Rockies vs. Royals series preview: Kansas City pitchers can contain Colorado bats, but will the Royals hit enough?

Ed Zurga

The Royals will send two of their top three pitchers to the mound in their two-game series against the Rockies in KC.

A season after nearly pulling off a surprise postseason appearance, the Royals are at it again.

Kansas City enters its series against the Rockies at 18-19 and locked in a virtual four-way tie for second place in the American League Central. Though the Royals are significantly behind the Tigers in the division, a good pitching staff mixed with a promising offense that seems like it will hit its stride any day now make this team a legitimate threat to once again contend in the later months of the season.

James Shields and Yordano Ventura anchor a pitching staff that has a collective ERA+ of 120. The Rockies won't see Ventura this series, but they will see Shields and Jason Vargas, who has also been well above average in 2014. Vargas came over from the Angels in the offseason and has put up a 139 ERA+ in 53⅓ innings on the strength of a walk rate of 1.7 per nine innings. That's the best in the rotation and second-best on the entire team.

Offensively, Kansas City is led by Eric Hosmer, who picked up right where he left off last season after finishing strong. Hosmer is one of only two players on the team with an above average OPS+, with catcher Salvador Perez being the other. So, yeah -- the offense certainly hasn't been good this season, but it does seem like some positive regression should be on the way. Alex Gordon, Omar Infante, Nori Aoki and Billy Butler are all capable of being much better than they've been thus far, and if those pieces fall into place, the Royals shouldn't be under .500 for long.

Wade Davis and Greg Holland are the main fixtures in a pretty good bullpen. Davis was converted from a starter last season and has responded extremely well out of the 'pen, striking out 16.5 batters per nine innings in the early going. Holland has converted nine save opportunities as the team's closer and has 21 strikeouts and just two walks in 14 innings of work.

For more on KC, we bring in Clark Fosler from Royals Review:

*****

Bryan Kilpatrick: I can't speak for the rest of the people at Purple Row, but I know I was certainly excited to watch Yordano Ventura begin the season with the Royals. How is that going so far, and what do you expect going forward?

Clark Fosler: Yordano Ventura starts have quickly become a must-see event for Royals' fans. He has not allowed a run in three of his first seven starts and only been tagged for more than three runs just once. While he probably won't finish with a 2.34 ERA (his FIP is 3.37), he certainly looks like a guy Kansas City can count on to be near the top of the rotation for the next several seasons. Everyone knows that he throws hard - as in real hard - but his secondary pitches (curve and change) have been dynamic thus far this season. The concern with Ventura, given his slight frame, is can he hold up over an entire season or seasons? The Royals are probably limiting him to 170-180 innings this season, which may not come into play as Ventura (as rookies often do) has a tendency to run some high pitch counts. Overall, he's met or exceeded the most optimistic expectations thus far, but it will be interesting to see how he fares when facing teams for a second or third time.

BK: Wade Davis is the second somewhat high-profile case in as many years of a former Royals starter experiencing massive success out of the bullpen. Who gets the credit for that?

CF: Do the Royals get credit for starters who become good relievers or should they get criticized for not picking pitchers who were very good at starting? In the Dayton Moore era, the Royals have turned two high first round picks and part of the Wil Myers trade into three good relievers. That makes for a very good bullpen, but may not make the team a true contender. Wade Davis has been very good in his 8th inning role, but is that ideal when one of your starters is Bruce Chen?

BK: The Royals have a somewhat astonishing lack of power. Is it just randomness that is behind this problem, or is it a more long-term issue?

CF: This organization seems to be more interested in making excuses for the lack of power than actually addressing the issue (the park's too big, the wind blows wrong, home runs kill rallies, the hitters aren't adapted to hitting homers, the parking lot is too hot...). The organization's best power hitting prospect is Moustakas, who has been fairly awful, but there is no reason (including playing 81 games in Kaufmann Stadium) that guys like Hosmer, Gordon, Perez and Butler shouldn't hit at least some home runs. From an organizational stand point, one only has to look at the next power hitter coming up in the minors to see....well, keep looking and let me know if you find one.

BK: Mike Moustakas has been ... not good in 2014. How much longer of a leash will he have, and do the Royals have a suitable player or players anywhere in the system to supplant him if he can't figure it out?

CF: After the Seattle series wrapped up on Sunday, word began floating that consideration might be given to sending Moustakas to the minors. That is the first we have heard from around the organization of that possibility since Mike made his major league debut. The Royals are facing a roster crunch as they are carrying just 6 relievers right now (I say ‘just' because Manager Ned Yost is absolutely paranoid about only have six bullpen arms) and might make room for a seventh by sending Moustakas down. I'm not sure how much worse he needs to hit to get demoted: frankly, it's hard to hit much worse than Moustakas currently is. The Royals did send down the last third base prospect they had (Alex Gordon) and he came back from Omaha as a Gold Glove leftfielder and decent hitter. It is probably time to try something other than patience with Moustakas.

BK: Predictions for the series ... go!

CF: Feels like a split of the two game set to me. James Shields has been great thus far and Wednesday's starter, Jason Vargas, has been better than expected. On the recently completed road trip the Royals offense was boom or bust. While I think both Shields and Vargas will pitch well for KC, I imagine the offense will be non-existent one of those nights. The Royals look and feel like a .500 team, so 1-1 versus the Rockies seems logical.

*****

Royals offense

Rk

Pos


Age

G

PA

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

SB

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS+ ▾

1

1B

Eric Hosmer*

24

37

164

16

48

15

0

1

18

0

10

22

.320

.360

.440

119

2

C

Salvador Perez

24

34

142

12

34

12

0

3

11

1

11

16

.260

.317

.420

101

3

SS

Alcides Escobar

27

37

140

18

35

9

0

2

15

11

10

20

.276

.331

.394

98

4

2B

Omar Infante

32

30

134

13

32

3

3

2

19

1

10

11

.267

.326

.392

96

5

LF

Alex Gordon*

30

37

155

18

38

13

0

1

16

0

11

23

.266

.316

.378

90

6

RF

Nori Aoki*

32

35

158

19

39

5

2

0

8

4

11

21

.273

.323

.336

81

7

DH

Billy Butler

28

37

146

11

32

6

0

1

14

0

11

30

.242

.295

.311

67

8

3B

Mike Moustakas*

25

33

121

9

16

5

1

4

14

0

10

22

.147

.215

.321

45


Royals pitching

Rk

Pos


Age

ERA ▴

G

GS

IP

H

R

ER

HR

BB

SO

ERA+

FIP

WHIP

BB9

SO9

SO/W

1

RP

Aaron Crow

27

0.00

17

0

15

9

3

0

0

4

8


2.83

0.87

2.4

4.8

2.00

2

RP

Kelvin Herrera

24

1.56

17

0

17.1

13

4

3

0

7

15

276

2.58

1.15

3.6

7.8

2.14

3


Danny Duffy*

25

1.96

8

2

18.1

9

5

4

0

10

17

219

3.37

1.04

4.9

8.3

1.70

4

RP

Wade Davis

28

2.20

15

0

16.1

9

4

4

0

9

30

195

1.44

1.10

5.0

16.5

3.33

5

SP

Yordano Ventura

23

2.34

7

7

42.1

32

12

11

4

15

44

182

3.38

1.11

3.2

9.4

2.93

6

CL

Greg Holland

28

2.57

15

0

14

12

4

4

1

2

21

168

1.46

1.00

1.3

13.5

10.50

7

SP

James Shields

32

2.70

8

8

53.1

48

24

16

5

12

48

157

3.47

1.13

2.0

8.1

4.00

8

SP

Jason Vargas*

31

3.04

8

8

53.1

51

19

18

6

10

32

139

4.04

1.14

1.7

5.4

3.20

9

SP

Jeremy Guthrie

35

4.80

8

8

50.2

53

27

27

11

11

25

88

5.82

1.26

2.0

4.4

2.27

10

RP

Louis Coleman

28

5.73

10

0

11

11

7

7

2

7

11

76

5.37

1.64

5.7

9.0

1.57

11

SP

Bruce Chen*

37

7.45

4

4

19.1

28

16

16

2

7

18

58

3.67

1.81

3.3

8.4

2.57

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