2009 MLB Preview: #25 Kansas City Royals

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Offseason Movement: The Royals signed free agents 1B Mike Jacobs, 3B Willie Bloomquist and RHP Kyle Farnsworth, while acquiring OF Coco Crisp from the Red Sox in exchange for Ramon Ramirez. The club also signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth, formally of the Tigers.

Top Prospect: Mike Moustakas, INF
Moustakas is a high-A prospect selected with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. Moustakas played shortstop at the collegiate level, but his arm strength will allow him to move over to third base at the next level. He struggled hitting the ball at the start of last season, but finished with a respectable .272 average in 496 minor league at bats. As long as his hitting continues to improve, he should move through the minors this year and get a shot at the big leagues in 2010.

The Big Question: Does this club have enough pitching?
Gil Meche (14-11, 3.98 ERA, 210 IP) and Zach Greinke (13-10, 3.47 ERA, 202 IP) each found success last year, while the third spot in the rotation has been given to 25-year old Kyle Davies, who hasn’t allowed a run yet in spring training. The rest of the rotation is spotty, however. The club signed veteran Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract and is expected to challenge Brian Bannister, Horacio Ramirez and Luke Hochevar for the final two spots in the rotation. After posting a winning record in 2007, Bannister took a step back in his second full season last year, going 9-16 with a 5.76 ERA. If he can bounce back to his ’07 form, the Royals could have the makings of a nice staff. But that’s also assuming Meche and Greinke produce winning seasons again, and the youngster Davies comes through in the third spot.

Outlook: There’s plenty to like about the Royals and there’s plenty to dislike. The top of their rotation is pretty solid, but questions remain about their fourth and fifth starters. The bullpen features one of the better young closers in the game in Joakim Soria, but will the addition of Kyle Farnsworth be enough of a boost for the rest of the unit? The lineup might be the best thing going this club, with Coco Crisp and Mike Jacobs joining Jose Guillen and breakout candidate Billy Butler in an above-average offense. Many things have to come together for the Royals to be successful this season, but do they have enough to overtake the Indians, Tigers, White Sox and Twins (assuming Joe Mauer is healthy, that is) in the AL Central? The division isn’t a powerhouse, but teams like the Indians and Tigers are expected to have huge bounce back seasons, which likely means that KC will be left in the dust.

Projection: 5th AL Central

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