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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
Jason Grilli blasted in loss vs. Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:34 am ET) Angels pitcher Jason Grilli took a loss Tuesday, giving up four earned runs while recording just one out in his team's 13-2 defeat against the Mariners.

Grilli (1-3) walked a batter and hit another batter to open up the fifth inning, and after a sacrifice moved both runners into scoring position, he gave up back-to-back doubles to bring three runs home, getting himself pulled from the game with a man still in scoring position. That runner would come around to score, leaving him with his worst performance since joining the Angels. Grilli owns a 4.03 ERA and 51:19 K:BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings.


Carson Smith picks up win vs. Angels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:29 am ET) Mariners pitcher Carson Smith earned a win Tuesday, walking one and striking out one in two scoreless innings in his team's 13-2 victory over the Angels.

Smith took over for an injured Roenis Elias and handled business in the fourth and fifth innings, and the offense exploded for 13 unanswered runs after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning. Smith has tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out six and walking two.


Cory Rasmus tosses four scoreless innings vs. Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:26 am ET) Angels pitcher Cory Rasmus wasn't a factor in the decision Tuesday, giving up just one hit in four scoreless innings while striking out four in his team's 13-2 loss to the Mariners.

Rasmus, who has mostly pitched in relief this season, wasn't going to be given a full workload no matter the results, but he was removed after just 43 pitches after passing that mark in three of his previous four outings. The bullpen immediately blew the lead upon Rasmus' exit. He owns a 2.57 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 51:15 K:BB ratio in 49 innings. Rasmus is scheduled to face the Rangers Sunday.


Kevin Quackenbush picks up fourth save Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Padres pitcher Kevin Quackenbush earned his fourth save Tuesday, giving up one earned run on one hit and one walk while striking out one in his team's 5-4 win over the Phillies.

Quackenbush walked a batter with one out, and after the runner took second on catcher's indifference with two outs, a single brought him home to give the reliever his second earned run in his last three appearances. He owns a 2.68 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 53:18 K:BB ratio in 50 1/3 innings.


Ian Kennedy strikes out seven in win vs. Phillies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy earned a win Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on three hits and four walks in six innings while striking out seven in his team's 5-4 victory over the Padres.

Kennedy (11-13) gave up a solo home run in the second inning and fell behind on a two-run blast in the fifth, but the offense was able to pick him up with three runs in the sixth. It was Kennedy's first time allowing multiple home runs in a start this season. He owns a 3.80 ERA and 196:67 K:BB ratio in 187 1/3 innings. Kennedy is slated to face the Giants Sunday.


A.J. Burnett walks four in loss vs. Padres
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Phillies pitcher A.J. Burnett took a loss Tuesday, giving up five runs (four earned) on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings while striking out four in his team's 5-4 defeat against the Padres.

Burnett (8-17) gave up a pair of runs in the first inning Tuesday, but the offense carried him to a 3-2 lead heading into the sixth inning, where the starter served up a two-run home run and an RBI single to fall behind for good. It's the first time in his last eight starts Burnett has been unable to complete six innings. He owns a 4.40 ERA and 180:87 K:BB ratio in 202 2/3 innings going into Sunday's scheduled start against the A's.


Steve Tolleson returns to action late Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) Blue Jays infielder Steve Tolleson went 0 for 1 and played third base in his team's 8-2 loss to the Orioles Tuesday.

Tolleson was not in the starting lineup Tuesday after suffering a wrist injury Monday, but he came in as a pinch hitter, struck out and stayed in to play third base. He has hit .239/.299/.358 with three home runs, 14 RBI and three stolen bases in 159 at-bats.


Neftali Feliz earns 10th save Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:05 am ET) Rangers closer Neftali Feliz picked up his 10th save Tuesday, tossing a 1-2-3 ninth inning in his team's 6-3 victory over the A's.

Feliz needed just nine pitches to turn in his third straight perfect inning and eight straight scoreless appearance. He's averaged just 10 pitches over his last three outings while allowing no hits or walks. Feliz owns a 2.28 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 17:9 K:BB ratio in 27 2/3 innings.


Nick Tepesch posts quality start in win vs. A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch earned a win Tuesday, giving up three earned runs on five hits and two walks in six innings while striking out just one in his team's 6-3 victory over the A's.

Tepesch (5-10) saw the A's score a pair of runs in the fourth inning right after the offense had given him a 3-0 lead. After the Rangers tacked on three more runs in the fifth, the starter served up a harmless solo home run in the sixth. Tepesch owns a 4.47 ERA and 51:38 K:BB ratio in 114 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Angels Sunday.


Scott Kazmir struggles in loss vs. Rangers Tuesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir took a loss Tuesday, allowing six runs (four earned) on nine hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings while striking out three in his team's 6-3 defeat against the Rangers.

Kazmir (14-9) is now 0-4 in his last five starts, though he did a solid job in his previous two outings before throwing up a clunker Tuesday. He served up a two-run blast during a three-run fourth inning before the Rangers scored three more in the fifth inning to put the A's into a hole they couldn't escape. Kazmir owns a 3.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 150:49 K:BB ratio in 178 innings. He's scheduled to face the Phillies Sunday.


 
 
 
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