White Sox Season Preview 2011 - Know Your AL Central Competition - Kansas City

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This amusing picture probably represents the most memorable contribution Mitch Maier will provide this season // John Sleezer, McClatchy-Tribune

The Royals suffer the ignominy of the first preview because while a lot of positive things could happen for this club this season, winning the division doesn't seem like one of them.  This team is by no means irrelevant, but as a White Sox fan seeking to learn about your club's playoff chances, there becomes a limit of what you need to know at a certain point.

Kansas City is quite young; which traditionally means that they'll quickly stumble and screw-up their way out the playoff race in the early portions of the season, but will be frustratingly difficult when they round into form later in the season.  Then again, the White Sox kinda did that last season too, and they're plenty old.  Baseball is funny.

Unfortunately for the Sox, they play Kansas City just 5 times in the 1st half of the season, and 13 times each in the 2nd half.  Well, screw us, I guess.

The Royals will have as good of a shot as anyone at having the worst record in the league this season.  Let's go ahead and get that out of the way. 

That said, I find their approach to be quite admirable.  KC possesses the best minor-league talent in the game.  Not one of the best, not maybe the best, but THE BEST.  The big league club could be good in 2012, they could be terrifying in 2013.  In two years they could be literally burning our skin off while eating our flesh.  It could be bad.  Or not, prospects don't always work out.

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Aviles owns a .819 career OPS vs. the Sox. You're welcome, Mike. // Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

But they're not quite ready, not for Opening Day at least.  So the Royals have--or at least it very much seems like--constructed the current Major League roster to provide as little hindrance to their hot prospects coming in and getting consistent playing time as possible, while giving one last shot to prove themselves to some of the stalled projects still lying around the clubhouse.

Prime examples of the 'stalled projects' are LF Alex Gordon, SP Luke Hochevar, 1B/DH Kila Ka'aihue, IF Mike Aviles, and what the hell, throw in SP Kyle Davies too.

Gordon and Ka'aihue are both minor-league hitting legends who haven't shown the same pop in the show yet.  Ka'aihue has the added pressure of having to somehow prove his worth over recently extended Billy Butler and 21 year-old incoming prodigy Eric Hosmer.  Hochevar and Aviles don't have star potential, but they're starting quality and have injuries to blame for not being better entrenched.  Aviles merely has to outplay Chris Getz in order to steal the 2B job when Mike Moustakas is promoted.  Kyle Davies gives up dingers, and is bad.

Speaking of Getz at 2B, along with outfielders Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera, he forms a trio of vets who were really bad last season, and don't figure to get better.  Long sigh.

But, if this hasn't been emphasized enough--and I worry about this a lot--The Royals are a major league baseball team, and have some studs on the team.  Joakim Soria is no longer the Mexecutioner (out of sensitivity to the situation in Mexico and the significant possibility that there is some guy named the Mexcutioner, actually Mexecuting people), but is still a rock-solid closer even they need to find him more innings.  Billy Butler is a good hitter who continually threatens to be great if some more of his 96 doubles in the past two seasons clear the fence.  And the last time Jeff Francis was healthy all season, he was a low 4.00 ERA guy with good control.  Not exciting, but a hell of a commodity on this rotation.

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And here's the point where I admit that the Trib's collection of Royals photos kinda sucks // John Sleezer, McClatchy-Tribune

Tim Collins, Robinson Tejeda, and Jeremy Jeffress are all very live arms in the bullpen.  They're young, they could improve their control, and GOOD GOD is Tejeda lucky he pitches in Kaufmann Stadium with his fly ball tendencies, but this doesn't figure to be the crippling weakness it was in 2010, which is good, because there's so much else to take it's place.

While a lot of these players are below-average, Kansas City is almost universally not stuck with them...by design.  For KC, a season-preview might be the most useless for them, as they not so much built a roster to compete in 2011 as they have stacked kindling for a purging fire.  The team that the White Sox will square up against 13 times in the 2nd half will be even younger, and more talented.

They probably still won't be that good, and without a lot of their pitching prospects expected to make the trip to KC until very late in 2010 if at all, the team could give up 5 runs a game for the season.  100 losses might be still be avoided, but if the White Sox aren't playing well over .500 against these guys in the 2nd half, it's unlikely they're worth much of a damn.

  
Confused?  Annoyed?  Read my stat primer.  It's a fun read...at least as far as stat primers go. 

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