The Royal Five: These guys must rock for KC to roll in ’15
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Obviously, the Royals are hoping for plenty of production from their three main free-agent signings — designated hitter Kendrys Morales, outfielder Alex Rios and right-hander Edinson Volquez.
But if the Royals are to make another run at the World Series in 2015, general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost know they need some of their nucleus from last year’s team to have big seasons in 2015.
Specifically, these five guys:
Mike Moustakas, 3B. Curiously, some fans already have forgotten the clutch postseason that Moustakas delivered. Moose smashed five home runs, which is a Royals postseason record. That Moose needs to show up for all of 2015, even if his average never ascends above .250. If he continues to play sound defense and could deliver 20-25 home runs, the Royals likely could live with a low average and a low on-base percentage. Moose’s average could rise quickly if he would be willing to attack the shift by either bunting down the third-base line for hits, or shooting balls the opposite way through the shift’s gigantic holes. That will be an emphasis this spring.
Eric Hosmer, 1B. Hosmer had an even more clutch postseason, delivering a .351 average, a .983 on-base plus slugging percentage and 12 RBIs. That is MVP-type stuff, and that is the Hoz that gets Royals fans and management all charged up. At 25 and with four big-league seasons under his belt, Hosmer would appear ready to become a star. His postseason numbers suggest he is ready to make that leap. And if Hoz gives the Royals a full season of his max potential, the Royals stand a good chance of repeating as American League champs.
Sal Perez, C. The Royals surely figured out one thing toward the end of last season: A worn-down Sal Perez wasn’t of great value, at least not offensively. The Royals and Yost rode Perez relentlessly in September to guarantee a spot in the playoffs, and you can’t necessarily argue with that strategy. But perhaps if Perez had been given more rest prior to September he could have better weathered the tough September and October stretch. From Sept. 6 through the end of the regular season, Perez hit just .190 with a .198 OBP, drawing all of one walk in that stretch. Perez also seemed out of gas in the playoffs, hitting just .207 with two extra-base hits. An exhausted and impatient Perez swung at everything. The Royals must take better care of him in 2015 — they will need his bat.
Omar Infante, 2B. Not sure why some fans and observers got so down on Infante, who was a huge upgrade from what the Royals had had at second base in recent years. Like Perez, Infante seemed to wear down late in the season, especially as he was battling nagging back, arm and shoulder issues. Being the gamer he is, though, Infante hung tough, and actually had an OK postseason (a .318 World Series average with a game-clinching homer in Game 2). He also had a career-high 66 RBIs in the regular season. Somehow, though, the Royals’ excellent training staff needs to keep Infante healthy the whole season.
Danny Duffy, LHP. It may seem strange to include Duffy in this discussion. And yes, he was fantastic during the regular season (9-12, 2.53 ERA, 1.112 WHIP). But after being a nonfactor in the postseason (Duffy said he was, for the most part, healthy in October), there is some question about him for 2015. The Royals have no choice but to trust that Duffy will be mentally and physically ready to be a big factor in the rotation. But will he trust that the shoulder soreness he experienced in September was normal after a long season? Will he be confident enough to be a staple in the rotation all season? The Royals are hoping the answers to both questions are yes.