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IT’S HERE!!!!!!

Today is the day we have all been waiting for. We’ve been waiting since the 2010 season mercilessly came to a close. The off-season was awfully kind to Royals fans. Sure, they signed a couple of guys who have been ridiculed since the day they signed, but this off-season brought notoriety to the Royals and their prospects. All those players who are so highly regarded and playing in the minor league system right now are so tantalizingly close to the Majors that we, as fans, can envision them in Royal blue. We can see them starting double plays and making diving catches in the outfield and hitting tape measure home runs. We can see them pitching two-hit shutouts and turning a nine inning game into a six inning affair. We can see them throwing runners out trying to steal and it not being close. We are so close to the baseball revolution in Kansas City, and 2011 is the beginning of that.

The team that will take the field today is not going to confuse anybody with a World Series contender, although stranger things have happened. The Padres were left for dead last year and they led their division most of the season before relinquishing that lead on the last weekend. I’m not saying that the Royals can do that, but I am saying that it’s not entirely impossible. Highly improbable, yes, but not impossible. But Opening Day is for optimism. It’s for thinking that your team could potentially be the exception and not the rule. It’s for dreaming about better days from a franchise that has been essentially dead for over 15 years.

I don’t think this team is going to be as bad as many people think. The starting pitching is rough around the edges, but there is a big difference that I see between this team and, say, the 2006 team that featured Scott Elarton on Opening Day. The difference is that all the starters but Bruce Chen have a legitimate chance to improve big time. Chen can improve, but he’s in his 30s and well past his prime. I don’t hate Chen in the rotation, he’s just not in the same category of guys who are under 30 and someone who is coming off a shoulder injury and working his way back into form. There’s every chance the starting rotation puts up a cumulative 5.50 ERA, but I think there’s also a chance they put up a 4.00 ERA as a staff. We’ve seen Hochevar flash potential, the same with Davies. Mazzaro is a bit of an unknown to Royals fans, but he’s young and put up good numbers (though fluky) with Oakland last year. Francis was the ace of a World Series team. It could happen.

But here’s the beauty of the 2011 Royals: if any one of them flounders we are so close to having a prospect ready to replace them. If Hochevar goes on the DL in June, we can say hello to Mike Montgomery. If  Francis just can’t get guys out anymore, Danny Duffy is a phone call away. If the Royals get sick of giving Kyle Davies chances, Aaron Crow just needs a few weeks to be stretched out in the bullpen. I think we’re about to enter an era of truly amazing Royals baseball. It may all flop, but there’s just so many of these prospects that something good just has to come of it all. Right? Please?

Yost has come out with his lineup and it’s fairly different from the one he put out a few days prior.

1. Aviles, 3B
2. Cabrera, C
3. Gordon, LF
4. Butler, DH
5. Ka’aihue, 1B
6. Francouer, RF
7. Escobar, SS
8. Treanor, C
9. Getz, 2B

I have to say that I like it. I ran the numbers based on spring training, just for fun, and this lineup would have produced about eight runs per game. Now, I’m not sure that it’s likely for Gordon and Cabrera to maintain their almost .500 OBPs, but it’s still fun to look at. The thing I like about this lineup is there is depth in it. If Escobar comes around like I think he can, there’s a lot of depth in it. When Moustakas comes up and effectively replaces Getz, there’s A TON of depth in it. No superstars yet, but a 3-4-5 of Gordon, Butler, Ka’aihue has a chance to be one of the best hearts of the order in Royals history.

Back in mid-January, I put some projections together that I had hoped to use on this blog. I knew that it was pretty early and I might have been a little optimistic. I was, as it turns out, but I also think I was pretty realistic in what to expect from some players. So here are a few of the highlights of what I put together.

Gordon – .286/.367/.494, 29 homers
Butler – .323/.411/.515, 51 doubles, 22 homers
Ka’aihue – .268/.370/.488, 30 homers, 93 walks
Francouer – .247/.291/.374
Escobar – .287/.322/.395

Hochevar – 13-10, 3.72 ERA
Mazzaro – 8-16, 4.19 ERA
Soria – 1.72 ERA, 46 saves

And now…the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I will unveil my season prediction for the Royals record. You ready? Are you sitting down? Ok…here it is. 71-91.

Predicting a losing record takes the shine off things, eh? Well, it’s probably the last time I’ll predict a losing record for awhile. Enjoy Opening Day. I’ll be at the K rain or shine. Here’s to a great season!

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