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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Kansas City Royals

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For a team coming off its eighth straight losing season, the Royals have generated a surprising amount of excitement this offseason.

The seeds of the anticipation for the 2012 campaign were sown in 2011, when the team gave regular roles to rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Johnny Giavotella. A collective surge in production for the outfield of Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur didn't hurt either.

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While the Royals' young lineup started to attract some notoriety last season, the pitching staff compiled the fourth-highest ERA (4.45) in the majors. The front office made a few offseason moves to address the team's pitching woes. They moved Cabrera to the Giants, acquiring lefty Jonathan Sanchez, who could quickly become the team's best starting pitcher, and they re-signed Bruce Chen, who was last season's most effective starter. Jonathan Broxton and Jose Mijares were signed to bolster the bullpen. Joakim Soria, coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, will once again assume the closer's role.

The offense will have much the same look that it had at the end of last season, but the Royals will have to fill the hole in center field left by the departure of Cabrera. Lorenzo Cain, who got a brief look last fall, will get his first chance to be an everyday center fielder. Though the lineup hasn't changed much this offseason, it could be more productive this year if Hosmer, Moustakas and Giavotella can continue to develop in their sophomore seasons. However, the Royals will also have to rely on Gordon and Francoeur repeating their surprising success from 2011.

The young Royals are certainly a team on the rise, and they could break their string of losing seasons this year. With even more prospects -- including Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi -- on the way, it may not be long before the Royals find themselves in the thick of contention on an annual basis.

Bounce-back ... Jonathan Sanchez, SP

While Soria also gets the "bounce-back" label, no one is due for a more dramatic turnaround than Sanchez. His 2011 season was derailed first by poor control and then by disabled list stints for biceps and ankle injuries. Though Sanchez fell out of favor with the Giants organization, he had been as reliable as ever through early June last year. Though he has never been very adept at throwing strikes, he induces enough swings-and-misses to be valuable to standard mixed league owners. Sanchez will also get the benefit of playing his home games in a pitcher-friendly park, just as he did in San Francisco.

Rotisserie gem ... Lorenzo Cain, OF

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Cain finally showed some home run power in his first full season at Triple-A last year, but even if that doesn't translate to the majors right away, he is a worthy Rotisserie target. With good gap power and decent contact skills, Cain could toy with a .300 batting average. Though his minor league stolen base totals weren't gaudy, Royals manager Ned Yost likes to have his players run, so 25-30 steals are not out of the question. While Cain is strictly an AL-only option in Head-to-Head formats, he is a viable No. 5 outfielder for mixed Rotisserie leagues.

One-hit wonder ... Jeff Francoeur, OF

It's probably not fair to call Francoeur a "one-hit wonder" since he fared well in his early years with the Braves. Still, 2011 was a career year and entering his late 20s, one might be tempted to think that it was a breakout. However, Francoeur's improved batting average (.285) and run-production stats (77 runs, 87 RBI) were helped by a .330 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) -- a mark that doesn't square up for a player who pops out a lot and is a below-average line drive hitter. Even if he manages to be a 20-20 player again, Francoeur will have a hard time matching last season's production. He profiles more as a low-end No. 3 Fantasy outfielder than the No. 2 outfielder that he looked like last year.

2012 Kansas City Royals Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Alex Gordon LF 1 Luke Hochevar RH
2 Johnny Giavotella 2B 2 Jonathan Sanchez LH
3 Billy Butler DH 3 Bruce Chen LH
4 Eric Hosmer 1B 4 Felipe Paulino RH
5 Jeff Francoeur RF 5 Aaron Crow RH
6 Mike Moustakas 3B Alt Danny Duffy LH
7 Lorenzo Cain CF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Salvador Perez C CL Joakim Soria RH
9 Alcides Escobar SS SU Jonathan Broxton RH
Top bench options RP Greg Holland RH
R Chris Getz INF RP Louis Coleman RH
R Yuniesky Betancourt SS RP Jose Mijares LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 William Myers 21 OF Double-A Double-A
The former catcher disappointed in his first go-around at Double-A, but a good Arizona Fall League campaign and sharp batting eye bode well for a turnaround.
2 Mike Montgomery 22 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Montgomery is much better than his 5.32 ERA from Triple-A would indicate. Could figure into the Royals' rotation sometime in 2012.
3 Jake Odorizzi 22 SP Double-A Double-A
Odorizzi struggled after his promotion to Double-A, though park factors likely played a role. A long shot to contribute this year, he should be a target in long-term keeper leagues.
4 Bubba Starling 19 OF DNP Class A
The athletic prospect was the fifth overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. Though he is probably several years away, Starling is still a top keeper target in long-term leagues.
5 Cheslor Cuthbert 19 3B Class A Class A
Another long-term keeper league target, Cuthbert played extremely well as an 18-year-old in A-ball.
Best of the rest: John Lamb, SP; Kelvin Herrera, RP; Jason Adam, SP; Chris Dwyer, SP; Yordano Ventura, SP; Christian Colon, SS; Elier Hernandez, OF; Brett Eibner, OF; Bryan Brickhouse, SP; Kyle Smith, SP; Jorge Bonifacio, OF; Cam Gallagher, C; Clint Robinson, 1B; Timothy Melville, SP; Brian Fletcher, OF.

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Player News
White Sox RHP Javy Guerra set to begin rehab stint
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:03 pm ET) Veteran right-hander Javy Guerra has been sent by the White Sox to Triple-A Charlotte to begin a rehab assignment. He has been on the disabled list since April 20, but the shoulder ailment that triggered the move has had him sidelined since April 13.

Guerra opened the year in the Chicago bullpen. He pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings covering three appearances before going down.


Astros' Daniel Mengden performing well early in first full season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:45 pm ET) Astros pitcher Daniel Mengden has gotten out to a hot start in his first full professional season since being selected in the fourth round of last year's draft, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Mengden suffered a stress fracture in his back last March but pitched through the injury in his last season with Texas A&M.

"My back feels great and I’m just feeling really well and throwing the ball well," Mengden said.

Mengden has racked up 19 strikeouts while issuing just one walk in 12 2/3 innings while posting a 2.84 ERA in three appearances (two starts) with Class A Quad Cities.

"Just trying to throw strikes and get success," he said. "It’s not about striking everybody out. The strikeouts present themselves. I’m just throwing strikes and hitting my spots. Letting my defense play behind me is the biggest thing."


Report: Nationals' Max Scherzer (thumb) seeing specialist
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:43 pm ET) Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who sprained his right thumb while hitting last Thursday, is reportedly seeing a specialist to gather more information about the injury, per Fox Sports' Jon Morosi. 

The Nationals are optimstic that their $200 million ace will miss no more than one start -- the one he was scheduled to make Tuesday against the Braves. Scherzer threw in the outfield on Sunday, but the thumb remained swollen. 

Scherzer is 1-2 over his first four starts with the Nationals but owns a 1.26 ERA and 29:4 K:BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings.


Pirates SS Justin Sellers makes Triple-A rehab start
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(12:36 pm ET) Pirates infielder Justin Sellers, who is on the disabled list with an Achilles injury, made a rehab start at Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday after moving up from doing rehab work with the Pirates' Class A club. 

Sellers started the game and played shortshop. He was 0-for-1 with one strikeout and one walk before being replaced.


Mariners SS prospect Chris Taylor torrid in Tacoma
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 pm ET) A fractured wrist prevented Chris Taylor from completing his competition with Brad Miller for the Mariners starting shortstop job out of spring training. But he certainly is making up for lost time.

Taylor has been tearing it up at Triple-A Tacoma since being activated and sent there in mid-April. He has five two-hit games since April 20 and has hit safely in all but two of 11 games since his late start to his season. He has scored seven runs, slammed two homers and driven in four.

The 24-year-old Taylor boasts a slash line of .305/.364/.441. But Miller is performing well with Seattle, making Taylor's path to the big leagues a little rockier. Miller has hit safely in eight of his last nine games as his average has soared to .291.


Report: Phillies hoping to deal Jonathan Papelbon to Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:41 am ET) The Phillies are trying to convince the Red Sox to trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon, according to the Boston Globe.

Such a deal could make sense for Boston considering that current closer Koji Uehara has lost a bit of velocity and owns an uncharacterstic 4.15 ERA with two runs and five hits allowed in his last 2 1/3 innings.

Papelbon, on the other hand, has been lights-out. He is 4-fof-4 in save opportunities and had not yielded a run until Sunday. He is also quite familiar with pitching at Fenway, having served as the Red Sox closer from 2006 through 2011. Papelbon is one of only a handful of major league closers that have maintained that role for more than a few years.


Padres prospect Robbie Erlin coming on strong at Triple-A
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:27 am ET) After a slow start, Padres pitching prospect Robbie Erlin is coming around at Triple-A El Paso.

The 24-year-old Erlin (3-1) owns a 4.50 ERA that has been shrinking. He managed his second straight strong start Sunday in a defeat of Salt Lake, yielding one run on seven hits and striking out three in six innings.

Erlin has allowed just two earned runs in 12 innings over his last two starts, but has surrendered 28 hits in 22 innings on the year.


Chris Perez opts out of Brewers contract, becomes free agent
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) Pitcher Chris Perez has opted out of his minor-league contract with the Brewers and become a free agent, the team announced Monday.

Perez will presumably pursue a deal with a team that gives him a better shot of quickly reaching the majors. He surrendered eight earned runs on 14 hits and four walks in 7 2/3 innings while striking out three in six appearances with Triple-A Colorado Springs.


Mets will turn to six-man rotation to keep Matt Harvey fresh
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(11:04 am ET) As pitcher Matt Harvey continues to recover from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him last year, the Mets will take a cautious approach to keeping their ace healthy, experimenting with six-man rotations in order to ensure Harvey keeps his start total right around 30 this season, per Newsday.

The report says the Mets' plan is to try and keep Harvey at 30 starts, with no more than 32 during the regular season. To that end, New York will temporarily switch to a six-man rotation and call up Rafael Montero to start Tuesday against the Marlins. 

Harvey is 4-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts and is averaging 6 2/3 innings, a pace that would put him at 200 innings for 30 starts or 213 innings for 32 by the end of the season -- more than the 180 to 190 the Mets had planned for the pitcher.


Rays INF Nick Franklin set to begin rehab this week
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Rays infielder Nick Franklin has told the Tampa Bay Times that he is set to begin a rehab assignment this week at Port Charlotte. No date was specified.

Franklin, who has been sidelined all season with an oblique injury, hit just .160 in 81 at-bats a year ago.


 
 
 
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