That was Then...
The young Royals always fall short of the lofty expectations that are placed on them pre-season, and the 2012 edition of the team was no different.
Designated Hitter Billy Butler was one of the high points in an otherwise rough season for the Royals. He fell one home run short of a 30-homer season and also drove in 107 runs.
Sophomore first baseman Eric Hosmer struggled to 14 home runs and 60 RBIs but that is the type of volatility to be expected from a roster based around youth.
The Royals were middle of the pack in the AL Central finishing with a 72-90 record, 21 games off the pace set by the Detroit Tigers.
...This is Now
The Royals are finally trying to turn years of promise into a competitive season, they've added many great pieces this off-season but ace James Shields is perhaps the biggest of them all.
While mentioning that expectations are high for the young Royals would sound like a broken record, they made a slew of off-season moves to surround their wealth of young talent with the types of veterans that might finally elevate all of their promise to the next level.
They acquired starters James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays in a deal that cost them highly-touted prospect Wil Myers, but bought them legitimacy in the rotation.
They also added Ervin Santana, a starter that has shown in the past that his highs are very high and his lows are equally low.
If the Royals are able to couple those additions with a return to form for Hosmer and the continued hitting of Butler, they could really have something with their 2013 roster.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas is another young player ready for a true breakout season to put himself on the map. With the lineup ahead of him, he should at the very least get the chance to drive in runs with speed on the basepaths while he is at the dish.
It is always hard to predict how good, young teams are going to be or the exact moment they are going to make the leap from potential to competitiveness. It is starting to look like a when and not an if for the Royals... The only question being: is this year the 'when'?
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Eric Hosmer, 2011 - Mike Moustakas, 2010 - Chris Getz, 2009 - Joakim Soria, 2008 - Luke Hochevar, 2007 - Alex Gordon, 2006 - John Buck, 2005 - Mark Teahen, 2004 - David DeJesus, 2003 - Jeremy Affeldt
Despite an overhaul of the starting rotation, the Royals start the season ranked 25th.
C Salvador Perez is the top-ranked Royal, at 65th overall.
While the Royals might not have top-end fantasy talent, there are a number of Royals that will warrant early selections, the first of whom might be considered a breakthrough player because C Salvador Perez only has 437 career at-bats, but he's hit .311 with 14 homers and 60 RBI in those at-bats, so he's one of the more intriguing backstops.
DH/1B Billy Butler and LF Alex Gordon are productive sluggers and 1B Eric Hosmer, coming off a disappointing season, has enough potential to be forgiven for 2012.
The pitching staff is led by newcomer James Shields, an innings-eater who has upped his strikeout numbers in recent seasons. Closer Greg Holland is a solid pick as well.
Then it becomes a riskier proposition. Maybe RHP Ervin Santana bounces back or young hitters like CF Lorenzo Cain or 3B Mike Moustakas break through. What about RF Jeff Francoeur? Maybe in the later rounds.