Using this preview: Some players will be spotlighted and there will be some knee-jerk rankings of each teams lineup, rotation and bullpen. Team previews, born from a desire to design a better cheat sheet, will start with the American League East and finish in the National League West. More previews here.
American League Central
Kansas City Royals
- Stud: Joakim Soria, RP — HAHAHAH, ahem. Sorry. Just, y’know, Royals and stud in the same sentence. Really, Soria is as much a question mark as anyone on the team, but he also has the potential to be worth more than you pay for him. He saved 42 games for a pathetic club, struck out almost a batter an inning and had a ridiculous 1.60 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. Wonder what he could do if he was playing for something other than lord of the basement.
- Bust: Mike Aviles, 2B — HAHAHAH, really gotta stop this. But to have a bust it would have to mean that you’re going to overpay for a player. If you’re overpaying for a Royal you’re probably either a Royals fan — in that case I hope they turn in a winning season — or you don’t know much about baseball. Aviles is the only player, other than Soria and starting pitcher Gil Meche, you may see high on lists. He did hit a very un-(post-George-Brett)-Royals-esque .325 in 2008. He also had 10 homers, 8 steals, 51 RBIs and 68 runs in only 419 at-bats.
- Sleeper: Zack Grienke, SP — Sleepers, this is where fantasy owners usually target the Royals, and they’ve got a handful of potential sleepers this year. I think Grienke’s got the best shot at going ace this year. He threw 200 innings last year, had 183 Ks and his ERA (3.47) and WHIP (1.28) were both outstanding as well.
- Prospect to watch: Kila Ka’aihue, 1B — While Mike Jacobs is the quintessential late-HRs-because-I’ve-got-to-much-speed pick, and Billy Butler seems firmly entrenched behind him, I could see Ka’aihue making an appearance by the end of the year. Jacobs hits the ball hard (32 homers in 2008) but doesn’t get enough hits (.233 BA), and Butler probably is not a starting major league DH. Ka’aihue could be a 30 homer guy who hits for average and he has walked a lot in the minors, so his OPS could be solid, too. Keeper-leaguers take note.
- Wild Card: Alex Gordon, 3B — Again, this is whole roster full of wild cards, but Gordon is the most intriguing. A former can’t-miss prospect, Gordon has been a decidedly average third baseman the last two seasons. He could continue to be mediocre, or he could go 20-20 with 80 runs and RBIs and hit .280. That would make him a starting third baseman in your league, which would make him a late value pick.
- Starter you may not know but should: Alberto Callaspo, 2B — How many Royals starter do you know really? Callaspo is probalby the least well-known. He took over the second base job late last season and is penciled in as the starter. He’s a contact hitter with some speed, but he’s not going to get you 30 steals or hit .330. He’ll be an in-season free-agent pickup who’ll finish with double-digit steals and a .300 batting average.
C — This lineup is probably worthy of a D, but there is quite a bit of potential here. Jose Guillen isn’t done, and is a lock for 20 homers and 90 RBIs, Coco Crisp is going to have solid average, steal some bases and provide RBI opportunities for Guillen, Aviles, Gordon and Jacobs. This will be an interesting group to watch, but except for deep leagues, most Royals will be in-season free agent pickups.
D — Grienke was good last year and could be great. Gil Meche is another solid starter. His strikeout number last year (187) is probably an outlier, but he’s had a sub 4.00 ERA each of the last two years and has a WHIP around 1.30. Beyond Grienke and Meche, it’s a mess. Brian Bannister? Back away, slowly.
C — Just because Soria has been so good, and managed to save 42 games for the Royals in 2008. They also have a couple guys other guys with solid numbers, like Ron Mahay and Juan Cruz.
To read all of Chinstrap Ninjas team previews, go here.