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“That’s Amore!” Kansas City Royals Preview 2017

After back-to-back World Series appearances, the Kansas City Royals failed to reach the playoffs in 2016. The team dealt with injuries all season long, which was the major reason the team finished the season at 81-81. After finishing the 2015 season seventh in runs (724), second in hits (1497), tied for second in average (.269), and eleventh in OBP (.322) the team regressed in 2016. The 2016 season saw the team 23rd in runs (675), sixth in hits (1450), seventh in average (.261), and 26th in OBP (.312). While their team was hitting the ball, and getting on base, they had major issues driving runners in. This could be seen in the 2016 team’s win-loss record on 23-25 in one-run games. Teams must win the close ones, and Kansas City had issues doing so. The numbers go deeper than just the team as a whole. The 2015 season saw solid impacts from the likes of Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon, and Wade Davis. However, 2016 was a down year for all four as Mike Moustakas saw his season come to an end after 27 games due to a season ending ACL tear in his right knee. Lorenzo Cain managed only 103 games. While he’s never been an iron man, averaging 122 games in the past four seasons, his base stealing presence was absent failing to reach 25+ steals for the first time in three seasons. Alex Gordon had his struggles as well dealing with a wrist injury for the majority of the season. After averaging 156 games played from 2011-2014, that number decreased to 104 in 2015, and 128 in 2016. The Royals need a healthy Alex Gordon to stay competitive, and this rests on the health of Gordon’s right wrist (his lead hand).

While there was regression from their offense, their pitching took a step back as well. The 2015 season saw the team tenth in ERA (3.73), third in saves (56), and twelfth in BAA (.249). The regression saw the Royals 17th in ERA (4.21), 20th in saves (41), and nineteenth in BAA (.259). 2015 saw the emergence of Wade Davis as the team’s closer for the foreseeable future. However, two stints on the disable list due to a right forearm strain hindered Davis’ season. However, he still finished 27 of 30 in save opportunities. A major bright spot in the pitching staff was left-handed starter Danny Duffy. In 26 starts, he compiled a 12-3 record to go along with a 3.51 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts to only 42 walks. Having turned 28 in December, he may not be the youngest player to have success, but he’s figured it out at the perfect time in career. The Royals finally have a definitive number one starter, and I like for a big 2017 season from Duffy. In case you missed it, Duffy gave fans across baseball an early glimpse during his 2017 World Baseball Classic appearance. In two starts (8 IP) he went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and eight strikeouts to only one walk.

While the Royals took a step back in 2016, I believe they will move forward in 2017. The club’s success leans on the health of many key players, and their pitching needs to rebound after a lackluster 2016. Look for the likes of Eric Hosmer, Danny Duffy, and Kelvin Herrera to have great seasons, while players such as: Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain bounce back from injury an injury-plagued 2016 campaign. The team needs to stay healthy to compete with the Detroit Tigers, and the 2016 American League pennant-winning Cleveland Indians. This week, I bring you the last of my preseason team breakdown in “That’s Amore!” Kansas City Royals Preview 2017.

Notable Off-Season Moves:

December 7 – Traded RHP Wade Davis to Chicago Cubs for OF Jorge Soler.

January 6 – Traded OF Jarrod Dyson to Seattle Mariners for RHP Nathan Karns.

February 1 – Signed free agent LF Brandon Moss.

February 8 – Signed free agent RHP Jason Hammel.

February 15 – Signed free agent LHP Travis Wood.

Projected Batting Order:

LF – Alex Gordon .265/20/70
3B – Mike Moustakas .275/22/79
CF – Lorenzo Cain .286/11/65/25 SB
1B – Eric Hosmer .271/24/98/15 SB
C – Salvador Perez .256/20/68
DH – Brandon Moss .227/27/72
RF – Jorge Soler .255/16/62
SS – Alcides Escobar .263/6/52/20 SB
2B – Raul Mondesi .251/12/42

Projected Pitching Rotation:

Danny Duffy (LHP) 15-7/3.25/203 K
Ian Kennedy (RHP) 11-11/3.79/181 K
Jason Hammel (RHP) 11-9/4.01/146 K
Jason Vargas (LHP) 6-10/4.65/101 K
Nathan Karns (RHP) 7-9/4.25/145 K
Joakim Soria (RHP) [Setup] 3.64/27 Holds/68 K
Kelvin Herrera (RHP) [Closer] 2.64/36 Saves/90 K

Minor League Maestro Spotlight:

Hunter Dozier, 3B

ETA: 2017

If, and when, the Royals decide to sell off all the remaining pieces from their 2015 World Series Championship team, Dozier will finally get the call. I’ve always said that the organization is just as important as the actual talent. Dozier fits this notion perfectly. If it weren’t for Mike Moustakas, Dozier would already be starting for the Royals. Even after Moustakas went down for the season, the Royals decided to go with Cheslor Cuthbert over Dozier. Dozier’s shown the ability to hit, and there’s no question his time is now. He has great power, and looks to have gotten back to his easy swing that allowed him to make a name for himself in the minor leagues. He’s a player that tried hitting for power, greatly affecting his at-bats. Instead of trying to impress with power, he looks to have realized his time is just around the corner, and if he focuses on efficiency he will be up sooner rather than later. At 25, he’s ready now. There’s no clear opening for him now, but if Moustakas goes down, or is moved, Dozier will finally get the call and we can see what he can do. Another option could be at DH or OF. If Jorge Soler struggles, and they decide to go another route in the OF (Moss or Orlando) then Dozier could be called up to either play a corner outfield position or split time at DH. There’s no questioning his ability to hit 20+ HR, but be aware, the strikeouts could add up.

Matt Strahm, LHP

ETA: 2017

Can Strahm start? Yes! However, the Royals have elected a veteran presence in their starting rotation which means Strahm will start the season in the bullpen. After losing two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Strahm had a solid 2016 season in the minors. He showed dominance against left-handed hitters while ending the season with a 1[07:23] K:BB in 102 innings. He pitched in 21 games for the Royals and managed a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings pitched. He didn’t allow a single home runs while compiling 30 strikeouts to 11 walks while holding batters to a .173 ERA. The Royals are going to need a dominant bullpen to contend for the American League Central. While Strahm may see a spot start here and there, I believe it’s smart to keep Strahm in the position that saw him flourish after he got the call in 2016.

Jorge Bonifacio, OF

ETA: 2017

Some may argue that Bonifacio is nothing more than a fourth outfielder. I can’t argue against that, but Bonifacio found consistency in the minors. With a huge question looming in right field, Bonifacio could add depth to the position. He had decent speed, and slashed .277/.351/.461 over 495 at-bats in 2016. He hit 19 HR with 86 RBI, and was able to decrease his strikeouts. Again, he may not be a star, but he could be a solid option for the Royals if he brings consistency. For me, the key will be hitting Major League pitching. If he can build off a solid 2016 season, and keep his strikeouts in check at the Major League level, then the Royals could have themselves a bargain.

Fantasy Outlook:

Health is always the main focus when it comes to players that have reached a consistent level of success. Rarely, do you see players in their prime do a complete 180. 2016 was a forgettable season for a Royals team that reached the World Series in back-to-back season. I attribute this greatly to the health of many key pieces to the 2014 and 2015 teams. Eric Hosmer has blossomed into a player that could potentially win an AL MVP award, and he’s a solid option for any fantasy baseball team. Many sites have him ranked as a top-15 fantasy first baseman. Here’s my question. If Hosmer were to reach 20 stolen bases, would you consider him a top-5 fantasy first baseman? At 25-25 he would have similar numbers to Goldschmidt. While the average won’t be in the Goldschmidt range, he could be a poor man’s Paul Goldschmidt. A top-10 fantasy catcher, Sal Perez has been sliding a few rounds after injuring his knee during the World Baseball Classic. If you can get Perez in the middle rounds, you’ll be sitting pretty. He’s going to hit 20+ HR and come close to 70 RBI. His average won’t be higher than .265, but he doesn’t strike out a lot. He makes solid contact, and is a perfect target after the top handful of catchers come off the board. Let others reach for the likes of Gary Sanchez. You may be in a better position having Perez on your roster. The health of three players are mind boggling for me to target. Moustakas is coming off of a forgettable 2016 season that saw him rehabbing from ACL surgery. Assuming he’s healthy, and can build off of a solid Spring Training, he could be a steal in drafts. The potential is there for 20+ HR and 70+ RBI. Assuming he’s traded to a contender, he could pay big dividends to owners that draft him. While Moustakas should rebound, the health of Cain and Gordon scare me. As I mentioned earlier, Cain and Gordon both battled injuries. If Cain can stay healthy, history says he won’t, he could be a nice option for a fourth OF or UTIL spot on fantasy teams. He wants a long-term contract, but year-after-year there’s some sort of lower-body injury that comes up. If I were the Royals I’d shop him. If he can last up to the trade deadline, the Royals could land a solid return, and a contending team could get a CF with both pop and speed. Personally, I stay away from guys that don’t play more than 110 games per season. The talent is there with Cain, however, drafter beware. Alex Gordon…He finally finds consistency, but then succumbs to injuries in 2015 and 2016. Assuming his wrist is fully healed, he should bounce back to his 2013 and 2014 numbers. The Royals are more than likely leading off with Gordon which means he should rack up the runs while hitting 15+ bombs. Again, can he stay healthy? Three other intriguing options are Brandon Moss, Alcides Escobar, and newly acquired Jorge Soler. Moss can bring pop, but the average will struggle. He’s a solid late-round flier for some power numbers. While I’ve never been a fantasy fan of Alcides Escobar, he’s always a source of cheap steals. Jorge Soler has the talent, but can he finally figure out Major League pitching? I’ve seen a lot of him over the past few seasons while a member of the Chicago Cubs. The talent is there, he has the arm, and the power. Strikeouts remain his kryptonite. At 25, he still young, but he needs to cut down the strikeouts. He’s struggled through Spring Training, but once he gets settled in after spending his entire minor league, and professional, career with the Cubs hopefully he can finally blossom into the solid player he’s capable of.

Danny Duffy looks primed for a big season. He’s on his way to 200+ strikeouts, and I have him pegged for 15 wins in 2017. His win total will fall solely on the Royals ability to score runs, and win close games. If they can rebound from 2016, Duffy could make his case for a top-10 starter in 2017. Ian Kennedy is a solid option as a mid-to-late round pick and racks up a solid number of strikeouts. However, he’s no stranger to home runs and a high ERA and WHIP. Over the course of seven seasons as a starting pitcher he’s averaged 25.7 HR per season. 2015 (31) and 2016 (33) saw him give up the most home runs of his career. I’d much rather spot start Kennedy than rely on him as a fourth, fifth, or sixth starting option. Jason Hammel isn’t an interesting target. He’s always started off solid, but tends to falter after the All-Star Break. I can’t see him having the success he had in the NL. However, he’s an option in the later rounds of drafts. The rest of the rotation are arms I’d stay away from. Three relievers I’d target are Joakim Soria, Matt Strahm, and Kelvin Herrera. Strahm’s a solid lefty out of the bullpen, and could be starting by the end of the season. Soria has a history of closing, and was a solid setup man in the past. For leagues that count IRS+Hold, or simply holds, Soria should be on your shortlist. Herrera finally assumes the closers role. He has a powerful arm and will rack up the strikeouts. I can see him reaching 30+ holds in his first season with the closer title, and will make a solid impact on fantasy rosters especially after the likes of Chapman, Jensen, Britton, and Melancon come off the boards.

Season Projection: 84-78 (3rd in AL Central)

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Major League Fantasy Football 2017 League Openings

(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday March 26th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #80 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss players in the draft going for nice bargains.

Our guest this week is Steve Hamilton. Steve is a writer, and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com focusing on baseball. His articles publish every Saturday.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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(Click the RED link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday April 2nd, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #81 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. OPENING DAY SPECIAL! We will discuss some of the days events as well as relevant fantasy baseball updates.

Our guests this week are Ron Shandler, and Bilal Chaudry. Ron is FSTA Hall of Famer, and one of the pioneers of fantasy baseball. You can find his work at ronshandler.com. Bilal is a veteran owner in Major League Fantasy Baseball leagues and frequent radio guest.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

I'm a former collegiate and semi-pro baseball player. I underwent successful Tommy John Surgery in 2008, and can give a wide-range of tips on the surgery and rehabilitation. Chicago sports are the love of my life [Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls] as well as Serie A football [Forza Rossoneri!]. 2018 will be my fourth writing for Major League Fantasy Sports, and each season gets better than the previous. 2016 was very emotional for Cubs fans alike. After 108 years, they finally scaled the mountaintop! "Baseball been berry, berry good to me!"

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