Enemy Lines

A rival scout sizes up the ROYALS

They finally got over .500 last year, and they might contend this year, but losing Ervin Santana hurts. They signed JASON VARGAS, and he throws strikes and pitches with confidence—but he's a finesse pitcher. With Vargas and BRUCE CHEN, that's too many similar guys in one rotation.... It starts and ends with pitching with the Royals. JAMES SHIELDS is one of the top starters in the league—tough, dependable, at least a No. 2 for any club.... YORDANO VENTURA might be listed as 6 feet, but he's closer to 5' 10". There aren't many starters that height. He hits 97 to 100 mph, but does he have the durability and stamina to stay in the rotation? He might be better off as a reliever like KELVIN HERRERA.... I wasn't a big fan of GREG HOLLAND when he first started—he's 5' 10", has a stout build, threw uphill. But he's mastered his breaking ball and has a top-shelf split-finger. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference because they both sink so much.... ERIC HOSMER learned to make adjustments at the plate last year. He's ready to become a perennial All-Star....MIKE MOUSTAKAS, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be able to make adjustments. They might have to platoon him with DANNY VALENCIA.... BILLY BUTLER is better when he hits 20-plus home runs than when he goes for 30. He's more of a line-drive, gap-to-gap hitter—reminds me of Mike Sweeney.... SALVADOR PEREZ is one of the best catchers in the American League. Next to Yadier Molina, he's the best catcher in baseball.... KYLE ZIMMER is on the horizon: He could be in the rotation as soon as May or June.

The Lineup

2014 Projected Statistics and Run Totals by ROTOWIRE.COM

[originallink:10897836:1012605]

PROJECTED RUNS SCORED

500

ROYALS 674

AL AVERAGE 694

PROJECTED RUNS ALLOWED

500

ROYALS 711

AL AVERAGE 707

Modest Proposal

With the trade for outfielder NORICHIKA AOKI and the signing of second baseman OMAR INFANTE, manager NED YOST has crafted a more traditional lineup, with those two atop it and ALEX GORDON dropped to the number 5 slot. This brings to Kansas City the debate that has raged in Cincinnati for the past few years: Where should your best hitter bat? Statheads say the ideal spot is second, where a great hitter will get 15--20 plate appearances over a season that he wouldn't get batting third. Infante, 32, is a fair hitter—.288/.318/.414 since 2011—but he's no Gordon and he's no ERIC HOSMER. While batting Infante second "looks" right, it makes for a less dangerous lineup. The three-four-five-six-seven of Hosmer, BILLY BUTLER, Gordon, SALVADOR PEREZ and MIKE MOUSTAKAS should be shifted up one spot each, with Infante seventh. The Royals, whose offense was a weak link last year, need to squeeze out all the runs they can by getting their best hitters more at bats.

PHOTOANDREW HANCOCK FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PEREZ)Salvador Perez PHOTOMARK DUNCAN/AP (SHIELDS)James Shields PHOTO TWO CHARTS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)