By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
By Jeff Stotts, ATC, Special to

The Royals' medical staff followed up a strong 2010 with an even better '11, winning trainer Nick Kenney and his staff the Dick Martin Award and vaulting the team into the upper echelon of our rankings. With a crop of young talent, Kenney must continue to foster good relationships with these players to insure they know how to manage their bodies during a grueling 162-game season. Veterans Jeff Francouer and Alex Gordon will be counted on to help with this development, given their success with the staff's direction. But there are concerns: closer Joakim Soria remains the only green pitcher here, and Kenney will need to learn the ways of new pitching coach Dave Eiland. Previous DMA winners, including the White Sox, Brewers and Phillies, have managed to turn groups of healthy prospects into winning ballclubs, and the Royals will have the opportunity to replicate that previous success.

Health Keys: Continue to keep young talent on the field while protecting the veteran players needed to provide discipline and leadership.

(HEAD TRAINER: Nick Kenney; FIVE YEAR RANK: 17; 2011 RANK: 3)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
1B Eric Hosmer
The most promising talent on a roster dominated by youth, Hosmer finishing in the team's Top-5 for home runs, RBIs and average despite spending the first month of the season at Triple-A. He?s avoided injury throughout his career and is poised for a big year in 2012.

CF Lorenzo Cain
The Royals likely will hand over the center field position to Cain, one of the primary pieces acquired in the Zack Greinke deal. A sprained MCL in '10 season has not slowed him down on the base paths.

Also Green:
SS Alcides Escobar
RF Jeff Francouer
DH Billy Butler
CL Joakim Soria
2B Johnny Giavotella
Giavotella was a late-season call-up but needed offseason hip surgery to repair a torn acetabular labrum. The tear was small and the Royals feel confident in Giavotella's ability to bounce back. The success rate for second basemen returning from similar procedures is reasonably high, such as Chase Utley, but still worth some pause moving forward. Giavotella is perhaps the only Royals prospect who remains under the radar, if you're not counting on his minor league speed.

3B Mike Moustakas
A strong September hinted at Moustakas' potential but it remains to be seen if he can produce consistently. He's avoided serious injury so far, making his yellow ranking a bit surprising, though the System prefers "show" to "tell." If you are looking for an up-and-comer to man the hot corner, you can't do much better than Moustakas.

LF Alex Gordon
Gordon's career finally took a step in the right direction in '11 largely because he was able to avoid the disabled list despite a move to the outfield. He put his '10 hip surgery in the rearview mirror but has amassed too many injuries to completely ignore. It's amazing how many "comebacks" and "late bloomers" are just guys staying healthy for the first time.

SP Luke Hochevar
Hochevar has a powerful arm that has faded down the stretch in previous years. He looked much improved last season, posting respectable splits (3.52 ERA, 1.3 WHIP) following the All-Star break. His history of elbow issues will play a role in his future success as he enters camp as the team's top starter.

SP Jonathan Sanchez
A troublesome sprained ankle ended his '11 season in August but saved him from finishing in the top five in walks allowed for a third consecutive season. Pitching in Kauffman Stadium could ease Sanchez's transition to the American League but his control has to improve if he is going to be successful this year.

SP Bruce Chen
Chen put together a solid '11, leading the team with 12 wins. He relies on his slider, utilizing it 28 percent of the time last season. History tells us that pitchers who become over-reliant on breaking pitches like the slider have higher tendencies for elbow injuries, which elevates Chen's risk moving forward.

SP Felipe Paulino
Leaving Colorado for the expansive Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City helped improve his numbers but his injury history still looms in the background. Shoulder injuries, including tendinitis, bursitis and a pinched nerve have limited Paulino throughout his young career.

C Salvador Perez
It's normal to see a catcher turn up red given the physical demands playing behind the plate requires, but it was a bit unexpected to see a 21-year-old prospect receive the grade. However, his 130 games in '11 marked the first time in his career he's played over 100 games, raising a question if he can shoulder the load for an entire season.

SP Aaron Crow
The Royals' decision to turn Crow into a relief pitcher was extremely successful, as he was selected to the All-Star Game. However, the acquisition of Jonathan Broxton means there is a good chance Crow returns to the rotation, where he has struggled. He's bound to throw more than the 62 innings he pitched last season, leaving his shoulder vulnerable to injury.

RP Jonathan Broxton
Broxton struggled in '11 and suffered an elbow injury that ultimately required surgery to remove a bone spur and several loose bodies. Shoulder and back injuries also played a factor, which makes his acquisition a bit puzzling given the success Crow had last season. If Broxton can't shake the injury bug then the Royals could be left, well, eating crow.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer and writes regularly for Rotowire.

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