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Royals 2011 Preview Part II - The Lineup

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In 2010, there wasn't much that the Royals did well, so saying that their offense was probably their best component is damning with praise. You'll get no argument from me, but it is a little surprising that they had a somewhat decent offense. They scored 4.17 runs per game, which was good for 10th in the American League. Not great, but that's the highest the team has ranked in that category since 2003 when the team was 4th and won 83 games.

The 2011 version of the lineup should be at least as good if not better offensively and it's one of the reasons that the team should be at least somewhat improved in the win-loss column in 2011.

Projected Starting Lineup

1. Mike Aviles 3B - Usually the leadoff spot is reserved for speedy guys who can get on base, however the Royals won't have a guy like that, so placing Aviles up top is an inspired choice. He's one of the best hitters on the team and should be able to set the table. He'll start the season at third base, but as soon as Mike Moustakas is promoted he'll almost certainly going to move to second where he's best suited anyway.

2. Melky Cabrera CF - The Royals never really needed Melky Cabrera. He hasn't been as good as Mitch Maier or Gregor Blanco recently, but he's still young and has been raking in Spring Training. He's a good bet to be traded to make way for Lorenzo Cain who the Royals acquired in the Greinke deal.

3. Billy Butler 1B - One of the best hitters in baseball and he's still only 24 years old. People talk about how many double plays he grounded into, but the GIDP leaderboards are littered with some of the best hitters in the game. If he develops some power this year, he could become an elite offensive player.

4. Kila Ka'aihue DH - He's got fantastic patience at the plate and a true power stroke. It's a combination rarely seen and therefore rarely appreciated. Kila will likely get the entire season to prove to the Royals he is a Major League caliber player. He might be auditioning for the rest of the league since top prospect Eric Hosmer is breathing down his neck.

5. Alex Gordon LF - The one-time top prospect has lost some of his luster and he's now moved from third base to left field. He was solid defensively in 2010, but his bat is going to have to get even better to justify a corner outfield spot. He spent the off-season completely re-tooling his swing with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and has been hitting .349/.500/.651 in Spring Training.

6. Jeff Francoeur RF - He had one good season with the Atlanta Braves, but since then has been one of the worst offensive players in baseball. He is still a very good defender and he's young, but he doesn't have a future with the ball club. He's likely to be trade-bait if he can somehow find what made him successful when he first came up.

7 Brayan Pena C - Jason Kendall will start the season on the DL so Pena is likely to get the nod as the primary catcher. He isn't great at anything, but he's good enough to play the position and he's a significantly better hitter than Kendall. He and Lucas May will be vying for the role of "guy who isn't dropped" when Kendall makes his inevitable return to the team.

8 Chris Getz 2B - He's fast and a fantastic base stealer. Unfortunately Getz hasn't gotten on base enough to make use of that skill. He's a good defensive second baseman, but if he can't hit any better than he's shown so far in his career he'll be relegated to a utility role in short order.

9 Alcides Escobar SS - Prior to the 2010 season Escobar was considered the best shortstop prospect in baseball. His meager batting line of .235/.288/.326 knocked him down a peg, but it's not unusual for a 23 year old rookie to struggle at the plate in his rookie season. Its also one of the reasons the Brewers were willing to let him go in the Greinke trade. Scouts say his defense could be Gold Glove caliber, so he won't have to improve his batting line too much to make him a valuable player.

It's not a lineup that will strike fear in many pitchers, but there are a lot of young talented players who could take a step forward in 2011. A lot of "ifs" will have to happen for the team to be a top ranked offense, however they should improve as the season moves on and top prospects like Mike Moustakas begin to make an impact. I don't believe it's going out on a limb to say this could be the best offensive Royals team in at least the last five years, but it's been a bad five years.

Nick Scott is a contributor to Royals Authority and is the host of the Broken Bat Single Royals podcast, you can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Comments

Nick Scott 3 years ago

llama, I think you get it. Yes, it's incredibly hard to keep having patience. But you see what I see. This is different. Sure it could implode, but for now it looks great.

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llama726 3 years ago

It's hard to keep having patience after so many years of pain in this city. However, we can see a clear difference between the temporary successes of the past and what we have now. In order to sweeten the deal for a big FA signing though, I think we need to have a convincing year this year, or else we'll end up paying 3y/36mil for another Guillen.

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Nick Scott 3 years ago

I do think they can win 75, but I'd put that as close to the upside. they might finish last, but I don't think they are the worst team in the division. But again, this isn't the year to think contention. They're building towards something. It takes time, but things seem to be falling into place.

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Liberty_One 3 years ago

Thanks for writing these. I hope they at least don't finish last in the division. In 2007 and 2008 I thought the team had been improving but they disappointed me the last two seasons.

Do you think they could win 75 again?

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silentbranden 3 years ago

How many bases you think Butler's going to steal? He's gotten 3 in 3 attempts so far, and everyone says he's in the best shape of his life. Threat to increase his speed?

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silentbranden 3 years ago

Who do you think gets replaced first: Cabrera or Francoeur? Cabrera is young and tearing up ST, and Francoeur can't bat his way out of a paper bag.

And when they do get replaced, who comes up first: Dyson or Cain? I don't think Cain has options left, which leads me to believe it'll be him that gets the 4OF role.

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Steve Jacob 3 years ago

I think the Royals success will not carry over, they just don't have the arms. The line-up looks fine, Francouer is not hitting at all, so he might be first out, but Escobar can be a great player. The future looks good, but I am not sold on the pitching prospects yet.

But I guess you never know, if the Twins don't start well, and the Royals are .500 and the break, they have money to spend.

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sr80 3 years ago

What about Grienke,that was a total loss.I don't see how he could be worth that much.Where is some common sense?!

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Nick Scott 3 years ago

The reality is that the Royals tried to sign Greinke to another contract extension, but he wouldn't do it. There wasn't enough money in the world to get Greinke to re-sign. Trading him was their only option and doing it now maximized his value. I'll miss him, as he was one of my favorite Royals of all time, but their hands were tied. That doesn't excuse the fact that one reason Greinke left was because of the terrible Major League teams he was forced to play on.

Raul Ibanez was a guy they didn't re-sign but possibly shoul've. But that was a long shot he'd continue to hit at the level he has.

Trading Jermaine Dye was a complete mistake and it's undefendable.

Other than that, I'm also at a loss for who the Royals traded but should've kept. Their problem has been developing great talent from within, not keeping the talent they've developed. People keep going back to Damon and Beltran, but neither were likely to re-sign with the Royals and that was nearly 7 years ago at this point.

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Royals 3 years ago

I'm trying to think of a Royal that has left/traded who has gone on to be greatly missed. Especially pitchers. The Royals haven't developed any other than Grienke and he's only had one great year which might be a fluke since he now thinks he's a basketball player.

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Nick Scott 3 years ago

The Royals haven't traded a player to the Yankees or Red Sox in a long time. They just signed Billy Butler to a contract extension. There's no reason to believe that butler will be traded any time soon. There's also no facts to support that the Royals have been a "farm club for the major money teams"

The royals have traded some players, but there hasn't really been a player other than possibly David Dejesus who the Royals traded that they should've or could've signed in the last decade or so. I know that the talking point is repeated often, but in general it isn't accurate. I understand the sentiment, but it's not really correct.

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sr80 3 years ago

As soon as the season start the Royals will be lucky to go 500 !!! Sorry but that's the way it is!!!

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Nick Scott 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm a huge dyson fan. He made one of the best plays I've ever seen when I was at Northwest Arkansas for a game. I'm not sure his bat can play at the Major League level since he hasn't hit too well in the minors.

I think he has an outside shot of making the team out of ST, but I'll be surprised if he isn't up with the Royals for at least some of the season this year. i'm partial to speed guys, so I hope he gets another shot too.

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brew_crew122 3 years, 1 month ago

I was hoping they could find a spot for Dyson. When he gets on base, he can fly.

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Nick Scott 3 years, 1 month ago

I do too, but it looks like he'll start the season in AAA probably. He will be given the CF spot at some point, but not until Melky is floundering or has been traded to a contender. Cain hasn't spent that much time at the AAA level, so it isn't the worst thing in the world. However, it's time for the Royals to find out if he's the CF of the future and they can't do that in AAA.

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Royals 3 years, 1 month ago

I hope Lorenzo Cain will be starting most days in any outfield spot.

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