While Kansas City again finished third in the AL Central, they transformed from also-ran to frisky contender en route to picking up 86 wins. Their run differential improved from -70 to +47. When the 2012 season ended they were 21 games out of a playoff spot. They finished 2013 five games behind the second Wild Card. They augmented the lineup by acquiring veterans Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante, but most of the pressing fantasy questions still revolve around their young nucleus.
1) Mike Moustakas is killing it in Spring Training. Is this the year he breaks out? The Moose is at .400/.520/.950 with three home runs in his first nine games. It is an ultra small sample, but it is also worth noting that he improved in 2013’s second half, hitting .269/.319/.425. Hopefully he hits southpaws better to avoid a platoon, but in mixed leagues with deep benches (think 26+ rounds) he is worth a look. Keep in mind Domonic Brown had a 1.047 OPS last Spring.
2) Is Salvador Perez still underrated? He finished 2013 as the eighth rated backstop, which is right where he is coming off draft boards. He has a .301 average over 989 plate appearances, but there are few signs that he will take more walks or experience any power growth. He batted in the top half of the order far more often than the bottom, and there is value in that. It comes down to team construction, those who like safe ratios from their catcher rather than 20 HR pop will take Perez a little higher.
3) Is Eric Hosmer an elite first baseman? Among those manning the first sack in 2013 he was 6th in runs, 5th in average, but 12th in wOBA, 14th in RBI, 21st in HR, and 22nd in ISO. Take into account that he was substantially worse in 2012. Kansas City does not have a fearsome lineup, they were 18th in runs last year. That is a problem because without hitting more homers Hosmer is dependent on his teammates for runs and RBI. To be firmly in the elite tier he either needs to put more balls over the fence or get improved skills from those around him.
4) Is any starting pitcher other than James Shields worth drafting in a mixed league? Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, and Danny Duffy all posted an xFIP over 4.50. Jason Vargas was not much better at 4.29. None have elite strikeout potential. Duffy was the only above average pitcher and his 8.14 rate was over a mere 24.1 IP.
The name to watch does not have a rotation spot yet, but is waiting in the wings. Yordano Ventura features a 97.5 mph fastball and had a 3.14 ERA and 10.4 K/9 last year in the high minors. The standard rookie pitcher caveats apply, but he is far more interesting than the rest of the filler behind Shields.
5) Will Alex Gordon go over or under a .275/.350/.460 line? He surpassed those numbers in 2011 and 2012 but fell short in 2013. I’ll take the over because with little change in his batted ball profile his BABIP went from .358 to .356 to .310. He had negative pitch values on all breaking pitches last year, but hit them well enough in the past. A few more hits fall in and he is back near a .800 OPS.