2014 was a disappointing year for the Royals, as they lost the Wil Myers trade once and for all.
Kidding, of course. The Royals enjoyed a well-deserved return to the playoffs, and while they didn't come out on top in the World Series, they were tremendously fun to watch in October. Kansas City's deep playoff run has fantasy implications, too, as many of the Royals' stars are no longer anonymous to more casual baseball fans.
The Royals lack in the good, grizzled vets department, but they feature an abundance of young talent already cemented in the majors leagues and another wave just on the cusp. There's not a ton of star power on this roster right now, but with a long list of "X-Factor" players and more young talent on the way, the "Studs" section could be much more robust a year from today.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
If healthy, Gordon is a lock to challenge for 20 homers, 15 steals, 80 RBI and 90 runs. His average is really the only thing that fluctuates dramatically, and while it's tough to forecast him to hit .300 again, some minor BABIP improvement could lead to a number closer to .280 than the .265 he's featured over the past two years. "Stud" is a bit strong for fantasy purposes, but Gordon is still a decent second or tremendous third outfielder.
Over the past two years, Holland has compiled 193 strikeouts, 93 saves, a sub-1.50 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP. He'll be just 29 next season, and he shows no signs of slowing down. He's the AL's Craig Kimbrel.
Wade Davis/Kelvin Herrera
It's pretty incredible that I feel compelled to list three relievers in the "studs" category for a single team, but that's what you get with Kansas City. Both Davis and Herrera are among the few non-closer relievers worth rostering even in non-holds leagues, unless you're under a tight innings limit. Davis and Herrera will help your rate stats, pile up strikeouts and grab the occasional save and win. Draft them. Play them. Love them.
Don't let Moustakas' solid 2014 postseason fool you; this still isn’t a player mixed leaguers should have any interest in. The 26-year-old hit just .212/.271/.361 in 500 PA last season, and while he's improved his strikeout rate over the years, he still doesn't make enough contact to let his power play. Moustakas is especially inept against left-handed pitching (.172/.241/.313 in 2014), and is basically a second-division part-time player. He and Will Middlebrooks could form a disappointing third baseman dream platoon somewhere.
What You See Is What You Get
Escobar is apparently on the San Francisco Giants' plan of excelling only in years with even numbers. The shortstop hit .285/.317/.377 last year and actually finished as the fifth-best shortstop in fantasy with his 31 steals and 74 runs scored. Yet drastic BABIP fluctuations have led to ugly batting averages in the past, and given that Escobar's approach has largely stayed the same since he broke into the league, it's tough to tell what causes those swings. He'll only be 28 next year so we can err on the side of optimism, but handcuff Escobar with a viable second option if you go into the season with him as a starter.
Perez had a disappointing year by his standards in terms of batting average, but he also reached a new power benchmark with 17 homers and still finished as the seventh-best fantasy catcher. That's pretty much exactly where I'd slot him to finish over the next few seasons, too, as he's a safe bet to hit somewhere between of .265-.290 with decent RBI totals and 15-plus homers. At catcher, that's more than enough to get the job done.
Vargas is still fairly anonymous, but he continues to serve as a very viable back-end option for MLB teams and for deep-league owners, too. It's best to play the matchups with Vargas and only start him against poor lineups or in favorable home parks, but he's a valuable streamer option or back-end piece in 16-plus-team leagues. Feel the excitement.
It was tremendously fun to watch Cain's coming out party last postseason, as casual baseball fans were all at once alerted to just how talented he is. That being said, I think his postseason prominence has set up him to be overvalued for fantasy next season. Cain's career 2014 season could simply be a harbinger of things to come, as he's only 27. But it could also be a career year, and while I like Cain to hit above .275 and steal 25-plus bases once more, his lack of track record and power limits him.
It's difficult for me to admit when Craig Goldstein is right about something, but my opinionated, vegetable-hating compatriot has accurately assessed Duffy's ability to be a solid mid-rotation starter. His long history of walking the world scares me, but Duffy posted a reasonable 8.8 percent walk rate in 2014, which helped lead to a 2.52 ERA in 149.1 innings. I don't think he'll post a sub-3.00 ERA again, but if he pitches 180-plus innings, we could be looking at a sub-3.50 ERA, 150-plus strikeouts and a tolerable WHIP. He's a nice flier for the back-end of your rotation, even in moderately shallow leagues.
What, did you think I was going to put him in "duds?" Hosmer's had a disappointing fantasy career to this point, but that's really just because expectations were sky-high, not because he's been awful at the plate. He's a career .275/.328/.418 hitter, and while his 2014 campaign was disappointing he's one year removed from hitting .302/.353/.448. Still just 25, Hosmer may not be the 30-homer threat some had hoped for during his prospect days, but he's capable of hitting .300 with 20-plus homers and a handful of steals to boot. He's not going to be an elite option, but he's still capable of a top-12 finish at first base, and he could be a boon to many as a corner infielder if healthy.
Honestly, it was tempting to already place Ventura in "studs," but I'll exercise some restraint after what was a very strong rookie season. All the ingredients are here for Ventura to log 200 innings and strike out 170-plus batters with a sub-3.50 ERA. We just need to see him actually throw that many innings and hold up for a full season before we can consider him ELITE (cue Eli Manning face). If the baseball gods take this arm away from us, we riot.
Once viewed as a top prospect, Cuthbert's stock has taken a hit in recent years as he's failed to skyrocket through the minors. He's worth paying attention to, though, as he hit well in Double-A as a 21-year-old in 2014 and received a cup of coffee in Triple-A, too. With only Moustakas above him, there's a good chance Cuthbert sees MLB time if he hits well in Omaha, and there's a non-zero chance he takes the job and runs with it around midseason. He's worth a $1 flier in deep mixed or AL-only leagues.
Colon is a bust relative to his draft status (No. 4 overall in 2010) but he's hit quite well at Triple-A in each of the past two seasons and is still just 25. Given how badly both Moustakas and Omar Infante struggled last year, it's possible he sees significant playing time in 2015, and while he won't do much for your counting stats he could hit for a decent empty average.
The Royals are almost assuredly going to acquire additional outfield help this offseason, and when they do, Dyson will be relegated to oft-played backup status once more. He stole 36 bases in just 290 PA last season, so the value is obvious, but he doesn't bring anything else to the table.
Only use him if you really need innings or if he's pitching against the Padres in Petco or against an entire lineup of Mike Moustakai.
It might be a bit harsh to drop Infante to AL-only status considering he hit .318/.345/.450 in 2013, but that was a career year for the 32-year-old and last year's .252/.295/.337 line is pretty tough to swallow. His true talent likely lies somewhere in between those slash lines, but coupled with a lack of power or speed, that makes Infante a pretty vanilla fantasy option.
Prospects for 2015
Bonifacio could've really put himself on the map with a strong showing in Double-A in 2014, but instead he hit .230/.302/.309, showing a disturbing lack of power. Bonifacio did break his hand in 2013, and we know that such injuries can linger and sap power for a while. But that doesn't excuse Bonifacio's rough performance against left-handed pitching or his increasing strikeout rate. He's still just 21 so there's plenty of time for Bonifacio to turn his career around, but he's probably a better name for 2016 than 2015 at this point.
We got a glimpse of what Finnegan can do out of the 'pen during the postseason, but there's plenty of potential for him to blossom into a mid-rotation starter. Given the abundance of high-leverage options in the Royals bullpen it would be something of a waste to stick Finnegan there in a sixth/seventh inning role, so let's hope he heads back to the minors and develops as a starter.
Zimmer has the natural talent to feature as a No. 2/3 fantasy starter, but pitchers with shoulder issues are downright terrifying. He's very much a high-risk, high-reward proposition even with his proximity to the majors, and while he should make it to Kansas City at some point in 2015, it's hard to know when or how long he'll hold up for.
None of these pitchers figures to have much fantasy value next year, but any could make the majors, especially as relievers. Binford is the best bet to have long-term value, though it will likely come near the back end of a rotation.