Sports Outside the Beltway

Royals 2008 Season Preview – Who are These Guys?

As the 2008 season begins, much has already been written about the Kansas City Royals. As such, I’m going to do an abbreviated “Who are these guys?” preview, focusing on the players who are most-likely to contribute to the team on a daily basis, with a little love given to those who made the opening-day roster (sans catcher Matt Tupman, who we know is getting replaced by Miguel Olivo four games into the season when his suspension is done).

Each player will be followed by three sets of numbers – Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Average for their career, the 2007 season and the Marcel projection for the 2008 season.

More info about the Marcel projections can be found here. Stats are from and projections are from

Here we go.

John Buck
Car: 237/297/408 OPS+ 82
’07: 222/308/429 OPS+ 90
’08: 244/311/411

John’s career OPS by month:

Apr  732
May  715
Jun  794
Jul  579
Aug  635
Sep  803

If Buck can keep from stepping in that hole he seems to find every July and August, the Royals may have a legitimate big-league backstop this season.

Miguel Olivo
Car: 239/275/405 OPS+ 76
’07: 237/262/405 OPS+ 72
’08: 247/280/408

Miggy may get some time in the outfield this year, most likely against lefties, whom he hits to the tune of 291/319/524.

Billy Butler – 1B
Car: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’07: 292/347/447 OPS+ 105
’08: 298/361/465

Calling Butler an infielder is a bit of a stretch, but Buddy Bell (a six-time Gold Glover who should know) did say Billy had soft hands. The slugger from Florida will play a little first, but will most-likely end up as a full-time DH by the end of the season.

Mark Grudzielanek – 2B
Car: 289/331/395 OPS+ 90
’07: 302/346/426 OPS+ 100
’08: 285/327/403

Grudz returns for another season league-average performance. A solid second baseman, Grudzielanek won a gold glove in ’06 with the Royals. He should anchor a solid infield defense once again (at least on the days that Butler isn’t playing first) and will keep the position warm for prospect Alberto Callaspo.

Tony Pena Jr. – SS
Car: 264/282/354 OPS+ 65
’07: 267/284/356 OPS+ 66
’08: 270/303/379

The former manager’s son was a revelation at short after what I like to call “the Berroa years.” While hardly adequate at the plate in the age of A-Rods and Jeters, TPJ manages to put the ball in play often enough to make his spectacular play in the field enough to keep him right at replacement level value.

Alex Gordon – 3B
Car: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’07: 247/314/411 OPS+ 87
’08: 262/331/427

Considered the future at third base since he was drafted, Gordon overcame a difficult start to his big league career to post solid numbers in the second half last year.

A lot has been written about his current skills and potential, so I’ll just add this from my experiences seeing Gordon come to the plate in Anaheim and at spring training in Surprise: the dude looks severely stoned in his press photo. I mean it. The red eyes, shaggy hair and “are you taking my pictures for real” smile. Baked to the bone, I’m telling you.

Look, I’ve been to Nebraska. There’s not a lot to do there. I don’t blame him if he’s growing a little something in his apartment on the Plaza. Man, does he have a pretty swing, though.

Alberto Callaspo
Esteban German
Ross Gload

German has been the uber-utility man for a few years now and has a career on-base percentage of 373. Callaspo had some personal issues in Arizona, but hit like mad in the minors and is looking for a fresh start in KC. Gload is steady with the bat like Grudz, and will probably spend some time at first, outfield and designated hitter. Let’s just hope he stays out of the four hole this year.

David DeJesus
Car: 282/358/415 OPS+ 102
’07: 260/351/372 OPS+ 89
’08: 276/353/414

A lot of people (myself included) pegged DeJesus for a breakout season in ’07. Didn’t happen. He lost a little something, but did manage to play in 157 games, a career high. Let’s see if the center fielder can bring his production up and stay on the field this year.

Jose Guillen
Car: 274/325/447 OPS+ 101
’07: 290/353/460 OPS+ 116
’08: 272/333/448

The Mets go Carlos Santana. The Tigers got Miguel Cabrera. The Yankees re-signed Alex Rodriguez. Kansas City picked up Jose Guillen and quickly made Mike Sweeney only the third highest paid Royal ever.

Guillen is not a bad player, but he alone is not likely to be a savior for the team’s offensive woes any more than Emil Brown was. However, if Butler and Gordon continue to impress, Guillen should be a solid bat along with them in the line up.

Mark Teahen
Car: 274/340/429 OPS+ 100
’07: 285/353/410 OPS+ 98
’08: 282/350/439

Teahen’s numbers took a step back last season as he learned how to play a few outfield positions and a little first base. Considered one of the better base runners in baseball, Marky Mark also showed off a canon arm in right.

The canon has been moved to left, but Teahen will likely be jerked around from left to right to first to DH in order to keep his head spinning whilst he also attempts to pull the ball more at the plate.

Joey Gathright
Car: 266/333/314 OPS+ 71
’07: 307/371/342 OPS+ 88
’08: 273/342/352

Joey Gathright is fast and he can jump over cars and the occasional Japanese pitcher. His skills at getting on-base have been quite good for a while, and his goal this season is to steal 60 bases. A quick look at his minor league numbers shows that he was a much better thief there than in the majors.

Let’s see if new manager Trey Hillman gives him the green light more often that Buddy Bell did.

Starting Pitchers
Gil Meche
Zack Greinke
Brian Bannister
John Bale
Brett Tomko

Pitchers always seem to have more questions than answers going into the season.

Can Meche keep up his solid stuff? Can Grienke stay sane? Will Bannister stave off regression to the mean? Who is John Bale? Why is Brett Tomko being given $3 million to make my stomach churn every fifth day?

Relief Pitchers
Joakim Soria – Closer
Jimmy Gobble
Ron Mahay
Leo Nunez
Ramon Ramirez
Yasuhiko Yabuta

A few new faces in the bullpen this season. A few familiar culprits.

Soria looks like another Mariano Rivera in the making. Gobble should be a solid LOOGY again. Ron Mahay will be… let’s just say interesting. Nunez and Ramirez both bring the heat, and Yabuta is a Japanese import likely to fall somewhere between Dice-K and the crappy version of Hideo Nomo (who we happen to have on “the DL” right now… wink, wink-nudge, nudge).


I’ve seen 76 wins thrown about most often as the realistic best-case scenario for this year’s Royals squad. A definite improvement over last year. Still not quite ready to compete with the big boys in the division.

As I am an eternal optimist, I think I’ll push my predicted finish to 86 wins. In contention for a large part of the year, but falling just short of the postseason in a very competitive American League Central.

It’s easy to forget that the Royals played very competitive baseball for a long stretch last season. Using Poznanski-like math skills, I showed at the halfway point of the season how the team had a chance to win as many as 79 games.

Of course, the team faltered late in the year and finished five games off of their Pythagorean record of 74 wins. I say that if the team’s true talent level last year was that of a 74 win team, and the core players are back and almost all are expected to show improvement, then a .500 record is no great stretch of the imagination.

Let’s play ball!

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