Another year, another last place finish.
The Royals recent track record is ugly - three straight years with 100+ losses and 11 of the past 12 seasons under .500. So will this year be any different?
When you play in the same division as the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and Indians you're going to have to be really good to crack .500. The Royals aren't nearly at that point. However, they are a little more interesting this year. As the year progressed in 2006 the Royals got better. Of course, they started out 16-47 so it'd be tough to get any worse. However, from that point on (which is around the time Dayton Moore took over as GM) the Royals went 46-53.
Here's some things to watch for the Royals this year:
New Sheriff in Town - Dayton Moore took over as the GM of the Royals during the 2006 season replacing Allard Baird. Moore came from the Braves and supposedly has free reign, whereas Baird reportedly was frequently restricted by the owner. It's a little too early to evaluate the job that Moore has done, but he is highly thought of by his peers.
While it may be too early to judge Moore he certainly isn't afraid to pull the trigger on trades making numerous trades after taking over in mid-season last year. His trade for Ryan Shealy looks like a particularly good one. Outside of their top prospects everyone on the Royals could be traded.
Big Spending - The Royals opened up the purse strings this offseason. When you're a doormat you need to overpay - in both dollars and years - to attract free agents. The Royals did just that signing Gil Meche to a 5 year, $55 million contract. Meche has mixed mediocre results with a history of injuries. He's averaged 161 innings over the past four season in roomy Safeco Field with his best ERA being 4.48 last season. However, his 'stuff' is generally considered to be better than the results he has posted. His signing might go a long way to evaluating Moore as a GM.
The Royals other notable signing was a one year, $5 million deal to Octavio Dotel who will take over the closing duties in Kansas City.
The Tigers had straight 100+ loss seasons in 2002/2003 and were in a similar boat as the current Royal squad. Those Tigers also spent big in the offseason - most notably Pudge Rodriguez - to try to get back credibility. The Royals probably hope that their increased spending and top prospects pay off in a similar manner as the defending AL Champions.
The Kids Are Alright - Speaking of top prospects, the Royals have the consensus (non-Japanese) prospect in all of baseball in Alex Gordon, the #2 pick in the 2005 draft. He should start the season at 3B for the Royals pushing Mark Teahen to the OF.
Another Royal prospect with a big stick is Billy Butler. He has a DH glove but can hit. His top PECOTA comparable is Vernon Wells and Albert Pujols is #4.
On the pitching side the Royals took RHP Luke Hochevar with the top pick of the 2006 draft. He could very well follow the Jered Weaver path to the majors this year.
Zack Attack - No, not the band the gang formed on Saved By the Bell, but the return of Zack Grienke. As you may recall Greinke left the Royals camp in spring training last year. After being diagnosed and treated for depression and social anxiety Greinke returned to the minors pitching 105 solid innings in AA Witchita. He then was recalled by the Royals for a few appearances in September. Here's an interesting story on the situation. Assuming everything continues well for Greinke he should be in the Royal rotation this year. And he's still just 23.