Vote in the poll below to let us know who you think is the Face of the Royals for our Face of the MLB tournament.
Dan McLaughlin broke the news that pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel would retire from baseball on the St. Louis Cardinals broadcast, and would like to join the front office.
Ankiel pitched in the majors from 1999-2004, taking 2002 and 2003 off due to arm injuries. He attempted to resume his pitching career once more in 2004, but was unsuccessful with recurring injuries.
In 2005, Ankiel returned to the majors for the St. Louis Cardinals as an outfielder, for whom he had played with from 1999-2004. Ankiel spent his outfield years with the Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros, and Mets, before finally calling it quits.
Ankiel had made a name for himself with a cannon of an arm from the outfielder, and finished his career with a fielding percentage of 97.9%.
As a pitcher, Ankiel had a career 3.90 ERA in 242 innings. He had a decent 8.1 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9.
In his 11 year career, Ankiel had a .240/.302/.422 slash line with 76 hom runs in 2115 plate appearances spread out over 653 total games.
When you hear the bullpen mentioned, you probably think of the Atlanta Braves, they have Craig Kimbrel and company, maybe you think of the St. Louis Cardinals and their uncountable amount of young arms, and still, you might think about the Dodgers, who have four guys who can close games out. Yet the team that might have the most complete bullpen is the Kansas City Royals. First of all, the Royals have Luke Hochevar, who spent a large chunk of the beginning of his career as a starter, but now has totally been re-established himself as a long/middle relief pitcher. Hochevar had a 1.92 ERA and won 5 games out of the pen in 58 relief outings in 2013. Two more key parts of the Kansas City bullpen are Tim Collins and Aaron Crow. Collins took the 7th inning role last year and gave the Royals a very solid 66 outings with a 3.54 ERA. Aaron Crow took the setup role and pitched in 57 games in 2013, posting a 3.38 ERA. Crow’s best season came in 2012 where his ERA was a little higher at 3.48, but was partly due to the fact that he pitched in 73 games rather than 57. In 2012 Crow only allowed 4 home runs all year, struck out 65 batters, and batters only hit .231 against him. The Royals hope to receive 2013 ERA numbers and 2012 numbers in every other category from Crow.
The star of the bullpen is closer Gregg Holland. Holland had a fantastic 2013 season, as he saved 47 games, had an eye popping 1.21 ERA, struck out 103 batters, and blew only three saves. Holland has the chance to put himself among the best closers in the game if he has another big season in 2014. The back-end of the Royals bullpen, with Hochevar, Crow, Collins, and Holland is among the best in the game. Together with the lesser-known names in the bullpen, this KC pen may be best in the bigs.
In the AL Central the five teams are the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and the Minnesota Twins.
Again the first place team in the central will be the Tigers. They have lost first base slugger Prince Fielder in a trade with the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. They have also signed closer Joe Nathan and reliever Joba Chamberlain. Miguel Cabrera will be moving back over to first base. Even with the loss of Doug Fister they still have a dominant starting rotation.
For the second straight year the Cleveland Indians will finish in second. They haven’t made any huge moves in this off-season. If they can bring back Ubaldo Jimenez, and can pitch like he did with the Rockies, and in the second half last year they may have a chance at a wild card. They added veteran outfielder David Murphy and re-signed veteran Jason Giambi. Indians fans want Swisher, Kipnis, Santana, and Bourn to play to their potential.
The Chicago White Sox will go from last place in 2013 to third place in 2014. Jose Abreau the Cuban slugger will man first base this year. Paul Konerko said that 2014 is his last major league career, he might not get a ton of playing time with Abreau but will still perform capable to how he can play. The rest of their stars have to play like they did in 2012 when they came in second place. Last year the only good sign was pitcher Chris Sale.
In fourth place will be the Kansas City Royals. Adding right fielder Norichika Aoki and pitcher Jason Vargas will do better than last years players, but not good enough. Last year they came in third place and fifth for the AL Wild Card, and this year will be fourth place in the division. They lost the bidding war for Carlos Beltran to the Yankees but New York lost it for Omar Infante.
In last place will be the Minnesota Twins. The Twins added two starting pitchers in Phil Hughes, and Ricky Nolasco. They have star Joe Mauer moving over to first base. Josh Willingham has the potential to hit 30 plus home runs when he is healthy. If the Twins pitching holds up and guys like Mauer, Willingham, Dozier, and Nolasco play like the all-stars they can be than you may see they can land ahead of the Royals.