In case you had thought I had forgotten about the remaining two clubs in this series -- nope. Just got busy. Catching up, I see this is an appropriate day to profile the Royals, as the Cubs play them in a spring game Tuesday afternoon.
The Royals' amazing run through the 2014 playoffs is well-chronicled, so I won't bore you with that. The question is: Do they have enough for sustained success? Fangraphs thinks not -- they project the Royals to win 78 games. Why is that?
KC returns just about everyone who made that run through the playoffs. Exceptions: Alex Rios replaces Nori Aoki in right field, Kendrys Morales replaces Billy Butler at DH, and Edinson Volquez will be in the rotation in place of the departed James Shields.
The latter is obviously the bigger move. "Big Game James" came up big for the Royals during the regular season, though KC might have won the World Series if he'd been better then (7.20 ERA in two WS starts). Volquez is a perfectly fine starting pitcher -- or, at least he was in 2014 after a horrific 2013 -- but he's no Shields, and he got crushed in the wild-card game last year.
Otherwise, a lot of whether KC can make a repeat trip to the postseason for the first time since the 1980s depends on whether guys like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer can really step up and become the stars the Royals hoped they would be when they used No. 1 picks on them. Hosmer had a fine postseason, but hit only nine homers during the regular season. Moustakas' excellent playoff numbers made many forget that he was bad enough to get sent to Triple-A for a while in 2014.
The Royals outperformed their Pythagorean projection by five games in 2014 and it's well-known that teams that do that tend to regress in the following year. For all the Royals' great pitching in 2014, they finished 12th in the major leagues in runs allowed and were in the middle of the pack in run-scoring (651, 14th). First in steals, they were last in home runs (the only MLB team to hit fewer than 100 homers). They tried to address the home-run thing by signing Rios and Morales, two men who used to have significant power but who combined hit 12 home runs in over 900 plate appearances in 2014.
In short, this team could go in just about any direction. And I haven't even mentioned Ned Yost yet.
The Cubs will host the Royals May 29-30-31 at Wrigley Field. In the last Cubs/Royals game at Wrigley, Don Baylor was the Cubs' manager, Jason Bere was the winning pitcher and current Cubs broadcaster Ron Coomer was the Cubs' third baseman.