Joey Gathright is on the Royals and you know what that means!
That's right, the one and only Joey Gathright can JUMP OVER A CAR!
But really, besides being pretty cool to watch, there isn't a whole lot of benefit that one gets on the baseball field from doing this.
Or is there?
Check this out.
Now that that's out of the way, where are the Royals?
In last year's preview I wrote that the Royals would probably make some progress (71 wins) but still finish in the basement of the AL Central. And they did finish in last place and improve (from 62 to 69 wins). While not a win total you would normally get excited about, they did avoid a 4th straight 100+ loss season.
The Royals brought in manager Trey Hillman from Japan. Everything I've read seems to indicate that this was at worst a solid move, and potentially a great hire. It certainly beats recycling bad managers.
Gil Meche RHP
Brian Bannister RHP
Zack Greinke RHP
Brett Tomko RHP
Mike Maroth LHP
Jorge De La Rosa LHP
Joakim Soria RHP
Apparently Dayton Moore knows what he's doing here. Meche was the big signing in 2007 on what looked to be a questionable move. He performed well, stayed healthy, and now looks like a relative bargain with 4 years and about $44 million left on the contract. Bannister was brought to the Royals in exchange for Ambiorix Burgos and put up a 121 ERA+ in 165 innings. He also is one of the most interesting players out there (seriously, read the links). The closer, Joakim Soria, was a Rule 5 pick. Not a bad trio of pitchers to acquire, especially when two of them could have been acquired by most teams for very little.
David DeJesus CF
Mark Grudzielanek 2B
Jose Guillen LF
Mark Teahan RF
Billy Butler DH
Ryan Shealy 1B
Alex Gordon 3B
John Buck C
Tony Pena Jr. SS
The players to really watch here are Butler and Gordon. They both could be All Star level players and their success will probably be the biggest factor in how the Royals do this year. The Royals need to figure out what they have in DeJesus, Teahan, Shealy and Pena. They're young enough to improve, but maybe not good enough (or healthy enough) to be everyday players on a playoff level team. Guillen was the Royals' big free agent signing, but he doesn't figure to be around on the next +.500 Royal team. Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to improve.
And coming off the bench is high jumper Joey Gathright!
So what does 2008 hold? Probably a little more of the same. Gradual improvement, but nothing to make you think they'll sniff .500 this year. The Royals figure to gain some ground on the White Sox and Twins, but unless one of those two really fall apart it looks like another last place finish (of course the White Sox were only 3 games better last year). And while they're making progress it seems like they're still a really long way to catching the Indians and Tigers. Like any team the key will be to obtain top young talent (#3 pick in this year's draft), develop it, and then sign them to long term contracts. Best case scenario for the Royals is that they're probably 2 years behind where the Tampa Bay Rays are right now.
2008 finish: 72-90, last place in the Central.