SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projection pegs the 2016 Kansas City Royals for 76 wins. Fangraphs tags them for 77. That’s not what you’d expect for a team that’s the defending World Series champion. But the projection systems have not been nice to the Royals in recent years. And for the past two years, they’ve been very wrong.
George Brett doesn’t care about those projections. On Sunday, the Hall of Fame third baseman (and the Royals' vice president of baseball operations) was asked what he sees in the team that makes it so special.
“We have a lot of really, really good players,” Brett said. “We don’t have [a lot of] great players. They know how to play the game. They can catch, they can throw, they can run. We all saw how important our bullpen was. I think one of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that we really like each other.
“It’s the intangibles. They know how to play the game of baseball. They’re very aggressive on the bases. There are so many stats in baseball, I don’t even know what half of them mean. But you know what stats [don’t] do? It doesn’t measure brain and it doesn’t measure heart. That’s what this team is. We play smart and we have a big heart. As a result, we’ve been successful the last two years.”
What’s interesting about the projection systems not liking these Royals is that the team still has a considerable number of young players. This will be the age-26 seasons for Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer. Mike Moustakas is in his 27-year-old season. Potential ace Yordano Ventura doesn’t turn 25 until June. Even the older players aren’t that old. Lorenzo Cain, who finished third in the AL MVP voting, turns 30 right after Opening Day.
“Lorenzo’s ceiling is very high,” Kansas City skipper Ned Yost said. “You might need binoculars to see it. You just see them getting better every year. None of those guys have reached their ceiling, even though they’re experienced world champions now. They are such a special group. They know when to have fun. But they know when to get after it. They’ve gotten after it like no team I had before. We feel like none of them have reached their ceiling.”
And Yost doesn’t feel the chemistry that Brett talked about has gone away over one offseason with the departures of some and the additions of others.
“It took us 30 years to put this group of guys together,” Yost said. “Twenty-five guys that have that same makeup, same chemistry, different skill sets that work together. It’s hard to blueprint that.
“Every manager in baseball is trying to develop those traits right now. It’s hard. It’s hard to find 25 guys or even 20 that aren’t selfish. We’ve got 25. Teams like this don’t come around very often. Forget about the wins and losses; it’s about who [the players are] as people. They don’t come around very often.”