No team in recent memory (Marlins excluded, of course) has taken such a beating over an offseason move as the Royals did in December after trading Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Mongomery and Patrick Leonard for James Shields, Wade Davis and a player to be named later.
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But here's a quick defense for Fantasy players: Shields has a 3.15 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 477 innings the last two seasons. He has two straight years of more than 220 strikeouts and his days of leading the American League in hits seem to be far behind him. Shields also gives the Royals a solid No. 1 option for the rotation, something the team was sorely missing. And somewhat lost in the mix was the addition of Wade Davis, a 27-year-old righty who had a 2.43 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 70 1/3 relief appearances last year, but had been a starter the rest of his career and was a perennial inclusion in Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. For now, that looks like at least an even deal, as Tampa Bay's new prospects still have a good deal to prove before making any major league impact.
The Royals didn't just add Shields and Davis to the rotation, though. They also welcomed the wickedly erratic/sometimes-brilliant Ervin Santana in a low-profile trade with Los Angeles. Santana's last four seasons with the Angels produced ERAs of 5.03, 3.92, 3.38 and 5.16. Throw in the mid-season acquisition of Jeremy Guthrie from Colorado and the only holdover from 2012's Opening Day rotation is Bruce Chen. Making things look even sunnier for the Royals? Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy -- two pitchers who made incredible strides before injury struck in 2012 -- will be returning from Tommy John surgeries, likely by August. And the farm system, while drained by the Shields trade, is still solid.
The offense looks almost the same as 2012, with Salvador Perez elevated to starting catcher and Yuniesky Betancourt replaced at second base by either Johnny Giavotella or Chris Getz. Or, likely, both, as the organization waits patiently for Christian Colon. But with third baseman Mike Moustakas and first baseman Eric Hosmer having disappointing 2012 campaigns after promising debut stints in 2011, there's a lot of opportunity for the Royals to gain some runs just by the two young corner infielders having bounceback seasons.
Breakout ... Lorenzo Cain, outfielder
Relegated to the disabled list from mid-April to mid-July -- and then shut down in mid-September -- Cain still managed seven home runs and 10 steals in just 222 at-bats. After a strong spring, Cain looked like he would break out in 2012, but injuries sapped both momentum and playing time. He heads into 2013 with last year's potential carried over. Cain, 26, has the skill to hit .270 with 20 home runs and 30 steals, which are numbers that usually require a middle-round pick in drafts. But with Cain being injured last year, playing for Kansas City and generally having been forgotten by the masses, he can be a steal in the late rounds of mixed drafts.
Bounceback ... Eric Hosmer, first baseman
Hosmer hit .312 in over 1,000 minor league at-bats. In 2011, between Triple-A and the majors, Hosmer hammered 22 home runs and hit .316. He stole 14 bases. And then, without warning, Hosmer fell flat on his face in 2012, with a .232 average and 14 home runs in 152 games. There were 16 steals, sure, but this was supposed to be the year Hosmer hit .320 with 25 home runs to go with the speed. What happened? Mainly, it was Hosmer hitting balls where defenders were positioned, as he finished the year with a BABIP of .255 (in short, bad luck played a big role). Everything prior to last season points to Hosmer being a successful major league player. Chalk up 2012 to bad luck and you will have a nice value pick in the later rounds of most drafts.
Head-to-Head standout ... Alex Gordon, outfielder
With doubles helping to boost the value of certain players in points formats, it would be foolish to overlook the MLB leader in the category from last season -- Alex Gordon. The Royals outfielder hit 51 doubles in 2012, beating out Albert Pujols by one. After hitting 45 doubles in 2011, Gordon now has 96 doubles in the last two years. His home run production dipped in 2012 (going from 23 home runs to 14) and he lost seven steals (from 17 to 10). He also managed to strike out 140 times, which was only somewhat compensated by a career-high 73 walks and five triples. All in all, Gordon is one of those players who may look somewhat pedestrian in Rotisserie formats, but will get owners points in Head-to-Head thanks to plenty of doubles and improving walk numbers.
The system took a major hit with the Myers trade, but some would argue Bubba Starling, Kansas City's first round pick (fifth overall) in 2011, will have everyone forgetting about this deal in a couple years. ... Kansas City also has the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Kyle Zimmer, coming off a solid Arizona Rookie League performance (0.90 EA) and looking to advance up the ranks with a fastball that hits the high-90s ... Christian Colon, the fourth overall pick in 2010 (lots of top-five overall picks here recently for the Royals), hit Triple-A last season for five games and managed a .412 batting average and 1.076 OPS. There's a hole at second base waiting for him, but we may not see Colon until September. ... Don't expect to see many more prospects rise up to Kansas City this season, as Odorizzi, Myers and Montgomery were all very close and are now in the Tampa Bay system.
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