KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite a slow start from the bats in Detroit, there’s a palpable excitement about the 2014 Kansas City Royals. Many fans and experts are expecting the Royals to compete for a playoff spot in the American League and perhaps push the Tigers for the American League Central title.
The Royals look to get in the win column Friday as the team hosts the Chicago White Sox in its home opener, first pitch is set for 3:10 p.m. FOX 4 is Working for You to help provide information you need before you head out to the K on Friday or during upcoming games during the opening homestand. FOX 4 Sports has also provided a list of things to watch as the Royals look to build on a winning season in 2013 and crack the postseason for the first time since 1985.
Keys to the Royals’ success in 2014:
Will the Royals get the same quality from its pitchers in 2014 as it did in 2013? According to Fangraphs, Royals’ pitching posted a 19.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as a collective group in 2013, fourth best in MLB. In order to approach that mark again, free agent acquisition Jason Vargas will have to pitch as well as he did in his first start as a Royal to replace Ervin Santana’s production and someone in the bullpen will need to step up in the absence of Luke Hochevar. Maligned as a starter, Hochevar seemed to figure it out after being moved to the bullpen, where he posted a 1.92 ERA in 58 games in 2013.
Young arms: Fans are abuzz about Yordano Ventura after an impressive spring, both he and Danny Duffy will be crucial to the pitching staff’s success. Look out for Kyle Zimmer to contribute after the All-Star break.
Score more runs: The Royals simply can’t afford to be last in the American League in home runs. They won’t lead the league in home runs, but they have to find a way to score another 100 runs, and more long balls will aid that effort.
Mike Moustakas: It’s a make-or-break year for Moose. The third baseman must improve at the plate in 2014 after a dismal 2013 where he posted a .233/.287/.364 split for batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage. He’s yet to collect a base hit in the first two games of the year, and a lively bat from him will invigorate the lineup.
Aoki and Infante: The top of the batting order should be better with these two additions. If they can get on consistently, Hosmer, Butler and Gordon need to take advantage. They should help set the table as Norichika Aoki reached base at a .356 clip in 2013 and Omar Infante was close to that number, posting a .345 on base percentage.
Stay within reach of the Detroit Tigers: Already dropped two games behind the team they are expected to chase in the AL Central.
Stress Test looms at the end of the regular season: If the Royals can stay within reach of the Tigers or within reach of either of the final two AL Wild Card playoff spots, it’s likely to come down to the wire. September’s schedule is brutal, featuring three games against the Texas Rangers, four against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox and six against the Tigers. Then the Royals take the show on the road for the final seven games where they will play in Cleveland against the Indians before closing the season with four games at Chicago against the White Sox. If the Royals make the playoffs, a winning run in September will have proved they belong.