MLB Preview 2003

Pitching Probables
Injuries: AL | NL
Minor Leagues
MLB en espanol
Message Board

News Wire
Daily Glance
Power Alley
MLB Insider

Jim Caple
Peter Gammons
Rob Neyer
John Sickels
Jayson Stark
ESPN Auctions
Monday, March 24
Season preview: Kansas City Royals

Projected batting order
Michael Tucker, RF
Joe Randa, 3B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Mike Sweeney, 1B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Ken Harvey, DH
Brent Mayne, C
Angel Berroa, SS
Carlos Febles, 2B
Runelvys Hernandez, RHP
Jeremy Affeldt, LHP
Miguel Asencio, RHP
Darrell May, LHP
Chris George, RHP
Desi Relaford, SS
Dee Brown, OF
Jarrod Patterson
Mike DiFelice, C
Mike MacDougal, RHP (CL)
Jason Grimsley, RHP
Albie Lopez, RHP
D.J. Carrasco, RHP
Ryan Bukvich, RHP
Rick DeHart, LHP
Kris Wilson, RHP

Complete Royals roster

 ESPN's Take

Q: How can the Royals avoid losing 100 games again?
Kansas City is fighting an uphill battle right now, and it will be hard to avoid another season like the last one. The Royals do have positives, though, in one of the best hitters in baseball in Mike Sweeney and one of the best young managers in Tony Pena. Things can eventually turn around in KC as long as the front office gives Pena the freedom and players to make things happen.
-- Tom Candiotti

Carlos Febles may not seem like a good fantasy player, but all it takes for a middle infielder to achieve big value is for him to steal 20 bases or so. Febles can do that. Pay attention to where he hits in the order, for if it's at the top, he should run more.

Jeremy Affeldt didn't have the most impressive numbers in 2002, but he's a strikeout pitcher with potential to break out. The Royals considered him for the opening day start. You should overlook his brutal September, realize his overall stats weren't that bad and consider him for AL leagues.
-- Eric Karabell

Alexis Gomez, OF
Former Dominican volleyball star made a strong impression in winter ball after hitting .295 with Double-A Wichita. Stole 36 bases last year and has increased his steal total for two years in a row. Has good range in center field but is rough around the edges.

 Manager: Tony Pena
 Home: Kauffman Stadium (40,625)
 '02 record: 62-100
 Team page | Schedule | Offseason moves

Catcher: Brent Mayne
Mayne is a solid veteran whose priority is handling a young pitching staff, not hitting. He's had only 14 extra-base hits in both of the last two seasons. His four stolen bases last year were a career high.
First Base: Mike Sweeney
If not for being sidelined for a month with a strained left hip, Sweeney might have had his best season as a hitter. He challenged for a batting title and saw his RBI total drop because of decreased chances to drive in runs. He hit .402 with men in scoring position. If the Royals don't finish .500 in either of the next two seasons, Sweeney can become a free agent after 2004.
Second Base: Carlos Febles
No longer a kid, Febles still doesn't get on base often enough to use his speed. He appears on his way out with manager Tony Pena, who benched him last August. He's a good defensive second baseman but has not developed as a hitter.
Third Base: Joe Randa
Randa is not flashy but is a consistent run-producer, having averaged 88 RBIs in his four seasons in Kansas City. He's a defensive anchor in the infield. The Royals were close to dealing Randa to the Cubs in December, but the deal fell apart when Kansas City refused to pay any of his salary.
Shortstop: Angel Berroa
After a lost season in 2002, Berroa is under the gun to establish himself as a solid player. He aged two years in the Dominican Republic visa crackdown and missed half of the season after tearing cartilage in his right knee. He hit only .215 in 77 games at Triple-A Omaha last year, heightening concern.
Left Field: Raul Ibanez
Arguably the Royals' MVP a year ago when he drove in 103 runs, the 30-year-old goes into a season with high expectations for the first time. He held his own against left-handers, batting .274, but got 23 of his 24 homers off right-handers. He was Kansas City's primary DH last season but moves to the outfield to create room for Ken Harvey.
Center Field: Carlos Beltran
No one's been mentioned in more trade talks this winter than Beltran, who is two years away from free agency and looking for a bigger contract than the Royals are willing to provide. He's the only player in franchise history to have three 100-run, 100-RBI seasons. It will be a surprise if he's still around in August. Might have to open the year on the DL because of a strained muscle on his right side.
Right Field: Michael Tucker
Tucker supplanted the hot-and-cold Mark Quinn, who was released midway through spring training. It's unsure how much he'll play against left-handers, as he hit only .208 off them last year.
Designated hitter: Ken Harvey
After tearing up the Arizona Fall League, the massive Harvey could drive in a lot of runs hitting behind Beltran, Sweeney and Ibanez. He's a career .328 hitter in the minors and only recently has learned to take a walk. He'll play first base some, allowing Sweeney to get a break as a DH.
No. 1 Starter: Runelvys Hernandez
Hernandez's 4-4 record in 12 starts moved him to the front of a rotation that combined for only 15 victories in 2002. Jumped from the Class A Carolina League to the big leagues last year. Needs to develop better secondary pitches to handle left-handed batters, who hit .302 off him.
No. 2 Starter: Jeremy Affeldt
Scouts love Affeldt's natural movement and presence on the mound. He's had a hard time staying on the roster because of recurring blister problems. Stamina is a question.
No. 3 Starter: Miguel Asencio
A Rule 5 pick from Philadelphia, Asencio took his lumps as a rookie in 2002 but improved to cut his ERA to 5.11. He had to earn his spot in the big leagues this spring and did it. His changeup has become an excellent pitch.
No. 4 Starter: Darrell May
Leg problems limited him to 131 innings last season, when he struggled to get past the sixth inning during 21 starts. He's still an unknown commodity in the big leagues but is the most experienced member of the rotation, spending 1998-2001 in Japan.
No. 5 Starter: Chris George
First-round draft pick in 1998 has failed to take advantage of an excellent chance to establish himself in the big leagues, compiling a 5.60 ERA over 19 starts the last two seasons. He was a major disappointment last year, when he was 6-12 with a 5.87 ERA at Triple-A. Needs a fast start to build badly needed confidence.
Bullpen: Jason Grimsley, Albie Lopez, D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Bukvich, Rick DeHart, Kris Wilson
Grimsley and Lopez bring experience to a mix of intriguing arms. DeHart, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 1999, could see a lot of work if he remains the only lefty in the group. Carrasco, a Rule 5 pick, makes a big jump after a 29-save season in the Carolina League.
Closer: Mike MacDougal
MacDougal, who throws in the high-90s, increased velocity and gained control during a very successful trip to winter ball. A starter for most of his career, he has only three pro saves, all in Class A. Hitters won't enjoy facing him.

-- Phil Rogers,

Record: 62-100 | Finish: 4th in AL Central | Results | Statistics: Batting | Pitching
Offense (AL rank) Defense (AL rank)
Offense (AL rank) Defense (AL rank)
737 runs (11th)
Home: 434 (4th)
Road: 303 (14th)
891 runs allowed (13th)
Home: 505 (14th)
Road: 386 (7th)
2002 Stats Leaders  
Average: Mike Sweeney, .340
Runs: Carlos Beltran, 114
On-base pct: Sweeney, .417
Stolen bases: Beltran, 35
Wins: Paul Byrd, 17
Saves: Roberto Hernandez, 26
Home runs: Beltran, 29
RBI: Beltran, 105
Slugging pct.: Sweeney, .563
OPS: Sweeney, .979
ERA: Byrd, 3.90
Strikeouts: Byrd, 129

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story
Daily email