Kansas City Royals Fantasy Report
The Royals are better under Ned Yost, but it’s all relative.
Surprise, surprise. The Royals are scuffling through another tough season, and a recent five-game losing streak combined with a surge by the White Sox has left Kansas City in fourth place in the AL Central, looking way up at the top three. If not for Cleveland’s complete ineptitude and KC winning three of its past four, the Royals could easily be sitting in the division cellar once again. But hey, let’s not sell them short…there’s still plenty of time left for the Royals to sink below the Indians considering their current four-game bulge over the Tribe is hardly insurmountable.
I suppose you could say that Ned Yost has done a better job since taking over from the fired Trey Hillman on May 13. At the time of Hillman’s axing, the Royals were 12-23; since then, they’ve gone 20-21. Wow! Yost has the team playing nearly .500 ball over the past month and a half.
After somehow taking 2-of-3 from the Cardinals this weekend in KC, the Royals now have a chance to go right after the White Sox as they host them in a three-game set to cap June. Considering they’re eight games back of Chicago, anything less than a sweep this week won’t cut it. But that’s a tall order. The Royals have yet to garner a series sweep this season, so expecting them to manage one against one of the hottest teams in baseball is pretty much ridiculous.
The good news here is that despite Chicago’s tear, it has struggled within the Central, going just 12-15. The Royals and Sox have split six games so far, with KC managing at least four runs in four of those games. The Royals’ first task is to continue their recent success against Mark Buehrle. The big lefty is 20-10, 3.64 in his career against KC, but the Royals have finally solved him recently, as after they beat him up last month his ERA against them is 7.00 over the last three outings.
Other than power, the Royal offense has actually been pretty good this season, ranking second in the majors in hitting, but near the bottom in dingers. In fact, before Wilson Betemit of all people went yard Sunday, KC hadn’t hit a homer in nine days. Nine days! But the real problem here has been pitching. The bullpen has been mediocre, but a rotation that’s been among baseball’s worst has really sunk KC.
Speaking of their rotation, Brian Bannister continues to be a mainstay within it despite some extremely spotty results. We didn’t have a lot of faith in him this year, pegging him as a top 150 starter at the beginning of the season. In fairness, he’s probably been a top 125 starter, but you still don’t want Bannister for anything other than spot starting.
Sure, he’s coming off a fine six shutout inning performance Wednesday to top Washington and Stephen Strasburg, but that outing lowered Bannister’s ERA to a very telling 6.66 for the month of June. And that’s coming on the heels of a 6.04 June. Bannister’s strong start in which he recorded a sub-3.50 ERA in April is looking very much like the outlier now.
Okay, he’s stayed healthy, and could set a new career high in innings pitched, and I’ll give him credit for doing a better job of pitching to contact, something that’s helped him get through innings quicker than ever before (thereby giving him a chance at more wins), but I still don’t want Bannister near my team. If you own him, pimp his winning record and recent strong start and try to get whatever you can for him.
Speaking of Betemit, why hasn’t he gotten more burn in KC? Since getting promoted last month, he’s only recorded 21 at-bats, yet he’s smacked 10 hits including three homers and three doubles. He got the start Sunday at first base, allowing Billy Butler to take a break from the field and DH, because we all know how physically taxing playing first base is. Now I’m not suggesting Betemit can usurp Alberto Callaspo at third or Mike Aviles at second, and he’s not good enough defensively to play shortstop on an ongoing basis, but there’s no reason he couldn’t make a strong super sub, seeing a sprinkling of action at all four infield positions.
Did you notice that Jason Kendall finally showed some life Sunday, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two runs and four RBI? The veteran backstop hadn’t had a multi-hit game in three weeks, so to say he was due is an understatement. We certainly we’re expecting much from Kendall, as he barely cracked the top 45 in our pre-season catcher rankings. In fairness, he’s been better than we anticipated, and given his numbers, he’s been a top 20 backstop, meaning he has value as a backup in a standard-sized league where two catchers are required and obviously AL-only leagues. Despite his June struggles (under .200), Kendall – who turned 36 this weekend – is still batting a decent .265. He remains an excellent contact hitter, and as a catcher who will bag you a few bonus steals (even if he has struggled to a 5-for-12 mark on the basepaths this season), he’s a nice to have as that’s still a real rarity from this position. In fact, Kendall is on track to reach double digits in steals for the first time since 2006.