well as most of Kansas City. It’s fun to be excited about the season once again, just like it was from 1976-85, when the Royals made the postseason seven times in 10 years.

Article by James Peuster

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