3 Players to Watch
- 3B Mike Moustakas
Mike Moustakas hasn’t had a great start to his career, sans the 2014 postseason. His best season in on-base percentage was his rookie year when he was on .309 percent of the time. His best slugging season was 2012 when he slugged .412. That year he was actually very solid, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 73 runs.
But he was sent down to Triple-A in 2014 after a horrific start to the season. He rebounded quite nicely from that, even putting together a solid second half of the year, making his postseason success not as shocking.
Even in the postseason, though, Moustakas still was well under .300 in on-base percentage (admittedly in a small sample size). But his power was the thing that seemed to take off (as it did for most of the roster) as he slugged his way to a .558 clip on five home runs and two doubles.
If the Royals are to sustain their success, Moustakas needs to be closer to his 2014 second half and postseason marks than what he produced for the majority of his major league career prior.
- 1B Eric Hosmer
The story of Eric Hosmer’s young career is somewhat similar to Moustakas’. The difference is that Hosmer was actually pretty solid in the power department prior to 2014, when he took a nosedive. It should be somewhat intuitive, given that the Royals had the lowest home run output of any major league team last year—not just playoff teams.
Hosmer hit nine home runs and drove in just 58 runs in 2014, but hit a solid but not spectacular .270 with a .318 OBP and .398 slugging percentage. His best season in OPS (on-base and slugging combined) was 2013 when went over .800.
For the postseason he really went off, though, hitting .351 with a .439 OPB and .544 slugging percentage. If he produced those numbers for a season he’d assuredly finish in the top-five of MVP voting. No one expects that, but if Hosmer can find a happy medium, it would go a long way towards solidifying the Royals as a sustainable outfit.
- SP Yordano Ventura
Every Royals pitcher benefited significantly from the Royals’ exemplary defense in 2014. No starting pitcher had an ERA lower than his FIP (fielding independent pitching rating). But if there’s a pitcher on the Royals’ staff who could seemingly give his defense a night off, it’s the flame-throwing youngster Yordano Ventura.
According to FanGraphs, Ventura threw his fastball 54 percent of the time in 2014 and averaged 96 MPH per pitch. That includes his 94.9 MPH average cutter. As a result, he led the Royals’ starting staff with 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
There’s reason to believe he can improve that number in 2015. There’s also evidence to suggest he could be headed for a significant sophomore slump. With the departure of Shields, the Royals are positioned to have Ventura ascend to the role of staff ace in 2015.
Ventura taking that jump will be huge to the Royals’ 2015 success.
Next: How will the 2015 Royals handle success?