Last season, the Kansas City Royals were 69-93 and finished in last place in the AL Central for the fourth straight year. They have lost at least 100 games in four of the last six seasons. Since 1995, the Royals have only finished with a record better than .500 once. Kansas City finished 83-79 in 2003.

In the offseason, they signed veteran outfielder Jose Guillen to a three-year, $36 million deal. They also signed catcher Miguel Olivo to split time behind the plate. The Royals don't really lose much by signing Olivo, but paying Guillen $12 million per season over the next three years doesn't make much sense. Yes, he'll help the offense in 2008, but it would make more sense to develop the young talent and potentially compete in a few years instead of recycling old veterans.

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It's not going to be any different for the Royals this season. They have a lot of exciting young players, but they don't seem to have what it takes to translate the potential into success. The only thing to watch is whether they'll be able to avoid the basement this season. It's sad that a franchise that was once considered one of the better teams in the American League is now a perennial loser. Sound familiar to anyone in Baltimore?

Kansas City Royals

2007 record: 69-93 (5th in AL Central)

Key additions: RF Jose Guillen, RHP Yasuhiko Yabuta, C Miguel Olivo, RHP Brett Tomko

Key losses: RHP David Riske, DH Mike Sweeney, OF Reggie Sanders, OF Emil Brown, LHP Odalis Perez

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Jose Guillen, RF – It's not a good sign when Guillen is going to be one of the top offensive players on the team. He's a great role player, but he lacks the ability to consistently contribute. Guillen should be drafted in the middle to late rounds and will be valuable to your team as a fourth outfielder who can provide offense in streaks. Guillen hit .290 with 23 home runs and 99 RBIs last season, but it's hard to tell if he'll be able to duplicate that performance in 2008. He doesn't impress me much and I'd expect him to hit around his career batting average (.274) with 15-20 home runs and 80-90 RBIs.

2. Joakim Soria, RHP – After being handed the closer role in 2007, Soria looked impressive and picked up 17 saves. He had a 2.48 ERA in 62 appearances. The only thing keeping Soria from being one of the top closers in the league is the fact that the Royals won't give him many save opportunities. Soria should have 20-25 saves in 2008. He should be drafted in the middle to late rounds of your draft as a second closer.

3. Alex Gordon, 3B – Gordon hit .247 with 15 home runs and 60 RBIs in his rookie season. He'll need to improve his batting average in order to be a significant contributor to your fantasy team. Gordon also had 14 stolen bases in 2007 so he'll give you a little bit of a boost in that category. Based on his potential, Gordon should be drafted in the middle rounds. He could make some fantasy owners happy this season, but he's still a couple years away from being a superstar.

4. Gil Meche, RHP – Despite going 9-13 last season, Meche had a 3.67 ERA, which was the best of his career. If he played for a contender, Meche might be able to win 15-20 games. Because he plays in Kansas City, it's more realistic that he'll have 10-15 wins with an ERA around 4.00. Meche could serve as your fourth or fifth starter, especially in leagues that have 10 or more teams.

Hidden gems:

1. Billy Butler, DH/1B – Butler debuted in 2007 by hitting .292 with eight home runs and 52 RBIs in 92 games. He'll turn 22 in April, so there's still plenty of time for him to improve. Butler will likely serve as the designated hitter again this season, but there's a chance that he'll see substantial playing time at first base. Like Gordon, Butler is probably a few years away from reaching his full potential. However, there's a good chance he'll hit 15-20 home runs and pick up 80-90 RBIs.

2. Zack Greinke, RHP – Last year, Greinke was 7-7 with a 3.69 ERA in 52 games. He made 14 starts and struck out 106 hitters in 122 innings. As a full-time starter this season, Greinke will likely improve on those numbers. Like a lot of players in Kansas City, Greinke is still very young. He's only 24 and already has four years of experience in the major leagues. If you're feeling lucky, then take a gamble on him and maybe he'll get 10-15 wins and a 3.50 ERA. The Royals really need him to step into a bigger role this year.

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