The Royals' Kauffman Stadium - the site of the 2012 All Star Game.
Over the course of the next month or two, we will be previewing the Yankees’ competition in the American League. To do this, I will interview one blog for each team in the league.
Now that we’ve interviewed the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox, we now will be looking at the Kansas City Royals. I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Engel of Kings of Kauffman…
1. Finishing in 4th place with a 71-91 record, the Royals had another primarily unsuccessful season. What are your thoughts looking back at the 2011 season? What could the Royals have done a better job at in order to achieve greater success?
That record is similar to how the Royals have finished in the past, but 2011 was a much different year than others. With so many prospects graduating to the big leagues, a winning season wasn’t expected, but by the end of the year, most of them were having success in some fashion. The starting rotation was a weak link, of course, but a lot of the damage was done by Kyle Davies, Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan – three starters who didn’t really pitch at all past the all-star break.
2. With the exception of trading Melky Cabrera to the Giants for Jonathan Sanchez, it seems to have been a rather quiet offseason for KC. How do you feel about the Royals’ off-season to this point?
Early on, I wanted them to either go after everyone they could possibly get, or to sit tight. I advocated they sign Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt both if they were going to go for it, but neither happened, obviously. That’s okay with me. I have a hard time holding back my optimism after how the team started to look late last year, but it’s a tough job going for the division with mostly second year players.
I’m happy that they didn’t get a strange feeling to start selling off their still-strong prospect depth. There were a ton of fans on our side who were more than willing to give up Wil Myers and change for Gio Gonzalez. Personally, I don’t buy Gio outside of Oakland, so I’m glad that move didn’t happen, especially for our top hitting prospect. Dayton Moore trusts the players he has in his system and while 2012 may not be the year, he’s got the players around to have a big window for annual contention.
3. What do you think of the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium being the host of the 2012 All Star Game?
It’s really exciting. The renovations they’ve done make the stadium even better than it already was and Major League Baseball noticed. I think fans from all over will love the stadium and I’m going to be sure to make it, too. It’s a once in a generation kind of event for our region.
4. Although they haven’t had much major-league success in recent years, the Royals are said to have one of the best (probably the best) farm systems. How do you feel about the current state of the Royals’ prospects, and minor-leagues? Do any exciting young prospects figure to have an impact on the 2012 team?
A lot of the guys who came up in 2011 are the same guys who’ll be making the most impact in 2012. The one player who didn’t make it to Kansas City who might be on track for it is Mike Montgomery. He’s got the highest upside of any pitcher right now in the system, even though he’s coming off a pretty bad season in Triple A.
Behind him, the Royals have a lot of depth still to come. Jake Odorizzi might not be up in 2012, but he’s going to be a part of a future Royals rotation. Chris Dwyer is getting invited to camp and might be close to Montgomery’s upside – but he’s got more potential to bust, too. The system as it stands now has a second wave of young talent coming along, most of whom are in the lower levels – guys like Cheslor Cuthbert, Jason Adam, Jorge Bonifacio – who might be a bit behind Eric Hosmer and company, but they’re a lot of 19 and 20 year olds.
There’s a very small chance that Wil Myers could see time in Kansas City. If so, it’ll be during a September call-up situation. He had a rough 2011 as a 20-year-old in Double A and fended off some fluke knee problems (he endured a laceration/bruise early on that kept him out, then it became infected and kept him out again). He still held his own at the level and had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll see Triple A before the end of 2012, at least.
5. Lastly, how do you project the team will do in 2012? Are fans confident in the organization both in the short-term and the long-term?
My expectations are a little weird. I’ve been a Royals fan for so long that I’ve seen this kind of excitement before. In 1990, the Royals had a good mix of young and veteran talent, but it fell apart and they didn’t meet expectations. In 1994, they were the hottest team in baseball and then the players went on strike. Even with the best young outfield trio in recent memory (Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon), they didn’t have any pitching to keep them in games and the 2003 season was a mirage. So Royals fans will have to pardon me for checking my optimism. I see them as a good shot for 78 wins, which is progress.
There are a lot of fans who say .500 is within reach, and honestly, I see that too. There are some fans who think 88 wins or so is in reach. At least my way, .500 is a bonus, but it’s disappointing for the second group.
Long-term, I think the Royals could end up with one of the better offensive teams in the league. A lot depends on the pitching. If Danny Duffy, Montgomery, Odorizzi and John Lamb (who’s out until at least mid-season after Tommy John Surgery last June) can reach their potential, the team will be fantastic for a good four year stretch while the other players – the Jason Adams, Cuthberts and others I’ve mentioned – move up to keep the ladder and keep the momentum going.