Strengths: A win now attitude. Jamie Shields (yeah, knew him and played against him in his high school days, forever Jamie and not James to me) is a free agent after the 2014 season, so the Kansas City Royals will be pushing to make 2014 a winning season. They lose Ervin Santana, but add Jason Vargas, which is pretty much a wash. Yordano Ventura may break camp with the big league team and he could be a true impact arm. The lineup is pretty good too. Salvador Perez is the best catcher most fair weather fans have never heard of. He is excellent defensively and can rake. Emilio Bonafacio and Alicedes Escobar actually make for a solid double play combo, and if Eric Hosmer bounces back, he can combine with Billy Butler for a great middle of the order. In addition, the bullpen is solid, and despite early struggles, Greg Holland was quietly one of the best closers in baseball in 2013.
Weaknesses: Starting pitching depth and outfield. Sheilds, Vargas, and Jeremy Guthrie is a good start to a rotation, but nothing special. Ventura could end up a top of the rotation guy by the end of the year, but he could also fall flat on his face. The Royals need to add at least one more veteran pitcher, maybe even talk to the Boston Red Sox about the excess in starting pitching they have. The Royals also need to add another outfielder. A rotation of Lorenzo Cain, Justin Maxwell, and Jarrod Dyson isn’t ideal, but could be worse in center is below average, but serviceable.
Off-Season Needs: I already mentioned the need for a starting pitcher, but a power bat in right is needed. Until he is signed, any team with a need at first and/or outfield and I will mention Mike Morse, but another interesting target could be Nate McClouth. Neither would cost a ton of money, and both would be an upgrade.
2014 Projection: The Tigers are clearly the cream of the crop in the division and the Indians impressed last year, but the Royals could really contend. Prior to the 2012 season I half-jokingly wrote an article that the Royals would face the Washington Nationals in the 2013 World Series. While that clearly was nowhere near accurate, I was on the right path. Both teams have improved into real contenders, and the Royals could easily get a Wild Card berth, and are only an injury on the Tigers from making a run at the division.
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