Although Mother Nature’s grand witchery seems to indicate otherwise, it is officially Spring which means that trees are (theoretically) in full bloom, the grass is (supposed to be) turning green and baseball—that grand, old tradition that perfectly embodies the spirit of the season—is less than a week away from kicking off.
In Kansas City, where we’ve been battered about the chest and head with perennially terrible ball clubs for decades, this is the best time of year to be a fan. The Royals have looked amazing in spring training and have officially won the Cactus League thanks to an influx of new faces. The pitching has been great, the offense has been stellar and, well… okay, it’s still just Spring Training.
But still, the excitement is palatably infectious.
All of this chicanery is moot on Monday, however, when the team heads to Chicago to take on the hated White Sox in a very real, very consequential game. (Bo Jackson will be throwing out the first pitch. Real cool, Vincent.) So what can we expect from this squad when things actually matter? I’ve made seven predictions that will assuredly come true. Let’s have a look-see.
Three Starting Pitchers Will Have Double Digit Win Totals: I know this seems like high-comedy given the recent history of one of the worst cumulative rotations in baseball memory, but free agents have made all the difference. Manager Ned Yost—and likely, general manager Dayton Moore—will live and die with this current assemblage of hurlers, and, luckily for those who love the guys, I think they’ll do more thriving than daisy pushing. I see James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and, wait for it, LUIS “EL LOBO” MENDOZA each winning 10 or more games. (Fun fact: The last time the Royals had three pitchers win double-digit games? 1996! Kevin Appier! Tim Belcher! CHRIS YOU’VEGOTTABEKIDDINGME HANEY! That year’s group still finished in last place, but that had more to do with an abysmal bullpen and a punchless offense than it did with a surprisingly successful starting rotation.)
Four KC Sluggers Will Hit 20 or More Homeruns: I’m looking at you, Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon. FURTHERMORE, I think that Jeff Francoeur will have a slight bounce back (really, the only way he could be worse is if he murdered a fan in a spectacularly controversial on-field incident) and hit 15 or more, as will super-amazing-brightspot-on-the-verge-superstar Salvador Perez. I know, I’m high, right? The last time four Royals hit 20 HR or more? 1987. George Brett (22), Bo Jackson (22), Danny Tartabull (34) and
Super Mario Steve Balboni (24). Additionally, I think it’s possible that one of those gents—perhaps Butler, who hit 29 last season—will break the seemingly unachievable 30 HR barrier. (The last time that happened was in 2000 when Jermaine Dye belted 33. Sad. True.)
SS Alcides Escobar and LF Alex Gordon Will Both Win Gold Gloves: Gordon has won two in a row and still seems to be ascending. Escobar was tremendously slick last year and should have rightfully garnered more attention than he did. I think that 2013 spells the first year the Royals produce two winners since 1989 when Bret Saberhagen (!) and Bob Boone (!!) took home hardware. 3B Moustakas and C Perez will probably also receive some well-deserved consideration.
Closer Greg Holland Will Record Over 40 Saves: Interim-to-permanent bullpen dynamo Holland could very well be a turbo-pussy off the field; on, however, he is as lights-out as it gets. When the Royals lost All Star closer Joakim Soria to an exploded elbow, and then replacement Jonathan Broxton via trade, Holland stepped up and shut it down. He’s fierce and dogged, and, like I said in a previous piece, looks as though he’d be perfectly at home as an extra in a New Jersey pool-hall, circa 1988. It’s hard not to like him, or to at least be impressed by his abilities.
But it can’t be all wine and roses and fielding awards and homeruns. This is baseball, and absolute perfection is absolutely impossible. Good hitters fail 70% of the time and sometimes teams win divisions by only being slightly better than completely even. With this in mind, here are some more predictions.
Lorenzo Cain Will Get Injured Again: After a recent history of persistent maladies, it is my sad duty to inform you that the Royals own version of “Mr. Glass” will NOT make it through a full season without getting hurt and, in fact, will probably also end up spending significant time on the disabled list. Look, I hope that I’m wrong. The importance of a centerfielder cannot be understated, and in order to make up for the Black-hole Sun that is Jeff Francoeur, the talent of Cain must be omnipresent on a daily basis. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening. Cue the mournful violin music, but it appears that the hunt for a centerfielder should be pretty high on Dayton’s to-do list in the not-too-distant-future.
The Royals Will NOT Win the Central: Unless a real tiger attacks the baseball Tigers, and a majority of their team is ripped to shreds in an orgy of flesh and human meat and poly-cotton blend, I don’t think KC wins the AL Central. (Obviously, I’m suggesting that Detroit will.) I think the Royals come in second—with their first winning record since 2003’s 83-79 anomaly. (rewind, press play on “Perpetual Assurances” tape:) Next year, right everyone?
Rex Hudler Will Say Stupid Rex Hudler Shit: Because, hey, he’s Rex Hudler, right?
The season kicks off Monday at 3:10pm, in Chicago against the White Sox.
Come say hello to me on Twitter, @StanfordWhistle