Last season, the Kansas City Royals shocked the world with their World Series run. Taking the Giants to seven games and I would venture to say would have been World Champions had it not been for Madison Bumgarner.
Now the AL Central, a division once ruled by the Detroit Tigers, has new royalty on top of it.
That’s right, the Royals have taken their run from last year and continued it into 2015. I think a lot of people are still a little shocked at how good the Royals have been this season. After all, they lost their “ace” James Shields in the off-season, and replaced him with someone who is now looked at as sort of a journeyman in Edinson Volquez.
But it was the offense of the Royals that has taken people by storm. Eric Hosmer has been steady as a rock at first, delivering big hit after big hit. Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez have been wreaking havoc on AL pitching, and before he got hurt, Alex Gordon was proving he was a key member of this team.
The additions of Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios cannot be discounted either, but the biggest difference offensively for this team may be the emergence of 3rd baseman Mike Moustakas. They always knew he had the talent, but he hadn’t put it together until last year’s post-season. Then this season Ned Yost stuck him in the #2 slot in the order, and he has been an All-Star.
With a lights out bullpen to go with the stellar offense, the loss of Shields and the sudden fall of young ace Yordano Ventura, were seemingly overcame. Volquez and Danny Duffy have BOTH pitched well, and they have gotten pretty much what they expected out of Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie.
But then the injury bug hit, and Jason Vargas was lost for the season. The Royals called Ventura back from the minors (that’s how bad his season was going that he actually got sent down to Triple A), and in his first start back he dominated.
Not satisfied with just having a stranglehold on the division, the Royals have made the most significant move of this season so far. They reached out to the Cincinnati Reds and plucked their ace Johnny Cueto to lead their rotation. Yes, it cost them Brandon Finnegan, who will turn out to be a damn good pitcher, but for where Cueto will take them this season, it was a risk worth taking.
All the addition of Cueto does is bring a legitimate ace to this staff. Cueto, pitching in a band box that is Great American Ballpark has still managed an ERA of 2.62 with a WHIP of .93, add that to his 120 K’s in 130 innings and you have a guy who can take the ball in Game 7 of the World Series. Moving him from Cincinnati to Kansas City can only help his stuff too.
The Royals were not done with just adding Cueto, oh no, not at all. They then made a move that will be somewhat overlooked, but may just be the smartest move of the deadline. They called up Trader Billy in Oakland and acquired Ben Zobrist for a hefty price including LHP Sean Manaea who has big time stuff and a great arm.
It was a price that was well worth it for the Royals as Zobrist gives them the one thing they didn’t have, flexibility. He can hit anywhere in the line-up from 2-to-7 and play any number of positions in the field. Plugging him in at short or second or even in the OF will not be a downgrade offensively now for KC and it will give them a chance to give extra days off to players. A fact that cannot be discounted as we head into the Dog Days of Summer.
The Royals now have a very flexible and scary offense, and the kind of rotation they haven’t seen in Kansas City since the days of Brett Saberhagen and Mark Gubicza. Now if they can only have the same success that team had, they will be crowned the kings of the baseball world.