A.L. Central Preview: Royals’ Youth Movement Maturing

Joe LaTengo | Updated Mar 01, 2012

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While the 2012 All-Star Game will be played in Kansas City, the Royals have other things to think about. They seem determined to keep their focus on the young core of players they’ve scouted and stockpiled; if they maintain their patience and get a little luck, perhaps one or two of them could be named to represent their team on their home field July 10.

The Action: General manager Dayton Moore made only one big move in the offseason, trading outfielder Melky Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for lefthanded starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Moore also re-signed manager Ned Yost to an extension which will keep the former catcher at Kauffman Stadium through 2013.

It’s A Lock: Led by 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas and outfielder Lorenzo Cain, the Royals’ youth brigade continues to mature. The club just recently signed young catcher Salvador Perez to a five-year deal; with Perez locked up, potential superstar Hosmer is interested in sticking around for the long term as well. Moustakas made considerable strides on offense and defense after his callup from Triple-A Omaha last season, and he’s widely expected to continue his development.

Yost will have some veterans to slot into the lineup, including outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Alex Gordon, who finally lived up to his promise in 2011 with 23 HRs, 87 RBI and a .303 batting average. It should be determined at spring camp how to split the left- and center-field positions between Gordon and Cain; both Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Maier should have something to say about those decisions too.

Hedge Your Bets: Reliever Jonathan Broxton is the real wildcard on the staff. Injuries derailed the massive closer’s career with the Los Angeles Dodgers; if he can get back on track in Kansas City, the club could deal either him or Joakim Soria to fill holes in their squad and maintain their well-stocked portfolio of up-and-comers.

Sanchez tops the list of southpaw pitchers including Bruce Chen, Danny Duffy, Everett Teaford and top prospect Mike Montgomery. Luke Hochevar, Felipe Paulino and Aaron Crow will represent from the right side, with Kelvin Herrera, Vin Mazzaro and former Tigers starter Zach Miner also in the conversation. Outside of Sanchez, Chen, Hochevar and possibly Miner, though, it remains to be seen whether the others can successfully handle the pressures of a full season in the majors.

Johnny Giavotella will be called on to provide consistent play at second base and at the plate; if he can’t, light-hitting Chris Getz is ready to step in.

The Payoff: Partly because of the youth movement, the MLB futures betting doesn’t see the Boys In Blue as a threat to win their division or the World Series anytime soon. Nevertheless, this appears to be a club on the upswing.

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