By Trevor Utley
The Royals are the first team on this list that I have going over .500 in 2014. They were a surprise team last campaign as only an abysmal May kept the Royals from making the postseason for the first time since 1985. They traded away top prospect Wil Myers for James Shields and there could be valid arguments on either side as to who "won" the trade. Shields is the anchor of a staff that may be a bit weak now (Jason Vargas, Jeremy Guthrie, Danny Duffy, Wade Davis), but has much in the way of fresh new arms waiting in the wings. Yordano Ventura has great swing and miss stuff but needs to make sure that stuff stays in the strike zone to cut back on his walks. Kyle Zimmer, the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, is zooming up the Royals' minor league track. Sean Manaea is a power left hander who was projected by some as a potential #1 overall in 2013 (it ended up being Mark Appel) but collegiate injuries made him a steal in the compensation round. The bullpen is loaded with at least four different guys ready to close if incumbent Greg Holland falters or falls ill. Though improved, the lineup still poses the most questions for me. Will new right fielder Norichika Aoki may have some growing pains changing leagues. Can Omar Infante have the same production without the protection he had in Detroit? Will Mike Moustakas finally take Eric Hosmer's lead and live up to his potential? Can Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain's offense catch up to their defense? Can Alex Gordon reacclimate to the middle of the order? Until all these questions get clear answers I can only have the Royals on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. For the first time in a good while though, Royals fans can take solace that that they have people in power that are trying to change that view.
PREDICTED RECORD: 83-79
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: James Shields, starting pitcher; Greg Holland, relief pitcher; Luke Hochevar, relief pitcher
Image Credit: Royals logo (sportslogos.net)