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Fantasy Preview: Kansas City Royals

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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2013 Fantasy Preview: Kansas City Royals

The Royals made a big move during the offseason. It’s nice that they have an ace, but they still need to hit.

Offseason moves:

Acquired SPs James Shields and Wade Davis from Rays for OF Wil Myers, SPs Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgmery, and 3B Patrick Leonard

Shields and Davis both join the Royals’ rotation, with Davis doing so after spending a season in the Rays’ bullpen. He posted ERAs of 4.07 and 4.45 in 2010 and 2011, and doesn’t appear to be more than a late-game AL-only option.

Traded for SP Ervin Santana

Santana goes through stretches where he looks like the best pitcher in the world, and they’re great. Unfortunately, he has a 4.33 career ERA in four seasons and gives up waaaaaaay too many home runs. AL-only owners will have some frustrating days with Santana.

Re-signed 2B Chris Getz and SP Luke Hochevar

Getz returns to battle Johnny Giavotella for the second-base job; Getz’s defense is better, but Giavotella is a better hitter. Hochevar will battle Chen for the fifth starter role, and fantasy owners should stay far away from that winner.

Lost RP Joakim Soria via free agency

Soria heads to Texas after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April, and will set up for Joe Nathan when healthy. We hope he gets well soon, mostly so we can hear his cool nickname (“The Mexecutioner”) more often.

Projected Lineup

1. Lorenzo Cain CF
2. Alcides Escobar SS
3. Alex Gordon LF
4. Billy Butler DH
5. Mike Moustakas 3B
6. Salvador Perez C
7. Eric Hosmer 1B
8. Jeff Francoeur RF
9. Johnny Giavotella 2B

Escobar figures to post another strong batting average with 30-40 steals, making him mixed-league worthy. If you average the last two seasons, Gordon figures to bat close to .300 with 15-20 homers, double-digit steals and close to 100 runs – he’s underrated. Butler had his long-awaited power breakout in 2012, and it’s nice that he’s eligible at first base this season – he’s a top-10 player at that position. Moustakas really slowed down in the second half, but it was his first full season, and we should expect some improvement. Francoeur is what he is – a .260, 15-20 homer guy who’s better in fantasy than in real life.

Rotation

1. James Shields
2. Ervin Santana
3. Jeremy Guthrie
4. Wade Davis
5. Bruce Chen
CL: Greg Holland

Shields might be better than people give him credit for – he had a 3.52 ERA last season while finishing sixth in the majors in strikeouts and 19th in WHIP. He’s a strong SP2 in any format. Guthrie should be avoided – high ERA/WHIP, no Ks. Chen can be drafted in AL-only leagues, assuming that he beats out Hochevar for the final rotation spot. He’s just OK, and gives up too many fly balls, but his K/BB numbers last season offer a glimmer of hope. It’s just a glimmer, though.

Holland’s high-strikeout, groundball-heavy stat line makes him a solid bet to close effectively this season, and you won’t need to draft him as high as some riskier options (I’m looking at you, Joel Hanrahan). If something happens to Holland, Kelvin Herrera’s 186-mph fastball will be difficult for the Royals to ignore.

(OK, so Herrera’s average fastball velocity was really 98.5 mph last season. That’s still pretty ridiculous.)

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Big questions:

What happened to Hosmer?

He hit a few too many ground balls, and had some bad luck on balls in play (.255 BABIP). His line-drive rate held steady, and his rare speed for a first baseman was just fine. Hosmer is 23, and should rebound this season. He’s being taken in the eighth round of mixed-league drafts in the early going, and that sounds about right. A 20-20 season with a much better batting average seems likely.

If Cain is healthy, what should we expect?

Cain will lead off for the Royals. He was hurt (groin, hip) for much of 2012, but looks like a mixed league OF5 who can hit 10-15 homers and steal 20 bases. In only 61 games last season, he batted a respectable .266 with seven home runs and 10 stolen bases. Sure, he strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough, but nobody’s expecting him to be Rickey Henderson.

How good is Perez?

Pretty darned good, as he batted .301 with 11 homers and a .798 OPS in half a season at age 22. A 20-homer season with another .300 BA looks to be in play, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finishes the season as a top-five fantasy catcher.

Sleeper:

Giavotella can hit, and as we noted in the second-base preview, he has a decent chance to reach double digits in both home runs and stolen bases if he beats out Getz for the starting job. Giavotella’s last three minor-league seasons have produced batting averages of .322, .338 and .323. Since he hasn’t been very selective with the Royals, we shouldn’t expect numbers like that in the majors, but we should expect him to improve on last season’s .238 in a limited role with the Royals.

Top prospects

Kyle Zimmer, SP – Zimmer pitched in A ball last season after the draft, and he has an interesting story as he didn’t become a pitcher until he was a college sophomore. He probably won’t arrive in Kansas City until next season at the earliest, but he could be pretty good.

Bubba Starling, OF – Starling is regarded by many as the Royals’ top prospect, and the word “tools” is often used to describe his power/speed skillset. He’s probably three years away from the big leagues.

Yordano Ventura, SP – Ventura is a little guy with big-time heat who wasn’t overmatched after a promotion to Double A last season. His future might be as a reliever, and he could be in Kansas City next year.

John Lamb, SP – Remember when Lamb was among the top prospects in the Royals’ loaded system? He had Tommy John surgery in 2011, and pitched only 13 innings in 2012, and at 22 it’s too early to write him off. Lamb is a dynasty league sleeper.

Christian Colon, 2B/SS – It’s not clear if Colon will play second base or shortstop in the majors. He’s not loaded with tools, but he can steal a few bases and seems to have an idea of what he’s doing at the plate (if his low strikeout rate and decent walk rate are any indication). Colon won’t be a star, but he could push for a job as soon as later this season if Giavotella and Getz don’t produce.

Tagged: Royals, Rangers, Rays, Bruce Chen, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Luke Hochevar, Wade Davis, Chris Getz, Lorenzo Cain, Greg Holland

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