A Look at the Competition: A Twins Fan’s Take on the Kansas City Royals

Note: the following is the first in a series of previews of the Minnesota Twins' divisional rivals in 2012.

Fresh off a 99-loss season in 2011, the Minnesota Twins will look to claw their way back up from the cellar of the American League Central. In their way are four pretty good teams of varying ability.

Here's a look at the teams standing in the Twins way for another division title.

For the first time in almost a decade, the Kansas City Royals weren't the worst team in the division. The Royals will never be confused with the Yankees or Red Sox, but over the past few seasons they have improved steadily, but at a snail's pace.

The Royals have a young core of players at the big league level led by Alcides Escobar and Billy Butler. Plus, they have a minor league system full of top draft picks that are the end result of bad seasons in the majors.

Pitching has always seemed to be an issue in Kansas City. Anytime the Royals get a good pitcher, whether it's Zack Greinke or Brett Saberhagen, they never reap the rewards of nurturing them as young players. The Royals can develop great hurlers; they just can't keep them once they become successful.

This season , the Royals will need to find stability from their starting staff. After Bruce Chen, the talent level and experience is noticeably lacking.

Last season, the Twins went 10-8 against the Royals. The Royals were the only team in the division the Twins had a winning record against. In fact, the Royals and Texas Rangers were the only American League teams the Twins posted winning records against.

The Twins avoid an early April trip to Kansas City where the weather can be dicey. However, they do get the Royals at home in late April, but by then the weather shouldn't be a factor.

While finishing ahead of the Royals shouldn't be hard to do, it certainly is just a small step on the Twins' path to reclamation.

Blair Reynolds is a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan who once, on a dare, ate a dome dog for every run the Twins scored in an 11-2 rout of the Kansas City Royals.

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Updated Friday, Mar 23, 2012