Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Breakout?

Coming into the 2010 season many believed that no system had the potential to rise more in the system rankings than the Kansas City Royals. With several elite talents, toolsy athletes, and the first Dayton Moore wave of talent hitting Northwest Arkansas and Omaha this belief wasn't out of the realm of possibility. We're just three weeks into the season, but from the looks of things the breakout has already began. Let's take a peak at some of the prospects and see which ones are contributing to the emergence of the Royals farm system thus far in 2010 and a few other intriguing names.

Omaha Royals (7-9):
  • Kila Ka'aihue: .306/.452/.612 with 4 homers and 12 Rbis. I don't think that Ka'aihue's performance will have a major impact on the ranking of the Royals system, but his performance has definitely been noteworthy and with each passing day I seem to become more convinced that the Royals have Travis Hafner in triple A.
  • David Lough: .271/.317/.407. Lough got off to a slow start after a terrific spring where he seemed to impress every member of the Royals coaching staff. Keep in mind that just a year ago Lough was in Wilmington.
  • Carlos Rosa: 8.2 ip with a 1.04 era, 5 ks, 5 bbs. Considering Rosa's peripherals, his era is probably not a reflection of how well he is pitching. Rosa will be in the pen at some point this season.
  • Blake Wood: 9 ip with a 3.00 era. 5 ks and 2 bbs.
  • Chris Hayes: 2 ip with a 0.00 era and a 0.50 whip. Please let Chris Hayes get a shot in the Royals bullpen. Please?

Northwest Arkansas Naturals (9-5):

  • Manuel Pina: .357/.440/.595 with 2 homers and 11 rbis. Dayton Moore and J.J. Picollo both predicted Pina to be a breakout performer in 2010 on the farm and so far they he has not disappointed. Pina has always been known for his defensive skills and if he can get it together with the stick he could be a big riser in the prospect rankings. However, Pina got off to fast start a year ago in the Texas League so it is very possible that it could happen again.
  • Derrick Robinson: .321/.400/.472 with 5 extra base hits, 6 steals. Robinson is one of the players in the system that could play a major impact in the breakout of the system. Always a top 20 talent due to his tools alone, if he learns how to hit he instantly becomes a top prospect, not just for the organization but for the entire league.
  • Johnny Giavotella: .340/.424/.400. I expect big things from Giavotella this season in Springdale. After a slow start he has had five multi hit games in a row, I expect Giavotella to always be a high obp guy, but hopefully he can develop a little more pop with the bat and more range in the field.
  • Mike Moustaksas: .500/.556/1.375 with 2 homers and 5 rbis. I've predicted a huge season for Moustakas and in his first two games he has gotten on to the right track. Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are probably the two biggest factors in the potential breakout of the Royals' system.
  • Aaron Crow: 17.1 ip with a 3.12 era. His strikeout to walk has to improve but his groundball to flyball has been filthy so far this season. I'm not sure of his exact numbers but the guy is a groundball machine. Crow will probably see Kansas City in a September callup.
  • Everett Teaford: 13.2 ip with a 2.63 era and 12 ks with only 2 bbs. Teaford piggybacked Crow's first start in Springdale but since then he has been moved back to the rotation. He's starting to get too old to be considered a strong prospect, but I'd like to see him get a promotion to Omaha's rotation. Personally I'd rather see the Royals callup guys like this to fill holes on the big club then journeyman pitchers.
  • Edgar Osuna: 17 ip with a 0.00 era with 14 ks and 1 walk. Osuna has pitched brilliantly in Springdale thus far and could be the first starting pitcher this season to receive a promotion to triple A.
  • Federico Casteneda: 9.2 ip with 0.00 era. Could be a quick riser in the pen.
  • Blaine Hardy: 12 ip with 0.00 era. Could he be the first member of the Royals 2008 draft class to reach Kansas City?
  • Brandon Sisk: 8 ip with a 2.25 era. Another potential quick rising reliever.
  • Louis Coleman: 7.1 ip with a 2.45 era. Who gets to Kansas City from the 2009 draft class first? Coleman or Crow?

Wilmington Blue Rocks (7-8):

  • Eric Hosmer: .434/.516/.604. In a notoriously bad hitter's park Hosmer's hasn't had much trouble in the first 15 games of his return trip to the Carolina League. It is early, but it appears that Hosmer's hitting woes from a year ago can probably be attributed to the vision problem. With each multi hit game it is going to be harder to keep Hosmer from Northwest Arkansas.
  • Salvador Perez: .316/.341/.395. Needs to hit for a little more pop but in his first 11 games in the Carolina League he may be the biggest surprise after he struggled a year ago in Burlington.
  • Michael Montgomery: 18 ip with a 0.50 era with 17 ks and just 4 walks. According to Ben Badler at Baseball America Montgomery has shot up into top 20 prospect status. It's hard to imagine that he has much left to prove in the Carolina League.
  • Buddy Baumann: 10.2 ip with 0.84 era with 19 ks and 4 walks. The Royals scouting department has promised an increased emphasis on the backyard and Baumann is an example of this. Either he should be given a shot in the Wilmington rotation or he should be promoted to the Naturals pen.

Burlington Bees (5-11)

  • Carlo Testa: .351/.489/.595. Testa is already 23 years old so I hope that the Royals push him along quickly if they actually believe that he is a legitimate prospect. He's hit well thus far and I'd really like to see what he could do in Wilmington.
  • Joey Lewis: .235/.317/.509 with 4 home runs. Lewis has some big time power, but he has to prove that it isn't his only tool.
  • Kelvin Herrera: 14 ip with a 2.57 era. I like Herrera a lot and believe that he has front line potential, but he has to show that he can stay healthy for an entire inning.
  • Bryan Paukovitis: 13 ip with a 3.46 era. Could be a pleasant surprise from the 44th round of the 2006 draft.
  • John Lamb: 18 ip with a 1.00 era with 23 ks, and 10 walks. hasn't pitched many innings and I'm sure he is on a strict pitch count in every start with his injury history, but he should be in Wilmington by season's end.

The system has looked very strong and it seems that every night there is an intriguing name on the mound for at least a couple of the affiliates. Sorry about the lack of posts, it's been a busy April for me and May figures to be the same way. Hopefully once summer hits I can post with more regularity.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Omaha Royals Preview

This will be the final of my four previews for the full season minor league teams. For each team I am going to give a brief prediction on each of the team's top five prospects and then pick a player to have a breakout season. Now for the Omaha Royals:

1) David Lough- I don't expect any sort of drop off for David Lough in 2010 and I expect him to either replace a traded outfielder at midseason or receive his first cup of coffee in September. Lough is very similar to DeJesus in that his greatest strength is the lack of a weakness.

2) Kila Ka'aihue- Kila seemed to be somewhat affected by his lack of an opportunity on the big league roster after his breakout 2008 performance. I expect him to rebound in 2009 after what really wasn't a bad season. Nonetheless I expect him to improve and hopefully earn a spot on the big league roster at some point in 2010. Please?

3) Jordan Parraz- The biggest thing for Parraz in 2010 is proving that he can stay healthy. If he can do that we should see him this season in Kansas City. I also expect that Parraz will begin to display in games the power that he exhibits in batting practice.

4) Carlos Rosa- I think Rosa will pitch much better this season than last and at some point find a spot on the big league roster.

5) Blake Wood- I expect Wood to flourish in a bullpen role this season, and the only thing that prevents him from reaching the majors before September is the fact that the Royals have more time to evaluate him than other potential bullpen candidates.

Breakout Pick: I expect Chris Hayes to dominate this season out of the Omaha bullpen, however I don't think he will see Kansas City this year. It is unfortunate because I think he could be a very effective pitcher in the big league pen. If he isn't protected this season I would wager that he is selected in the Rule V draft at the Winter Meetings.

Northwest Arkansas Naturals Preview

This will be the third of my four previews for the full season minor league teams. For each team I am going to give a brief prediction on each of the team's top five prospects and then pick a player to have a breakout season. Now for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals:

1) Mike Moustakas- I've said this before but I predict Moustakas to rake this season in Springdale. I think he will post some monster numbers with 25+ homers and the highest average, obp, and slug for his career. While his numbers will warrant a promotion I think the Royals will allow him to spend most of the season in double A, maybe even the whole year to give him the opportunity to win another division title.

2) Aaron Crow- Crow is an extremely advanced pitcher and I expect him to pitch very well this season in his first year in affiliated ball. I expect him to split the season between Springdale and Omaha, then a September call-up. Crow could be a useful bullpen part this season, but I agree with the Royals assessment that he needs to pitch in as many innings this season as possible.

3) Johnny Giavotella- I really wish this guy didn't fall in my top five because I'd like to pick him as my breakout pick for the Naturals this season. Oh well, I'm going to anyway. I think Giavotella is going to post an OPS of .850+ this season with an average around .300. The biggest drawback for him in 2010 will be that he doesn't silence his defensive critics and his range remains just passable.

4) Louis Coleman- Coleman is going to dominate this season out of the Naturals' bullpen and I expect to see him in Kansas City by the end of the year.

5) Edgar Osuna- I think Osuna will have an average year this season in Springdale, but he will continue to show that he was not ready for a shot on the big league roster.

Breakout Pick: Ernesto Mejia. I think this guy is going to mash this season for the Naturals and at some point will join Ka'aihue in first base duties with the O-Royals.

Wilmington Blue Rocks Preview

This will be the second of my four previews for the full season minor league teams. For each team I am going to give a brief prediction on each of the team's top five prospects and then pick a player to have a breakout season. Now for the Wilmington Blue Rocks:

1) Mike Montgomery- I predict domination. After several great starts in Wilmington he will receive a promotion to double a, where he will join Aaron Crow at the front end of the Natural rotation.

2) Tim Melville- I expect Melville's numbers to improve this season in Wilmington, and the only thing that could prevent him from a late season call up is the lack of a spot in the Naturals rotation. Melville's spike in strikeouts at the end of last season will continue into 2010 and he will jump into the top 100 prospects heading into the 2011 season.

3) Eric Hosmer- I expect Hosmer to greatly improve this season. I expect Hosmer to post solid, but not spectacular numbers for the first half of the season, and then receive a midseason promotion to double A, where he will really begin to breakout.

4) Noel Arguelles- I don't know what to expect from this guy, but I will make a guess. I think he will post decent numbers, but not as strong as Melville's. However, since he is on the major league roster I think he will get a promotion to double A, faster than his numbers would typically warrant.

5) Chris Dwyer- I think Dwyer is going to really struggle at times in Wilmington's rotation. Supposedly he has good stuff, but he has yet to turn that stuff into good results. I think he continues to follow this trend and will post an era over 4 in 2010.

Breakout Pick: I was tempted to select Salvador Perez, but he struggled to hit in Burlington last season, so I don't have much reason to think that he will hit better in the toughest hitter's park in the minors this season. Instead I am going to go with Jason Taylor. Throughout his career Taylor is one of the only Royals that have exhibited strong plate judgement, good power, and the ability to steal bases. He hasn't done it all in one season, but I have a hunch that this will be the year. I'd like to see Taylor moved to left where he could advance quickly given the organization's lack of corner outfield prospects. But instead he will likely stay at third for 2010. Taylor is an advanced hitter and I expect big things from him this season.

Burlington Bees Preview

This will be the first of my four previews for the full season minor league teams. For each team I am going to give a brief prediction on each of the team's top five prospects and then pick a player to have a breakout season. Let's start with the Burlington Bees:

1) Wil Myers- Like Moustakas and Hosmer, Myers will be assigned to full season Burlington for his first full season under team control. I expect Myers to post a higher average and on base than both of the aforementioned players, but less home runs than Moustakas. I also expect a midseason promotion to Wilmington as the Royals push him along in an attempt to catch him up with that first wave of talent.

2) John Lamb- John Lamb informed me several weeks ago that he would be the opening day starter for the Bees. Lamb is an extremely advanced pitcher for his age and level, so I expect him to post strong numbers early on, earning a late season promotion to Wilmington.

3) Tyler Sample- Sample has high upside, but I am skeptical that he will be able to repeat his delivery consistently enough to find the command needed for success. I expect Sample to spend the entire season in Burlington mixing dominating starts, with starts where he can't find the plate.

4a) Kelvin Herrera- After pitching well in Burlington in 2008, the Royals played it conservative with Herrera in 2009 after a shoulder injury. Herrera just managed 5 shutout innings. I expect Herrera to begin the season in Burlington and show that he is fully recovered from his injury by dominating the Low A competition early in the season. He's still young and the Royals could play it very conservative with him this year as well, but a quick promotion to Wilmington wouldn't shock me either.

4b) Keaton Hayenga- Hayenga isn't on the opening day roster for the Bees, but I'm sure that the Royals are holding him back in extended Spring Training in an attempt to limit his innings. I expect Hayenga to pitch consistently in Burlington, but not good enough to warrant any promotion mid season.

5) Hilton Richardson- I expect Richardson's average to drop off from the .292 he hit last year, probably down to the .265-.275 range. But I do think he will show more pop this season. Richardson has the tools, but he was aided by an extremely high BABIP in 2009.

Breakout Pick: Matt Mitchell has already pitching one good year int he Midwest League and I expect him to return to post even stronger numbers. Since Mitchell has already proven once that he can be successful in low A, I think his return has more to do with proving he has recovered from injury than proving his skills. Mitchell could receive a quick promotion to Wilmington if he can prove that his stuff has returned after a season ending injury a year ago.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Baird versus Moore

Okay so while the bullpen was blowing a 7th inning lead, a thought crossed my mind and that was that the most critical players on the 2010 roster are "Allard Baird guys." So I decided to take this thought a step farther and construct a roster built solely on Allard Baird players that could still be under team control for 2010 had they not been either traded or released by the current regime. So let's compare the two rosters and you can be the judge on which would win more baseball games. Keep in mind that Allard Baird hasn't been the Gm for almost four years now, which means that this wouldn't be our roster had David Glass not decided to go with "The Process" as opposed to "The Plan." Just to stay consistent I'm going to reference CHONE's 2010 projections throughout this piece. I am selecting this projector because it is the only system on fangraphs that projects WAR.

Catchers: Moore's bunch has Jason Kendall starting behind the plate with Brayan Pena as the backup. Kendall comes in with a .245/.316/.305 triple slash line with 2 home runs and 5 steals. His WAR is 0.7. Pena projects to hit .282/.326/.415 with 7 home runs and a Wins Above Replacement of 1.4. So according to Chone this year's catcher tandem projects to notch 2.1 wins above replacement.

Baird's bunch features starter John Buck. Buck was released this offseason both to save money and improve the team's defense and game calling. Ironically Buck will now make less than Kendall in 2010 and the Blue Jays have emphasized his defense and game calling as reasons for his signing. Buck projects to hit .224/.294/.395 with 14 home runs, 49 rbis and a WAR of 0.9. The backup catcher for Buck was a little more difficult to find and the best I can do is Omaha catcher Cody Clark. Although I would wager my 2010 Kansas City Royals World Series tickets that Allard Baird would have continued his rotation of a veteran journeyman backup. Surprisingly CHONE does have a projection for Clark and he comes in with a triple slash of .238/.287/.360 with a WAR of 0.2. Virtually Cody Clark is the mythical replacement player. So in total Buck and Clark come in with a WAR of 1.1.

First Base: This position features the same player for both rosters: Billy Butler. Butler is projected to .307/.372/.478 with 17 home runs, 83 Rbis, and a WAR of 2.3. While Moore hasn't had time to develop and reap the benefits of his own top picks, he has been able to do so with Butler and a couple of other guys that will be discussed later.

Second Base: Starting for the Moore bunch is sophomore Chris Getz. Getz was acquired via trade this offseason for Mark Teahen. Chone projects Getz at .275/.338/.370 with 4 homers, 34 rbis, 14 steals and a WAR of 1.5.

Starting for the Baird squad is Ruben Gotay. Gotay signed a minor league deal this offseason with the Cardinals after posting some good numbers last year in triple A Oklahoma City. Chone projects Gotay at .248/.358/.374 with 6 homers, 34 rbis, 3 steals, and 1.1 WAR.

Third Base: Moore's bunch is led by another Baird first round pick that he never got to enjoy, but then again neither has Dayton Moore really. Anyway at third base is perennial breakout player Alex Gordon. Gordon's projected to hit .265/.353/.435 with 14 home runs, 54 rbis, 9 steals and a WAR of 2.6. How many of you just noticed that Gordon's WAR is higher than Billy Butler? Yet to the point Gordon is a bust and Butler is an emerging superstar in the eyes of Royals fans, but I digress.

Short Stop: Moore's squad features the blogosphere's favorite whipping boy Yuni Betancourt. While I'm sure that scouts would strongly disagree, Betancourt is projected to hit a mean .272/.303/.387 with 7 homers, 50 rbis, 4 steals, and a WAR of 0.3.

Baird's 6 hole would feature Mike Aviles, who was almost famously snagged for $1,000 during the Royals penny pinching days. CHONE projects Mike to hit .270/.305/.403 with 9 homers, 47 rbis, 5 steals and a WAR of 1.4.

Left Field: In left field for Moore is offseason acquisition Scott Podsednik. Podsednik's coming off a career year with Chicago and is projected to hit .275/.336/.368 with 4 homers, 34 rbis, 20 steals and a WAR of 1.0.

In Baird's outfield David DeJesus would line up in center and wouldn't shift after such a stellar defensive season. DeJesus projects to hit .278/.351/.410 with 11 homers, 64 rbis and a WAR of 2.7.

Center Field: After fans thought the outfield picture was complete for 2010, but then Dayton Moore signed Rick Ankiel to a 3+ million dollar deal. For that money CHONE projects the Royals to get back a line of .241/.296/.415 with 17 homers and 57 rbis and a WAR of 1.0.

Always forced to be more cost effective than his counterpart Allard Baird would be paying over 2.5 million dollars less for Mitch Maier to start in center. Not only do many scouts see Maier as a superior option for the Royals, but so does the CHONE projection system. CHONE projects Maier at .262/.326/.368 with 6 homers, 44 rbis, 7 steals and a WAR of 1.6.

Right Field: Moore has elected to push DeJesus and his average but accurate arm to right for 2010. DeJesus projects at a WAR of 2.7.

Baird's lineup features another player no longer with the organization in right: Mark Teahen. Teahen projects at .263/.324/.424 with 16 homers, 65 rbis, 7 steals and a WAR of 1.5 in 2010.

Designated Hitter: About 28 months ago Dayton Moore signed Jose Guillen to a $36 mill contract that has since become an albatross to the organization. Guillen is forced to play DH and gets the nod here over Callaspo because he is making so much more money. Guillen is projected to hit .254/.309/.398 with 13 homers, 62 rbis and a WAR of -0.3. Is he the least cost effective player in the majors? Yes.

At DH for Baird's bunch is blocked prospect Kila Ka'aihue. Royals scouts have been quoted as saying that he has slider bat speed, but if that makes him more selective at the plate then maybe that isn't such a bad thing. If he can hit 90 mph heat in the minors then so what if he can't catch up to mid 90's heat in the majors because most of the time he won't need to anyway. Ka'aihue projects to hit .240/.353/.388 with a WAR of 0.5.

Bench: We've already mentioned Brayan Pena but also for Moore's squad there is Willie Bloomquist (0.6 WAR), Alberto Callaspo (1.7 WAR), and Mitch Maier (1.6). I didn't include Mike Aviles because someone wasn't going to make the cut so I pushed him down since he has options. Also, Josh Fields didn't make the cut.

Cody Clark has already been discussed, but Baird's bench would also feature Esteban German (0.9 WAR), Andres Blanco (0.7 WAR), and Shane Costa (no WAR available so we will go with 0.0).

Rotation: Since CHONE fails to predict WAR for pitcher, I'm going to take the fans projections here. Moore's rotation features Zack Greinke (6.8 WAR), Gil Meche (2.5 WAR), Luke Hochevar (2.5 WAR), Brian Bannister (2.8 WAR), and Kyle Davies (0.9 WAR).

Now for Baird's rotation. I had a hard time even finding starting pitchers that would qualify and so there are a few guys here that are more bullpen guys, but we are going to stick them in the rotation just for this post. Baird probably would have signed an over the hill veteran or two to fill these spots anyway. Zack Greinke (6.8 WAR), Billy Buckner (1.5 WAR), Dusty Hughes (0.0 WAR, none available), Bobby Keppel (0.0 WAR), and Denny Bautista (0.0 WAR).

There is no position where improvement is more obvious than the starting pitching. Baird's teams always were terrible in this regard and while Moore's aren't stellar there are definite strides that have been made. Moore promised to build a team around pitching and defense and so far it seems that in at least half of that there is work being done.

Bullpen: Moore's pen includes Joakim Soria (2.0 WAR) which automatically is going to make it stronger than anything that Baird can assemble. The rest of the parts are Kyle Farnsworth (0.2 WAR), Juan Cruz (0.3 WAR), Roman Colon (0.0 WAR), Robinson Tejeda (1.6 WAR), John Parrish (0.0 WAR), and Luis Mendoza (0.0 WAR). I edged Dusty Hughes off the roster because he had options.

Baird's pen has Leo Nunez (0.0), J.P Howell (1.2 WAR), Joe Nelson (0.0 WAR), Carlos Rosa (0.0 WAR), Chris Hayes (0.0 WAR), Blake Wood (0.0 WAR), Chris Nicoll (0.0 WAR). Obviously several of these parts could provide negative WARs due to lack of major league experience, but also I'm not convinced that they couldn't produce higher WAR than several of the guys on the big league pen this season.

So the final tally is:
Moore's Squad= 36.7
Baird's Bunch= 25.9

When I started this project I had no idea what sort of results I would come up with. I liked the sound of the Baird line up primarily because Aviles, Ka'aihue and Maier were all in the starting line up. But I knew that the Baird group would struggle mightily with pitching. The optimist in me says that if Betancourt and/or Guillen struggle enough they could be permanently replaced by Aviles and/or Ka'aihue and if Ankiel becomes Mike Jacobs part two then Mitch Maier can step into his spot, because all three of these guys are still under team control. By the way, I like the Ankiel deal when it happened, but if he does become Mike Jacobs part two I will be the first calling for Maier to take over the starting centerfield job.

I think that this post could be taken the wrong way and as a diss against the current administration, because the top performers are guys that Baird originally acquired. However, if Moore was fired after next season the same could be said four years after that about the new administration. The fact is that Moore isn't going to be able to go out and sign top caliber talent, and for this organization to have top caliber talent it has to be homegrown. Time will tell if Moore's work on the farm will pay the dividends that the fans hope for and the front office expects.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Maybe I am Dreaming

"Greinke into the windup. Swing and miss! The Kansas City Royals have done the impossible and are the World Champions of baseball!"

The words had been going through my head all night long. I don't think that I slept a wink. It had to have been a dream! I sat up groggily in my bed and looked around the room, blue and white streamers hung from all corners of the room. I saw a poster on the wall exclaiming the Royals to be American League champions. So they won the pennant, okay. But could this team have really won the world series? I thought back to just eight months ago when nearly every publication was predicting this team to finish dead last in the division. I did recall an article in baseball america that predicted the Royals to have won of the top rotations in baseball. Man, they were right.

Unbelievably Greinke with his fully developed changeup was able to post a sub 2 era for the season with 23 wins. The guy is a lock for back to back Cy Youngs. But the truly incredible thing about the rotation was the way in which everything seemed to fall into place. After giving Royals fans a scare to start the season, Gil Meche was able to put together a healthy season, while making the sort of Chris Carpentar jump that GM Dayton Moore was hoping for when he signed him to a club record deal. After 2009 I couldn't have imagined that Meche would post 17 wins in 2010. Even more surprising than Meche, was Hochevar's 2010. He finally lived up to that top pick potential when he posted an era of 3.46 for the season and won 15 games. Bannister provided a sub 4 era and won 12 games. Davies started the season with typical Kyle Davies results and when the Royals were unable to deal for a starter at the deadline Aaron Crow answered the call. Crow was just filthy down the stretch and provided the spark that was needed to win a tight AL Central race.

The starter's work would have been irrelevant though had it not been for the resurgence of the Kansas City bullpen. It just seemed like all season long the Royals were able to find quality arms to fill the back end. Soria led the league in saves and was virtually unhittable down the stretch and in the playoffs. But also, Cruz returned to form and posted a 2.08 era, Farnsworth was average in middle relief and Tejeda and Colon were amongst the league leaders in holds. All throughout the season players like Carlos Rosa, Blake Wood, Louis Coleman, Brandon Sisk and Chris Hayes were able to step in when injuries struck. Wood and Hayes even stuck and were on the postseason roster and were critical down the stretch. Wood with his power stuff and Hayes with his groundball rate. One Royals blogger even nicknamed the duo fire and earth. Wood fire because of his fastball, and Hayes Earth because that is were the ball is going after contact is made.

One game! That's all that separated the boys in blue from the Minnesota Twins after the Royals swept the Twins in the last week of the season. Fortunately, the Royals continued their streak and took 3 out of 4 from Tampa Bay, while the Twins continued to collapse allowing the Royals to edge them out by one game for the division title.

Had the Royals not gotten off to such a slow start offensively perhaps this late rally wouldn't have been needed. The Royals started out just 10-15 in April. The good news though is that is when Alex Gordon finally decided it was time to live up to the hype. He started out the season on a rehab assignment in triple A and then got off to a slow start in his first couple of weeks back, many fans were even wanting his starting job to be handed over to Alberto Callaspo. But then things just clicked and Gordon erupted. Gordon finished the season with 26 homers and 92 rbis with a triple slash of .286/.374/.512. But what people will never forget is Gordon's walkoff home run in game five of the ALDS off of Papelbon. It wasn't Gordon's longest home run of the year but it didn't just wrap around the Pesky pole either. The sight of Papelbon bowing his head as the ball left the bat will forever be etched into my memory.

It was a good thing that Gordon was able to breakout because Lord knows the offense needed it in 2010. Other than Gordon there was of course Billy Butler who batteled all season long for the batting title with Joe Mauer. Unfortunately Mauer claimed it in the last week of the season, but that's okay, I'm sure Butler was happier with a division title. David DeJesus posted a normal season, Ankiel was in 2008 form, and Scott Podsednik was able to repeat his 2009 performance, that is until he was injured in early August. Luckily for the Royals though David Lough was ready to step into the fold. Lough didn't post all-star numbers in left, but he was able to provide solid contact with an occasional homerun or stolen base that always seemed to come at a key moment. Needless to say he was an instant fan favorite in Kansas City. In September and throughout the playoffs a dedicated group of women even nicknamed themselves "Lough's Ladies" and wore pick t-shirts to every game with his face printed on to the fronts.

As the offense struggled early on and Gordon became a fixture at third Callaspo overtook Getz at second. Getz stayed on the roster as a defensive replacement and pinch runner and did an excellent job at it making diving stops in the late innings and stealing bases in tight games. Catcher was the weakest spot offensively, but there is a lot to be said for the work Jason Kendall did with the pitching staff in 2010 and when Pena was traded at the deadline for a left handed reliever Manny Pina was called up to the Major League roster after having a breakout performance in the minors.

The other major development for the offense during the 2010 season was when Guillen hit the DL in late April. Kila Ka'aihue was called up in his spot and Trey Hillman implemented a platoon between him and Josh Fields. However, it wasn't long before Ka'aihue was the everyday man. After this happened the offense performed at a respectable level for the rest of the season. At the beginning of the year it looked as though the order would have no pop, but by the end of the season Gordon, Butler, Ankiel, and Ka'aihue had all hit over 20 home runs. From the All-star break on the Royals played over .600 baseball and in the end finished with 89 wins.

The team was a huge underdog in the first round against the Eastern division champion Boston Red Sox. But the Royals dispatched them in five games after a dramatic come from behind victory in the final inning. The next round the Royals faced the New York Yankees and older Royals fans were reminded of what was once a great rivalry in a fiercely competitive series. Farnsworth was even ejected in game three after throwing at Alex Rodriguez. Tensions were high after the pitch and while no punches were thrown cameras revealed that Farnsworth was able to spit on A-Rod's ear while both were being restrained. The Royals won the series in six and thanks to Zack Greinke not allowing a run in either of his two starts. In the final game Hochevar struggled but Crow was able to pitch 4 shut out innings of relief handing the ball to Soria for the games final three outs. I think Yankees captain Derek Jeter is still surprised that the 65 mph curveball didn't hit him on that strike three looking to end the game.

In the World Series Greinke continued to dominate, but the offense really came alive. Butler hit over .500 for the five game series and Gordon hit a towering drive in the first inning of game one that hit off the sports bar in right field at the New K. The tone was set in the Royals never looked back. The Royals scored twenty-seven runs in five games off of a Giants staff that was believed by some to be the top rotation in baseball.

I can't believe the season is over, but I can't wait for 2011. There is a lot to be excited for in Royals land. Moustakas, Hosmer, and Myers are on the horizon and top pitching prospect Mike Montgomary could push for the rotation. Not to mention the fact that the Royals just signed Bryce Haper for a club record $11.5 million dollar bonus. He only won the triple crown in rookie league Idaho Falls. The Royals are defending Champs and the core will all be back. It is a Royal Revival.