If I told you that the Kansas City Royals could contend in 2011, I'd be fibbing. But does this man that their season is already a lost cause? Absolutely not.
There are some excellent players on this team, even with the loss of ace right hander Zack Greinke. There are some young talents in blue that could be pretty good pretty soon. Only Problem is: That talent is by no means guaranteed to blossom. Although the Royals have other ideas.
First basemen Billy Butler one of those excellent players; a pure hitter, at .299 for his career and .318 for last season. His glove will no longer be a reliability issue at first base with the hopeful emergence of Kila Ka'aihue. The Royals have been eager for a breakout season from the un-drafted batsmen since 2002. He has put 26 home runs out of the park in barely over 200 at bats; there pop is there, but they need, well, everything else from him. Or else either Butler might be back in the field, or they will have to find someone else.
Butler, as a hitter, is similar in stature and talent to long time potential batting champion Mike Sweeney. Though the Royals never quite got what they were hoping for from Sweeney, they might just get it from Butler. Sweeney missed most of his career in KC with a numerous amount of injuries, and putting Butler at the DH spot is crucial for his health.
Whenever the Royals needed clutch pitching late in games, Joakim Soria has been there and done that. He has shut down 132 saves in just four seasons, with an astounding earned run average of 2.01, but could be on the move if the price is right. As have most of the other baseball stars to come through Kansas City. They get some good ribs and take off. Just ask Zack Greinke.
But sometimes, with impending abilities comes disappointment, and the Royals have had a heavy dosage of that. Converted third basemen now outfielder Alex Gordon was rumored to be the next George Brett coming through their minor league system. Those are big shoes to fill, and Gordon has been a few sizes too short. Risky new outfielders Jeff Francoeur, on the decline, and Melky Cabrera could fall into the same boat. Francoeur, and RBI machine in his early days in Atlanta, has done little since the Brave's amazing 15 year division winning run ended. Cabrera saw a steady decline in his production last year as well.
General Manager Dayton Moore has his money, and potentially his job riding on prospects brought in from Milwaukee via the Zach Greinke trade. With one, no more than two of those four players ready for the big leagues, Kansas City is once again going to have to wait this one out for their farm hands to reach the big stage. Short stop Alcides Escobar and possibly outfielder Lorenzo Cain could reinforce the Royals Opening Day roster. But, as usual, it will probably be some time before they develop into the caliber that the Royals need to compete.