Room for improvement: Royals’ bounce-back guys

The Royals could use increased offensive production from Omar Infante and Mike Moustakas.

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On their way to the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 29 years, the Royals rode not only the veteran leadership of James Shields and Alex Gordon but also breakout seasons by Yordano Ventura and Lorenzo Cain.

But some Royals struggled in 2014, and a good season from them in 2015 could mean another deep postseason run. Here’s a look at which Royals could be primed for a bounce-back season this year.

3B MIKE MOUSTAKAS

Maybe he turned a corner in the playoffs. Moustakas seized the national spotlight and stole the headlines with four home runs in his first six postseason games, including an 11th-inning bomb to beat the Angels in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. He finished with a franchise playoff-record five homers and displayed the potential of a former first-round pick.

But his stellar postseason doesn’t erase his dismal regular-season showings in both 2013 and 2014, when he posted an OPS+ (a weighted OPS in which 100 is the league average) of 77 and 74, respectively. He hit just .212 in 500 at-bats last year, and was even optioned to Triple-A Omaha in May after scuffling to a .152/.223/.320 slash line in the season’s first 40 games.

The Royals have been waiting for Moustakas to morph from a struggling project into a reliable bat but, entering his fifth season as a starter, he may be running out of time.

2B OMAR INFANTE

Infante capitalized on a great 2013 campaign with Detroit to ink a four-year deal with the Royals last winter. But then Infante took a big step backward in 2014, watching his batting average dive from .318 to .252 — the lowest it had been since 2005, when Infante was a 25-year-old in his first stint with the Tigers.

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Infante battled a shoulder injury last season that could have affected his production and still produced 66 RBIs. But Infante, 33, will have to improve on his 2014 output with Christian Colon breathing down his neck as a potential second baseman of the future.

RHP LOUIS COLEMAN

After three solid seasons in the Royals’ bullpen, Coleman endured a brutal 2014 season that led to him being left off Kansas City’s postseason roster. Coleman was steady out of the ‘pen in his first three seasons (2.69 ERA, 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings) but posted an unsightly 5.56 ERA in 34 innings last season.

Coleman’s slide is easy to decipher: his strikeout rate (percent of all plate appearances that ended in strikeouts) was cut in half, while his walk rate doubled. That, combined, with his propensity to give up extra-base hits — nearly 10 percent of at-bats ended in an extra-base hit — made it tough for Coleman to pitch effectively as a middle reliever.

The Royals hope 2014 was just a bump in the road for the 28-year-old, and a solid season from Coleman would only bolster the already-strong Kansas City bullpen.

SPRING MUGS

DH KENDRYS MORALES

Morales’ season was cut almost in half in 2014 because teams did not want to sign him in the offseason and lose a draft pick. He eventually signed with Minnesota in June and was later traded to Seattle.

He played in just 98 games and posted a .218/.274/.338 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 42 RBIs. Last season was Morales’ first since 2011 (when he missed the entire season due to injury) without 20 home runs. But if he plays a full season he should easily surpass last year’s numbers and replace Billy Butler as the everyday designated hitter.

You can follow Matthew DeFranks on Twitter at @MDeFranks or email him at matthew.defranks@gmail.com.