That was a fun wild card race, wasn’t it?   Someday, maybe next year, maybe the year after, us lowly Royals fans might have more than a passing interest in these late season games.   THAT will really be fun.

I plan to continue my series on teams making the leap from bad to good seemingly overnight (we broke down the 2000-2001 Twins on Monday) next week.  It’s a relevant topic given that this off-season is really going to be one big discussion over whether the Royals can really contend in 2012 and what they should do about it if they are.   We will wait until Monday for that, however.    Today, we’ll hit some quick, somewhat lighthearted topics as the most enjoyable 71-91 season has come to an end.   And yes, that sentence was written without sarcasm.

  • Eleven Kansas City Royals played enough to burn their rookie eligibility.   ELEVEN!  On top of that, ten of the non-rookies who played significant roles for this team were 27 years old or younger.  You all knew the Royals were young, but seeing those numbers in print (or whatever we call this forum) really points that out.    Interestingly, I think it is entirely possible that only two players will play enough to use up their rookie eligibility status next year (Kelvin Herrera and Mike Montgomery).
  • As excited as we might be about how this season played out and what next year might hold, it is probably wise to remember just how injury free the Royals were this year.   Bruce Chen spent time on the disabled list, but no other major contributor missed a major chunk of time (okay, Matt Treanor, too, I guess).   You can credit better conditioning, better medical and training staffs all you want, but that is also a major portion of luck.   Five position players played in 150 or more games (Gordon, Cabrera, Francoeur, Escobar & Butler), while Hosmer, Moustakas, Giavotella and Perez didn’t miss a day once they were called up.    The Royals probably cannot count on that kind of luck next season.
  • As Royals’ fans, we are all thirsty for the next great player, but honestly, have you ever been so sure about a young player becoming a star than you are about Eric Hosmer?   Billy Butler was good, Zack Greinke was great, but Eric Hosmer is one of those ‘man, I wish he played for us’ kind of guys.  
  • Is it September numbers fooling us or the usual ‘Moustakas adjustment period’ that kicked in and propelled Mike to a solid .263/.309/.367 rookie line?  (Solid, based upon how absolutely awful it once was).   Who hits more home runs next year?  Moose or Hosmer?   I guess by asking that question, you can guess what my answer is to the original question.
  • I don’t want to get into too much depth on this subject, as it will be the most talked about topic all off-season, but the equation is really pretty simple.   If you believe the Royals can contend in 2012, then you have to acquire at least one front-line starter this off-season.   If you believe this team will not be ready until 2013, then you do not.
  • We can be almost certain that Luke Hochevar, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will be in the 2012 starting rotation.  Of those three, who will have the best season?   A lot of what happens for the Royals the next couple of seasons might well be determined by whether that trio combine to be solid numbers 2, 3 and 4 types.   Should they be a shaky 3-4-5 combination, which frankly they were this year, then The Process might have a bit of a bump or two in the short-term future.
  • What about Joakim Soria?   He was not awful (we have seen awful and thy name is Burgos), but Soria certainly fell from elite closer status this year.   We have seen him gradually lose control and, hence, confidence is his curve ball over the past two seasons and I think that might have led him to experiment with different pitches this season.  You know what I would like to see more than anything else on Opening Day 2012?  Soria freezing a batter in the bottom of the ninth with that big curve.
  • Of the likely starting nine next year (Perez, Hosmer, Giavotella, Escobar, Moustakas, Gordon, Cabrera, Frenchy, Butler), who is your pick to regress and disappoint?   Which one or ones will not be in the lineup by June 15th?  
  • Is it all about being in shape?   We joke about guys showing up for spring training ‘in the best shape of their lives’, but Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur really did and had, if not great, certainly good years.   It can’t really be that simple, can it?   Was it Kevin Seitzer or a fresh start in a new place or was it ‘you are playing your way out of the league desperation’?   If it was the last one, will they both show the dedication and focus in 2012, now that they have reestablished themselves?
  • Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery and Jake Odorizzi are almost certainly the top three prospects in the organization and have been rumored to be untouchable in any off-season trades.   If you had to trade one, which would it be?

Even though the regular season has ended, Craig, Nick and myself will still be hear churning out content (whether you want it or not) all through the off-season.  This is shaping up to be the most exciting and, quite possibly, the most important winter in many seasons for the Kansas City Royals.