Posted: Feb 27, 2014 5:15 PM by Thomas Bradbury, KOMU 8 Sports Digital Producer
Updated: Feb 27, 2014 5:33 PM
SURPRISE, Ariz. - Coming off their best season in two decades, The Kansas City Royals will begin their 2014 campaign, hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time since they won the World Series all the way back in 1985. The team began spring training Thursday in Surprise, Arizona.
The Royals return almost all the same starters as last season. The only change in the outfield is in right field, where consistent run-scorer David Lough has been replaced by an even more productive run-scorer in Norichika Aoki. In the field Omar Infante takes over at shortstop. He had a great season for Detroit last season hitting .318 along with 24 doubles.
The young infield trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, all enter their fourth season playing together.
First-baseman Eric Hosmer was drafted 3rd overall by the Royals back in 2008. Entering the league in 2011, Hosmer had an excellent rookie campaign that finished with him placing third in Rookie of the Year voting. He regressed in his sophomore campaign, but recovered last season as he led all starters with a .302 batting average, and was the team's third best in RBI's with 79. He was one of three Royals awarded a Gold Glove award last season.
Like Hosmer, third-baseman Mike Moustakas was another top pick, 2nd overall in 2007. But unlike Hosmer, he regressed last season. Moustakas' production slipped as he hit 60 percent fewer home runs than his sophomore season, and he had a dismal .233 batting average.
An MLB All-Star last season, the 23-year-old catcher Salvador Perez provides all-around play for the Royals. Last season he hit .292 along with 79 RBIs.
Another MLB All-Star last season for the Royals was seven-year MLB veteran Alex Gordon. He was the team leader in home runs with 20, had six triples and 81 RBIs. He has also won three consecutive Gold Glove awards and the past two Fielding Bible, award for best fielder at each respective position, awards for left-fielders. In 2012 he led the MLB in doubles with 51.
Contributing as a designated hitter is Billy Butler. Butler had an All-Star year in 2012, he hit a career high 29 home runs. Last season his home run production slowed to 15, but he still led the Royals with 82 RBIs.
In the bullpen the Royals closer Greg Holland was an All-Star last season. With his tremendous play, he set the Royals all-time single-season record for saves in a season with 47. He had a 94 percent efficiency in closing opportunities. He was successful 47 out of 50 attempts.
Another talented pitcher for the Royals is starter Bruce Chen. The 36 year old is entering his sixth consecutive season with the Royals. He finished last year with nine wins and four losses.
Atop the Royals rotation is James Shields. Shields had 196 strikeouts last season which was the team high. He finished last season with a record of 13 wins and nine losses.
Looking to make the jump out of the minor leagues at some point this season are two pitching prospects, Kyle Zimmer and Yordano Ventura.
Kyle Zimmer is, according to the SportsNation consensus top prospects list, ranked as the 24th best prospect in all of the minor leagues. Yordano Ventura is ranked as the 30th best. Zimmer was the fifth overall selection in the 2012 draft.