James Shields officially signed with the San Diego Padres for a much deserved $75 million over the next four years. Since the last major free agent piece has signed, I feel it is time to look ahead to the 2015 MLB season. The American League Central looks to be baseball’s tightest division, with the top two teams losing key players and the rest of the division’s young teams gaining experience. Unfortunately for Kansas City, I do not see the Royals making the playoffs. I present my three reasons for why the Kansas City Royals will not make the 2015 MLB Playoffs.
James Shields – The Royals went out and got Edison Volquez and Kris Medlen to try and fill the hole left in the rotation by Shields. Both are solid veterans who have put up solid numbers in the past. Volquez comes from the Pittsburg Pirates after posting a career-best 3.04 Earn Run Average (ERA), a career year that appears to be an outlier. Only one other time in his career has Volquez posted a sub-4.00 ERA and that was in 2008. I expect him to fall more in line with his career average of 4.44 ERA. Medlen, on the other hand, has a sub-3.00 career ERA, but he is coming off his second Tommy John surgery. After the surgery, it takes pitchers some time to return to form. Rarely do they ever get back to where they were before. Even if I am wrong about both Volquez and Medlen, there is one fact that still looms overhead: innings pitched. Shields has pitched 200+ innings every season of his career except his rookie season and pitched 220+ innings each of the past four seasons. Neither Volquez nor Medlen have pitcher more than 200 innings in a season over the course of their careers. This means the Royals’ bullpen will be asked to do more and will wear down over the course of the year, making a late-season run more difficult.
Offense – Pending a breakout season from either Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas — as has been predicted since they entered the Majors — I do not see the Royals offense having the firepower to compete in 2015. During the postseason, Hosmer, Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain put up better numbers than their career averages suggest. It is not wise to assume they will put up those numbers over the course of the next season. Also, last year, Cain put up a .301 batting average. That is significantly higher than his .279 career average. In 2015, Cain’s production should decrease. Not to mention the fact that the Royals failed to upgrade at any position. They replaced Nori Aoki with Alex Rios and Billy Butler with Kendrys Morales, downgrading the offense at each position.
Competition – The AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers took a hit when they lost Max Scherzer but improved their offense by going out and getting Yoenis Cespedes. They will give up more runs but score more, too. The Minnesota Twins improved their pitching, the Chicago White Sox significantly improved pitching and hitting, and the Cleveland Indians remained about the same. Every team in the AL Central is young (except the Tigers) and is expected to improve with another season of experience. So where does that leave the Royals? As I previously mentioned, they downgraded from the 2014 team while almost every other team improved. Barring a breakout season from Hosmer or Moustakas, I expect the Royals to fall in the standings. Teams in the division will beat up on each other and balance out the AL Central. The Tigers and Indians — the two teams with the firepower to win — should be at the top of the standings while the White Sox and Royals battle out for third. The Minnesota Twins could sneak up to the fourth spot, but it is unlikely. However, they should win more than their 2014 total of 70 wins. Overall, the AL Central looks like a tight race, but the Indians and Tigers have too much talent for the Royals to compete. Even the White Sox with a solid ace and MVP candidate could sneak up and take the division. For the Royals to return to the playoffs, they need the bullpen to do what they did last year, a couple breakout hitters, and a pitcher to distinguish himself as a dominate ace and eat innings like Shields.Even that may not be enough.