The 2013 season was one that the Kansas City Royals would love to improve on after winning 86 games. This week saw the beginning of spring training for the team in Surprise, AZ as pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 14 and position players followed on Feb. 19. There are five burning questions that must be answered about this Kansas City team before they begin the regular season on March 31 in Detroit against the Tigers.
1. Where does Norichika Aoki fit into the lineup?
Aoki came over in an offseason trade from the Milwaukee Brewers. He is going to be the team’s leadoff hitter where he will bring speed and plenty of hits. He had 171 hits in Milwaukee last season and if Kansas City puts Aoki at the top of the lineup, it should allow the Royals to alternate between left and right-handed hitters through their entire lineup this season. It is a very big addition and one that should pay dividends right away for all the run producers behind him.
2. Who will be the No. 5 starter?
There are many candidates for this position that range from Danny Duffy to Wade Davis to Yordano Ventura. This is a decision that will take all of spring training to decide. Duffy will be making his full season return from Tommy John surgery and showed promise last year, while Davis struggled in his first year with the Royals in 2013. Ventura is a wild card with his ability at just 22 years old. It will likely come down to Duffy and Ventura in the end to see who takes that final starting spot.
3. Will Mike Moustakas finally take the next step?
It was a rough year in 2013 for Moose. He hit just 12 home runs while having only 42 RBI. The Royals are going to be patient with him being just 25 years old but at some point, they are going to be looking for a big improvement out of Moustakas. The team signed Danny Valencia in the offseason and that should bring some pressure on Moustakas to turn it up. There would be no surprise if Valencia takes over at third base if Moustakas has a very slow spring and is slow out of the gate.
4. Will James Shields re-sign with the Royals?
This is a question that would be best answered before Shields takes the ball in Detroit. He is in the final year of a seven-year contract he signed while with the Tampa Bay Rays. It is obvious that Big Game James is someone that Kansas City needs at the top of their rotation right now. The Royals must make their move and try to get Shields under contract for at least two or three years before spring training is over with. He will be expensive, and they will likely shell out more dough than Shields will return in value, but it would be worth it to keep him in town because he is a face of the franchise and their only borderline ace starter.
5. Who is Kansas City’s fantasy sleeper?
Fantasy baseball owners are always looking for the next sleeper candidate. That player on the Royals would be Danny Duffy. He went 2-0 last season with a 1.85 ERA in his return from Tommy John surgery. If he ends up getting the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, he is someone that owners must jump all over in the late rounds of a draft. He has the talent and ability to become a solid starter on fantasy rosters all season long. It would be best to wait until one of the last picks but make it a point to get Duffy there.