AL Central Watch: Kansas City Royals

Sweeney has been productive for KC

After another dreadful season for the Kansas City Royals, the team elected to go out and acquired some bargain-priced veterans in hopes of making the team competitive. But will the newly-acquired players mesh with the holdovers and create a team that could hold its own.

The Royals certainly didn't hold back in the offseason following another 100-loss season. Two of the team's outfielders – David DeJesus and Emil Brown – both posted an OPS over .800, so that left them content with left field and center. So, to solidify right field, the Royals went out and signed Reggie Sanders, who had injury problems in '05, but still posted a .546 slugging percentage for the Cardinals.

Angel Berroa is impressive defensively, but for the second straight year wasn't able to post solid offensive numbers. The same can be said for Mark Teahen, who in his rookie campaign was less-than-impressive at the plate. Teahen though is just 24 and still has room to grow and develop.

The right side of the infield was a different story. Mike Sweeney largely works as the designated hitter now, opening up a hole at first base, as well as a perpetual hole at second. The team went out and signed Doug Mientkiewicz to play first, and added Mark Grudzielanek to tackle second. Not only do they now have two players with two of the toughest last names to spell in all of baseball, but they'll help provide veteran leadership along with respectable production out of those two slots.

John Buck is another young player that didn't produce very well in his first full season as the team's everyday catcher. But, much like Teahen, he's still young and will be given another opportunity. Plus, the team added former Tiger Paul Bako as veteran insurance as well as to work with the young pitching staff.

Speaking of the young pitching staff, the group didn't exactly wow observers as the front office was hoping they would. Runelvys Hernandez and Zach Greinke combined only mustered 13 wins and both carried ERA's well into the 5's. Nevertheless, they're still young and will be given another opportunity in '06.

But the team couldn't rely on those two as their go-to guys, so they signed Scott Elarton from Cleveland and traded for Mark Redman. Neither are much more than bottom-of-the-rotation starters on competitive clubs, but they'll provide much-needed stability to a rotation that was lacking it.

The remaining slot is up in the air, and could go to veteran Joe Mays or youngsters Denny Bautista or J.P. Howell. Mays has plenty of experience, but had a poor 2005, while Bautista and Howell each had ERA's hovering around six. Howell still may have the brightest future of the group, as he's just 22 years of age and is a lefty.

The one group the Royals possess that appears to be relatively solid is the bullpen, where Mike MacDougal returns as the closer. MacDougal saved 21 of his 25 save opportunities.

The group of setup men isn't too shabby either. Andrew Sisco, at just 23, emerged as one of the team's top setup men and will likely continue that role in '06. Ambiorix Burgos is another youngster that impressed with an ERA under 4, and at just 21, could be potentially dominating.

This of course doesn't even include veterans like Jimmy Gobble and Jeremy Affeldt. Neither had a good ERA in '05, but Affeldt did have 12 holds (though there's a chance he'll compete for the final rotation slot). Elmer Dessens was brought in to likely work as a middle and long reliever, and Mike Wood who has been a jack of all trades for Kansas City in the past will likely be working in middle relief as well.

The Royals hope this new group of players will help bring competitive baseball back to Kansas City. Some of the players should definitely be an improvement for the club, but unless they define ‘competitive' as less than 100 losses, they probably won't get their wish.

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