Roto Arcade

Pressing Questions: The Kansas City Royals

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Future journalism stars (USAT)

Maybe it's a monumental coincidence, but Kansas City has proven to be the breeding ground for a number of important baseball scribes of the modern era. Bill James, Jeff Passan, Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli come to mind. When it comes to baseball writing per capita, Kansas City has the best pen around.

If it's baseball players you want, well, that's another story. The Royals haven't seen the playoffs since 1985 (a champagne season, thanks Denkinger), and they've only had one winning season in the last ten (to be fair, it was last year).

[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

Something has to give with this year's model. The club won 86 games last year and it's improved the win total in four straight seasons. If the trend continues, they'll probably be a playoff club in 2014. That said, Vegas expects a win total around 81 this year, while Clay Davenport and Joe Sheehan both expect a 77-victory season. And you never know when manager Ned Yost (boom, Yosted) will do something to fritter away a game or a series.

Only seven Royals show up in the Top 200 players for fantasy basball 2014, so this isn't a club overflowing with stat overlords. The Royals are probably more anonymous than awesome as we head into the new season. Nonetheless, they get the car wash like everyone else, and maybe we can find something of interest.

Q: How soon is now for Eric Hosmer?

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A: While it's almost impossible to pinpoint how much coaching matters in professional sports, it's interesting to note how Hosmer's 2013 season improved the moment George Brett started tutoring the KC batters. Hosmer had a puny .262/.323/.331 slash when Brett made the move; from that point forward, Hosmer was a .317/.365/.492 stick, with 16 homers. Hosmer wasn't even a Top 40 fantasy first baseman for the first two months of the year, but he was the No. 3 player at the position from June forward (only Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis were more valuable).

The batting coach gig was temporary for Brett and he won't be in that capacity this season. Nonetheless, maybe Hosmer is finally ready to break through and become a star in his fourth season, his age-24 campaign. He's capable of hitting all kinds of pitching (note the .797 slash against lefties in 2013) and his home/road splits are close to even. As much as I love a player like Freddie Freeman (ADP 28.7), maybe it's worth waiting for an option like Hosmer, available on average in the sixth or seventh round.

Q: What's the offensive profile of Kaufman Stadium?

For the most part, it's turned into a neutral yard. Scoring gets a three-percent kick (working off the Bill James Handbook park indices, three-year sample), and batting average accepts a two-percent upgrade. Doubles are slightly more plentiful here, and triples get a whopping 37-percent float.

The missing ingredient at Kaufman Stadium is home runs. They're 14 percent less likely over the last three seasons, with the tax most pronounced against left-handed batters (a loss of 19 percent). Righty sluggers take a 10-percent hit here.

Q: Is Greg Holland worth a heavy closer investment?

A: As much as I hate to use early picks (or big dollar amounts) on relief pitching, I might break the rules for a Holland type. His ridiculous strikeout rate moves the needle in leagues that put a cap on your innings or starts; you need to think K/9 all through the staff in those instances. Holland whiffed 91 batters in 67 innings two years ago, and last year it was 103 punchouts in another 67 innings. He also cut his walk rate by almost 50 percent.

Ned Yost is loyal to his closer - he didn't panic when Holland started slowly in 2013. The Royals aren't likely to win 90-plus games, but this should be a competitive ballclub. Put Holland down for something in this neighborhood: 43 saves, 95 strikeouts, 2.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP. That's probably worth the lofty ADP ticket, currently 71.5 at the Y.

To be fair, roto advice is never "one size fits all." If you're in a league with novices or check-out owners, you can probably assemble your bullpen on a shoestring budget. You'll beat them on the wire. But the more competitive your pool is, the more seriously you have to take the saves chase at the March table. In my better leagues, saves are tricky and difficult to come by.

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Q: What's happened with Mike Moustakas?

A: Here's a good reminder that highly-touted prospects don't always morph into stars overnight (or at all). Moustakas was a marquee staple on all the scouting clipboards from 2008 to 2011, but he's been an ordinary player since hitting the show, with 2013 representing a major step backwards. (Maybe Brett's pixie dust doesn't work for everyone).

Moustakas's .233 average was bad enough last year, but it came with a horrendous .267 OBP and .364 slugging percentage. You can't accept those stats anywhere, especially at a corner infield spot. Left-handed pitching has owned Moustakas all along, to the tune of a .222/.275/.332 slash. He batted .198 against southpaws last season and gave us a lousy line of fantasy stats (.233-42-12-42-2). Every indicator is moving in the wrong direction.

Moustakas knows he's under the gun and he's doing what he can to improve; he played winter ball, dropped some weight. He knows a platoon is possible if he can't solve the left-handers. There's a reason why his ADP sits at 260 through the opening weeks of Yahoo drafts.

If you take a late-round flier on Moustakas, you're chasing upside and pedigree (he was the second overall pick in 2007). He's just 25, and sometimes the light goes on for a player at this part of his career. But I'd hate to select Moustakas as a fantasy starter in 2014, even in a utility corner spot. He's simply a late-round lottery ticket at this juncture, nothing more.

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