St. Louis Cardinals against the AMERICAN League: Kansas City Royals


The Kansas City Royals won their first World Series in 30 years, and return a majority of their core from a season ago. The St. Louis Cardinals play the Royals four times this year.

2015 Record: 95-67

Notable Departures: SP Johnny Cueto, RP Ryan Madson, 2B Ben Zobrist, RP Greg Holland

Notable Newcomers: SP Ian Kennedy, RP Joakim Soria

Against St. Louis in 2016: 2 games June 27-28 @KC, 2 games June 29-30 @STL

The Outlook:

No, I’m not going to evaluate each of the American League teams on the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2016 schedule. Although it could be fascinating stuff, considering we play the Angels in mid-May and then the Astros and Rangers in back-to-back series’ in mid-June.

But, this series has run it’s course. I had to throw the Royals into the mix because we play them every year, we share a state with them, and I spent the majority of their best two-year stretch in 30 years in the heart (kind of) of Royals country.

I graduated from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO last spring. UCM, with an enrollment over 12,000, draws a majority of its students from the Kansas City and St. Louis areas. Naturally, you are going to get a divided student body, at least in terms of which city is the better one and, now, which city has the better baseball team.

When I started at UCM in the fall semester of 2011 as a member of the school’s baseball team (Go Mules!), the Cards were just starting that magical World Series run.

As I walked the stage last May with the realization that my undergrad days were over, the Cardinals and Royals were in the early stages of very successful 2015 campaigns.

The Cards would go on to win 100 games while holding off the second and third-best team’s in baseball (at least record-wise) in the process to win a third consecutive NL Central title.

The Royals would win an American League-best 95 games en route to a second-consecutive World Series appearance and the organizations first World Series Championship in 30 years.

A whole lot of celebrating has been going on in good old Warrensburg, at least in the September and October months. I know how crazy “The Burg” was back in 2011, I’m sure it was just as crazy this past October for the KC crowd.

Anyhow, now that I’ve got the necessary shout out covered, I guess I could talk a little bit about the squad KC has this year.

The Royals will keep most of their core intact from a season ago, although losing the likes of Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist could be tough. With Wade Davis emerging as an absolute lights-out machine of a closer, they may be comfortable with saying goodbye to former closer Greg Holland.

Holland underwent Tommy John last year, and will not pitch at all in 2016. The Royals declined a $10 million option on Holland ahead of 2016, allowing him to become a free agent. The Royals have made it known that they would be interested in signing a multi-year deal with the 30-year-old for 2017, if the right terms can be reached.

Last year, the Royals hit at every spot in their lineup. Their outfield caught everything, their infield defense was superb, and there was just a general display of athleticism all over the diamond.

Nov 1, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with left fielder Alex Gordon (4) after scoring a run against the New York Mets in the 9th inning in game five of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) celebrates with left fielder Alex Gordon (4) after scoring a run against the New York Mets in the 9th inning in game five of the World Series at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Royals retained long-time outfielder Alex Gordon after his flirtation with free agency this off season. Gordon spent most of July and all of August on the DL before returning in September. He hit three home runs in the playoffs for Kansas City.

Lorenzo Cain made his first All Star Game appearance in 2015 on his way to a career year that resulted in a third place finish in the AL MVP voting. Cain slashed .307/.361/.477 with 16 home runs, 72 RBI and 101 runs scored a season ago. At 29-years-old, Cain is in the prime of his career and figures to be a mainstay in the Kansas City outfield for years to come.

Some combination of Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando will cover right field duties in KC, as the club did not re-sign 35-year-old Alex Rios after 2015.

Neither guy hit better than .250 last year, but neither guy saw more than 241 at-bats, either. Both guys have speed (Dyson in particular) and both guys play good defense. Orlando has more power potential, but there really isn’t any certainty as to what the Royals would get out of 500 at-bats from either outfielder.

What the Royals get out of the right field position will be important in their efforts to make a third-straight World Series appearance.

I like what the Royals have at all five spots on the infield heading into 2016. In Mike Moustakas (“Moose”) and Eric Hosmer (“Hos”) at the corners, the Royals have a pair of 20 homer, 80-90 RBI guys that are just in their mid-20’s age-wise.

Alcides Escobar is as good as they come at the shortstop position. Normally known for his exceptional defense, Escobar still slashed .257/.293/.320 a season ago with 17 stolen bases at the top of the Kansas City order.

Escobar paired up with Kansas City second baseman Omar Infante to turn 67 double plays a season ago. Their combined .980 fielding percentage was good, but not as high as I expected.

Salvador Perez has developed into one of the game’s best catchers. Perez was third amongst Major League catchers in home runs a season ago with 21. His .260/.280/.426 slash line looks good. At just 25-years-old, Perez will continue to grow at the catcher position as he enters the prime of his career.

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Handling designated hitter duties and occasionally spelling Hosmer at first base will be 32-year-old Kendrys Morales. Morales was surprisingly productive last year, considering he slashed just .218/.274/.338 in 98 games between Minnesota and Seattle in 2014.

Morales slashed .290/.362/.485 with 22 home runs and team-high 106 RBI in 2016. The Morales signing is proving to be a very good move by Kansas City GM Dayton Moore, and I would expect another productive campaign for Morales this year.

The biggest question mark for the Royals in 2016 will be starting pitching. Edison Volquez was good a season ago, turning in a 3.55 ERA with a 13-9 regular season record. He figures to be the staff “ace” in 2016.

Yordano Ventura has electric stuff, although he’s struggled with consistency at times at the Major League level. Still, Ventura has a 27-18 record the past two seasons in Kansas City despite 1.30 WHIP values in each season. The 24-year-old has all the tools to develop into an ace for the Royals, dependent upon how he develops from a maturity standpoint.

Kris Medlen is 40-22 in his career, including a 6-2 mark last year with the Royals following his return from Tommy John. Should Medlen turn in the type of 2016 campaign that he’s proven capable of early in his career, his signing would be another steal by the KC front office.

I’m not high on Ian Kennedy (based on what I saw from him in Arizona and San Diego), and I think that the five years and $70 million the Royals gave the 31-year-old was pretty steep. He should be a serviceable arm at the back end of their rotation, but his career ERA near 4.00 and 1.28 WHIP value illustrates his lack of high-end stuff.

Chris Young and Danny Duffy will compete for the final rotation spot. Young was fantastic in 123 1/3 regular season innings last year and he was even better in the playoffs. Young turned in a 2.57 ERA over 15 2/3 postseason innings last year while holding opponents to a .157 average.

Based off of that performance and Duffy’s high 1.36 WHIP as a starter last year, I give first shot at the final rotation spot to Young.

Wade Davis is an absolute machine closing out ballgames for the Royals. After Holland went down last year, Davis came on to close out 17 of 18 regular season games to the tune of a 0.98 ERA. In the postseason, he converted four of four save opportunities without allowing a single run. In 10 2/3 innings last October, opponents hit just .167 against Davis with 18 strikeouts against three walks.

Kelvin Herrera will blow up radar guns in the eighth inning of games this year. Joakim Soria comes over from Pittsburgh, and should be a more than formidable replacement for Ryan Madson in the later innings of ballgames.

Tim Collins could be used in a LOOGY-type role for the Royals, and Luke Hochevar has made the transition from being a starting pitcher to a middle reliever nicely.

The Royals and the Cardinals will have back-to-back two-game sets at the end of June. The Cardinals will make a pit stop in Kansas City at the tail end of a West Coast road trip before returning to St. Louis for two more games with the Royals at Busch.

Kansas City/St. Louis match ups are pretty much always highly competitive, and that doesn’t figure to change in 2016.

Since Busch III opened in 2006, the Cardinals are just 12-13 at home against the Royals. At the same time, the Cardinals have won 19 of 28 at Kauffman Stadium during that time period.

Thus, much to the displeasure of any KC readers out there, I’m picking the Cards to sweep in Kansas City and split at Busch for a 3-1 season series victory for the Redbirds. I mean, that had to be expected, right?

This piece officially wraps up the “Cards against the NL/AL” series. I hope that you all enjoyed reading about the competition the Cardinals will see in 2016. Hopefully, you guys learned something about the rest of the league through reading the series, as I certainly did in the process of writing it.

Next: St. Louis Cardinals against the National League: Chicago Cubs

Let me know what you think about my Royals breakdown or any of the other ones I did in the comments, or get at me on twitter!

Baseball is almost here, Cardinal Nation!