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3 ROYALS

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OVERALL RANK 12

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP KANSAS CITY

Everything hinges on how the tragic death of pitcher Yordano Ventura affects the team, on and off the field. He had his issues, but he was a great teammate.... Eric Hosmer is MVP caliber, a Triple Crown candidate. Last year, with all the club's injuries, he was trying to carry them, hit three home runs with one swing. His average could jump 65 points.... Lorenzo Cain is still underrated. They're a different team with him in center, and he gets the clutch hit, hits a ball out, hits for average, steals a base.... Alex Gordon looks fine as far as bat speed and in the outfield, but you want someone with a little more power in the corners.... Jorge Soler can be a bit frustrating—not real selective at the plate, takes plays off in the outfield, doesn't always run—but he's got plus-plus raw power to all fields. I could see 25, 30 homers.... Brandon Moss was a great signing. Another 25-home-run guy for a team that hasn't had many.... Danny Duffy can be a No. 1 or No. 2 on any staff. He's like David Price—that kind of stuff from the left side. Actually, Duffy has better secondary pitches.... Jason Hammel and Travis Wood are both quality signings, especially as pitching depth. The problem is the bullpen's not great. Wade Davis and Greg Holland are gone, and the seventh-inning guy—Kelvin Herrera—is now the closer. He'll be fine, but Joakim Soria's not as sharp as he used to be.... This could be the last year in Kansas City for Cain, Hosmer, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas. Having that many guys going into free agency can be tough, but I think they can contend for the AL Central title one more time.

MANAGER NED YOST

8TH SEASON WITH KANSAS CITY

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

SS ALCIDES ESCOBAR [BARGAIN]

R-R .261 .292 .350 0.3

3B MIKE MOUSTAKAS [INJURY RISK]

L-R .284 .348 .470 4.4 [2015 STATS]

CF LORENZO CAIN [DEFENSIVE STAR] [BARGAIN]

R-R .287 .339 .408 2.9

1B ERIC HOSMER [TEAM MVP] [BARGAIN]

L-L .266 .328 .433 1.0

C SALVADOR PÉREZ [DEFENSIVE STAR] [INJURY RISK] [BARGAIN]

R-R .247 .288 .438 2.8

LF ALEX GORDON [DEFENSIVE STAR] [INJURY RISK] [DECLINING]

L-R .220 .312 .380 0.8

RF JORGE SOLER [NEW ACQUISITION] [RISING]

R-R .238 .333 .436 0.2

DH BRANDON MOSS [NEW ACQUISITION] [BARGAIN]

L-R .225 .300 .484 0.8

2B WHIT MERRIFIELD

R-R .283 .323 .392 1.6

BENCH

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

IF CHRISTIAN COLÓN

R-R .231 .294 .293 0.6

OF PAULO ORLANDO

R-R .302 .329 .405 2.3

W--L ERA K/9 WAR

LH DANNY DUFFY [RISING]

12--3 3.51 9.4 4.2

RH IAN KENNEDY [DECLINING]

11--11 3.68 8.5 4.1

LH JASON VARGAS [INJURY RISK]

11--10 3.71 6.2 0.5[2014 STATS]

RH JASON HAMMEL [NEW ACQUISITION]

15--10 3.83 7.8 1.6

RH NATE KARNS [NEW ACQUISITION]

6--2 5.15 9.6 0.2

SV ERA K/9 WAR

RH KELVIN HERRERA [BARGAIN]

12 2.75 10.8 2.0

RH JOAKIM SORIA

1 4.05 9.2. 0.5

NEW ACQUISITION

2016 STATS

(R) ROOKIE

*2015 STATS

†2014 STATS

TEAM MVP

DEFENSIVE STAR

INJURY RISK

BARGAIN

RISING

DECLINING

MODEST PROPOSAL

Since the start of 2013, no one has caught more innings—4,662—than Salvador Pérez. He has led all AL catchers in the category the last three seasons, and the majors in 2014 and '15. (And in 2015, he caught 142 postseason innings too.) Perhaps this is why Pérez hits worse in September than the Jacksonville Jaguars. He batted .179/.247/.295 down the stretch last season, and .234/.274/.362 combined over the past three Septembers. Ned Yost, a former backup catcher himself, has to offload more innings to Drew Butera during the summer to keep Pérez fresher later in the year.

BOTTOM LINE

It's the last hurrah for the ring holders of 2015, but hurrahs could be rare this season.