2014 AL Central Preview And Predictions

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Mar 6, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) tries to make the off balance throw for the out in the fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals: 78-84

1- Why will this team exceed expectations?

David Hill from Kings of Kauffman: A very underrated part of the Royals happens to be their defense. Last year, they had five of their fielders nominated for Gold Glove Awards, with three coming home with the trophy.

Their additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante dramatically improve the defense at both right field and second base respectively, and Mike Moustakas was a very good defensive third baseman in 2012. That defense should be able to make up for any regression by the pitching staff and, with the expected improvement of the lineup, the Royals could well find themselves in the playoff hunt once again.

2- Why will this team fall short of expectations?

The starting rotation. Ervin Santana put together a great 2013 season, but was not resigned. Instead, the Royals brought in Jason Vargas who, while he fits Kauffman Stadium, is not likely to post the same numbers that Santana did last year. Jeremy Guthrie appears prime for regression this season, given his declining strikeout rates and his extremely high strand rate in 2013 (78.2%).

Bruce Chen is Bruce Chen, a serviceable arm who is not likely could not through a baseball through a sheet of paper. And who knows who the fifth starter is going to be. The Royals need their rotation to pitch at reasonable facsimile of how they did in 2013 to have a chance. I’m not sure this pitching staff can.

3- Look for the team to make (this trade)

Look for the Royals to move one of their excess bullpen arms and fourth/fifth outfielders. The Royals have enough arms in the bullpen where they actually do not have room for them all, and have four outfielders without minor league options vying for one or two spots on the bench. Just based on the numbers, they are going to need to make a move.

4- Watch out for the emergence of (prospect)

Hunter Dozier. Dozier was considered a reach when he was drafted eighth overall in the 2013 Draft by the Royals, but he put together a solid 308/.397/.495 batting line with seven home runs across two levels. He typically hit the ball hard, posting a 23.4% line drive rate.

Dozier is considered to have an advanced approach, and is an overall solid player. Essentially, he does everything well, even if he is not considered to have a standout ability. However, with the struggles that Moustakas has had offensively, and the way that Cheslor Cuthbert cratered in AA last year, Dozier has a chance to be the Royals third baseman of the future.

If he hits at roughly the same rate this year, he could find himself in Kansas City by the end of 2015.