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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
Rangers remain undecided on pitcher Keone Kela
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:20 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Keone Kela tossed one scoreless inning Sunday with no hits and two strikeouts against the Dodgers. Kela has now gone 8 1/3 innings without giving up a run this spring, but the team is undecided still on his role this season, reports MLB.com.

"I haven't said if he was or wasn't on the team," Banister said. "That decision will be made at the appropriate time. You see what he has done. He has been impressive this spring."


Indians pitcher T.J. House gives up four runs in six innings
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:15 pm ET) Indians pitcher T.J. House, who was given a spot in the starting rotation Sunday, struggled in his appearance Sunday. House gave up four runs on six hits with two walks in six innings of work against the White Sox.

"This spring it looks a little glaring, that one inning is kind of getting to me in the box scores," said House to MLB.com. "It's nice to get them out of the way now and maybe during the season we won't see them.

"My ball kind of flattened out a little bit [in the fourth]. Besides that, I felt good. I pounded the zone and got to see some guys I'm going to see during the season, so I'll make a mental note of that."


White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson has edge in position battle
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:05 pm ET) White Sox second baseman Micah Johnson appears to be in the lead for the position when the season begins, reports MLB.com. Manager Robin Ventura likes what he's seen from Johnson enough to give him a vote of confidence at the position, even though nothing has been officially set.

"He's done well enough to kind of be the leading guy," said Ventura of Johnson, who had two hits in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Indians.

Third base coach Joe McEwing likes the progress Johnson has sowed on defense this spring.

"Initially what we wanted to do was try to slow things down because everything Micah does, he does fast," McEwing said. "Everything in his game is fast. Just, defensively, try to slow him down and allow him to focus on his feet and his hands and everything working together."


Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman posts another stellar performance
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:55 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Kendall Graveman continues to impress this spring. Sunday, he went 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Manager Bob Melvin loves how the young pitcher has performed this spring, reports MLB.com.

"He doesn't blow you away, although you look at the radar gun and at times we've seen 93, 94 this spring," Melvin said. "But he's a pitcher; he's pretty cerebral in the way he does it.

"He reads swings very well. You know, it's late movement off the barrel of the bat, whether it's sink, whether it's cut, offspeed just enough. But he knows what he's doing and he's aware of what the hitters are trying to do against him."

Graveman has a minuscule 0.74 ERA in five starts this spring.

"There's a reason that he went from [Class] A-ball to the big leagues [in 2014 with Toronto], and then continued to pitch this well for us. It means he's real confident in what he's doing," Melvin said.


Nationals pitcher Doug Fister struggles again in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:49 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Doug Fister surrendered six runs in four innings of work Sunday against the Marlins, pushing his spring training ERA to 7.02 in five starts. Fister gave up three more home runs in the outing.

"I can't let any of that affect me. I know I have to get the ball down regardless," Fister said to MLB.com. "I felt good today. I felt I was almost back in the swing of things. There are obviously some things I have to fine tune at the end of spring.

"I left the ball up, and it allowed the Marlins to get good contact on the ball. I don't let outside influences affect the game. It's a game I have to control and make adjustments."


Tigers targeting 200 pitches for pitcher Anibal Sanchez
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:45 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez tossed 10 strikeouts in Sunday's game against the Phillies, going 6 1/3 innings and surrendering four runs on five hits. 

"That means he's hitting his spots. It means he's locating," manager Brad Ausmus said to MLB.com. "When a guy takes a pitch, he thinks it's a ball or just off the corner and they end up getting the call. ... So he must have been locating. It looked like he was locating his fastball."

Ausmus also indicated he hopes to see Sanchez reach 200 innings this season.

"If we get 200 innings out of Sanchy, I'll be extremely happy. I think we'll be in a very good spot," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning. "We talk about a lot of things, but if Sanchy can stay healthy, that would be an enormous plus for us."


Rays pitcher Drew Smyly targeting April for a return to the mound
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:39 pm ET) Rays pitcher Drew Smyly threw a fourth bullpen session Sunday to rehab from shoulder tendinitis and his hoping to be back in action in April, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"I'm very hopeful that I'll be pitching in April, for sure," he said. "Something would have to go wrong, there'd be a step backward for me not to pitch in April I feel like."

Smyly is hoping to throw batting practice at some point this week.


Rays to use Brad Boxberger as fill in closer to start season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:36 pm ET) Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger is expected to fill in to the closer role for at least the first month of the season while Jake McGee recovers from elbow surgery, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"He will be in a lot of meaningful situations," manager Kevin Cash said. "With some other guys, but for what Box did last year and the confidence we have in him, I would definitely anticipate him pitching in those leverage situations."


Brewers release pitcher David Herndon
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:33 pm ET) The Brewers have decided to part ways with pitcher David Herndon, the team announced Sunday. Herndon last pitched in the majors in 2012, posting an 0-1 record with a 4.70 ERA in five appearances.

Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch struggles in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch surrendered seven runs on nine hits, including one home run, in just 3 2/3 innings of work Sunday against the Dodgers.

"He threw the ball well for three innings, then it got a little loose," manager Jeff Banister said. "He got the ball up a little and got it flat. But he had three solid innings. The fastball was there and the breaking ball was in play."

Tepesch is now 1-2 in spring training with a 10.38 ERA.


 
 
 
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