In this article we look at the Kansas City Royals futures prices, complete with our betting analysis as we determine if they can repeat as World Series Champions and offer our MLB picks.
Do you know which team had the best winning percentage as an underdog last season in MLB? That’s right, the Royals. Going 41-33 with an average line of +120, the World Series champs returned a little more than 20 percent profit to investors when projected by the market to lose. Perhaps the most telling stat is that K.C. was a dog 74 times. In fact, 13 teams took the diamond as a dog in fewer. How is this possible when the Royals were one out away from taking it all in 2014? It’s because the club has been winning in unorthodox ways.
GM Drayton Moore did not piece this team together like most past champions, complete with elite starting pitchers, a patient approach at the plate, and more. Instead, the Royals succeed with an aggressive offense, strong defense, and deep bullpen. But is this a blueprint for continued success? Bettors need to ask themselves this before placing their futures wagers for the 2016 MLB season.
The reigning Fall Classic winners are the eighth or ninth choice at most bet shops to defend their crown. Bettors can find 14-to-1 odds at some online sportsbooks. Playing in the less-than-competitive AL Central, the Royals are second choice at 5Dimes to win the Pennant at 6-to-1 MLB odds with their chances of reaching the postseason elevated in the poor division. Let us take a look at the upcoming year, and uncover a betting angle worth following.
The Royals lineup is their bread-and-butter. For the most part, it stays intact for the upcoming season. The front office resigned 31-year old LF Alex Gordon to a four-year deal, but missed keeping 2B Ben Zobrist, who came over right before last year’s deadline to cover for the then-ailing Omar Infante. A vital part of the team’s playoff run, he signed with the Cubs over the winter. Other than that, the key pieces remain (CF Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmor, C Salvador Perez, etc.) outside of a true first-team right fielder.
For the Royals, winning is all about being aggressive at the plate. They are the contact kings of baseball. K.C. very rarely struck out last year; its 6.05 K’s per game were the fewest in the majors, as it set one of the lowest relative team strikeout rates since 1950. Moreover, the Royals took the third-fewest walks in baseball (2.4 per game). With average power, they succeeded by needling teams—wearing out starting pitching and testing defenses. Overall, K.C.’s 6693.0 plate appearances were the most of any team. Do not expect this style to change. This is strategic, and so far successful.
One angle worth following for the upcoming season is to back the Royals when priced reasonably (-110 to plus money) against starting pitchers with a high strikeout-to-walk ratio. This is where value can best be uncovered with the contact-hitting club getting the best of a zone-tossing pitcher dependent on sitting batters down. K.C. went 14-9 (+111 avg odds) in this situation last season, scoring 5.1 runs per game against starters’ intent on challenging its hitters versus 3.9 runs versus those with a lesser ratio. Since 2013, Ned Yost’s club (or more like Moore’s vision) is 42-24 (+114 avg. odds), scoring 4.8 runs per game opposed to a 48-46 record and 3.5 runs per game against fewer.
The Royals need some help in their starting rotation if they hope to repeat. Frankly, the team is missing a top-tier ace most World Series contenders possess. Nothing against Yordano Ventura, who compiled above-average numbers in some advanced metrics like FIP, swinging strike percentage, and ground ball percentage. Nevertheless, his pedestrian 4.08 ERA and 1.30 WHIP put up in 2015 does not read like No.1-on-the-depth-chart material.
Johnny Cueto, who put in a couple of vintage postseason performances after disappointing for much of his short stay, departed to San Francisco. Journeyman Edinson Volquez will pilot the second spot in the rotation, while former Padres and recent signing Ian Kennedy will fill-in as the third member. This trio is not really a group to strike fear among many MLB lineups. Former Mets starter Dillon Gee, often derailed by injuries, but who has shown signs of brilliance, will challenge for a spot on the backend. Starting pitching often trumps hitting, especially in the best-of postseason series, and K.C. will likely have to chase another ace at the trade deadline to challenge for back-to-back titles.
Defense and Relief Pitching
Two areas where the Royals excel are at defense and relief pitching. Their 0.51 errors per game last season were sixth fewest in the league. This success should rollover to this year, keeping the team in many close ball games.
One area that should concern every bettor is the bullpen. It was bar none the best and deepest in the league last season, allowing just a .214 batting average, tops in the majors. The relief took up a lot of slack for a group of starters who failed to work deep into games on many nights. Including the postseason, the Royals were 79-6 last season with a lead after the sixth inning.
Relying on one’s bullpen to remain consistently top-notch is not a formula for long-term success in most eyes. Players come and go (the Royals lost Ryan Madson (2.13 ERA) to the A’s) and injuries are a certainty. It can be one of the most efficient areas for many teams looking to get the most bang for their bucks, but it’s often boom or bust. The Royals pen will likely be good again, but a more dominant rotation would certainly give bettors more confidence in futures wagering, as wear and tear is likely if asked to put in as many innings as last season.
If you are a Royals believer, the 14-to-1 odds to win back-to-back World Series is a fair price for MLB picks with oddsmakers down on their chances. Even die-hard fans can admit the team has a couple of holes. The odds to win the Pennant, however, are a bit too short in a league with five to six potential contenders. The lineup and defense are amazing, and they will win many close ball games against good teams again this year. But at some point, with question marks surrounding elements of the pitching staff, the little things are going to start to go the other way.