Joshua Fisher is optimistic about the Royals. Granted, he's thinking 2012, but that'll come around soon enough. Here's why:
- 1B Billy Butler
2B Mike Aviles
SS Christian Colon
3B Mike Moustakas
LF Alex Gordon
CF Mitch Maier?
RF Eric Hosmer
C Wil Myers
SP Zack Greinke
SP Mike Montgomery
SP Aaron Crow
I'm sure you know where my loyalties rest. But, if I may ...
* Mike Aviles is 29 and still trying to win an every-day job,
* Christian Colon hasn't signed a professional contract and there are already questions about his ability to play shortstop in the majors,
* Alex Gordon probably has a future, but with another franchise,
* Wil Myers is 19 years old, currently playing in the Midwest League,
* Kila Ka'aihue probably has a future, but with another franchise, and
* Mitch Maier will be out of the majors in 2012.
Still, there's some upside here, especially if the Royals do give Gordon and Moustakas and Hosmer another shot. Both are still young for their levels, and Moustakas is destroying the Double-A Texas League while Hosmer's tearing up the Midwest League.
The Royals might be putting together a 2012 lineup that will call to mind the 2000 lineup that featured Mike Sweeney, Carlos Beltran, and Jermaine Dye and finished fifth in the American League in scoring. I can imagine the Royals, in 2012 or '13, finishing in the middle of the pack in scoring and maybe even a little better.
But what about the pitching? That 2000 team went 77-85 because Jeff Suppan and Mac Suzuki were their best starting pitchers, and because their bullpen was a train wreck that featured jet fuel and toxic chemicals. In 2012, Zack Greinke will be better than Jeff Suppan and Joakim Soria will be better than Ricky Bottalico. But Luke Hochevar? He's 26 and he's got a 5.65 ERA in the majors. Aaron Crow? He was a No. 1 pick and he'll probably pitch in the majors someday, but he's 23 and he's struggling in Double-A this spring.
I can imagine the Royals actually clearing the .500 mark in 2012 (for the first time since 2003), and I can imagine them (with a little luck) winning 85 games.
A playoff spot, though? The Promised Land? That's going to take a little extra oomph, in the form of a brilliant trade or a particularly canny free-agent signing. And this organization hasn't demostrated any propensity for those things since the 1970s.