By David Sabino
March 18, 2005

The Royals were a hot pick to contend last season after being overachievers in 2003, but those thoughts were quickly squashed. Once Kansas City fell out of the race, it traded away its franchise player, Carlos Beltran. That left a mismatched group of over-the-hill veterans and youngsters not ready for the big leagues.

Long gone are the days of George Brett, Bret Saberhagen or even Beltran. There's no surefire fantasy stud on the Royals. There are some intriguing picks like Zack Greinke, Jose Lima, John Buck and Abraham Nunez but the best player on the team -- for now at least -- is Mike Sweeney. A victim of back troubles the past two seasons, Sweeney has been the subject of trade rumors since the end of last season, with the Rangers the team most often bandied about. Even if he's totally healthy and plays every day, it's hard to imaging him hitting more than 25 home runs or hitting above .300. You're better off looking elsewhere for a big bat.

Third baseman Mark Teahan, 23, was one of the players K.C. received in the Beltran trade and now that projected third sacker Chris Truby has been sidelined for a few months, Teahan will be given a chance. A line-drive hitter with a swing that eventually may translate into power, Teahan is one of the cornerstones for the Royals for the next decade. Should he show that he can handle big league pitching in April and May, he'll be up in the big leagues to stay.

The top three starters for the Royals -- Greinke, Lima and Runelvys Hernandez -- should have rotation spots so long as they remain healthy. Other rotation members aren't as lucky. Players like Denny Bautista, Mike Wood, Kevin Appier, Jimmy Gobble, Dennis Tankersley and Brian Anderson will all get a look but none is a lock. It's best to stay away but if you're in a pinch, Bautista and Wood are the most likely to succeed.

Nunez is a true five-tool player who deserved more of a chance than he got last season with the Marlins. He's slated to platoon with Matt Stairs in right field for the Royals, but don't be surprised if he wins the job all for himself. Given 400-500 at-bats, Nunez would be a 25/25 threat. The only question is will he get the chance?

For a team with little power and an aggressive manager, the Royals don't run enough. Players like Angel Berroa, David DeJesus, Eli Marrero, Nunez, Ruben Gotay and Tony Graffanino all have the ability to steal, they just don't.

Mike MacDougal was an All-Star during his rookie season of 2003, but since then, due to a series of nagging injuries and a stomach virus, his career has been derailed. He's now recovered enough to be flirting with 100 mph on the radar gun again but his control is still suspect. Because of his strikeout potential, he's the choice should Affeldt falter or finds himself on another team altogether.

Stairs, Marrero, Calvin Pickering, DeJesus

Alberto Castillo, Aaron Guiel, Long, Gobble, Graffanino

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