Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's been a long time, a very long time, since the Kansas City Royals have been a factor in their division race. And it's been even longer since their offensive stars were featured in fantasy lineups.
But that could be changing soon.
The Royals' 2013 lineup is busting with young talent and this could be the year fantasy owners will want to jump on the bandwagon.
While the Kansas City pitching staff may not have enough depth to carry the team into the playoffs, the offensive firepower up and down the lineup could keep the Royals around for a lot longer than most people think.
They are young, with a starting lineup averaging 25.3 years old, but have a pedigree that says they can all swing the bat.
Left fielder Alex Gordon, the second overall pick of the 2005 amateur draft, is the team's leadoff hitter, though not a prototypical top-of-the-order guy because he has more power than speed. Gordon disappointed fantasy owners last season by not building on very good 2011 statistics, but still scored 93 runs, hit 14 home runs, knocked in 72 runs, stole 10 bases and batted .294 after a slow start. He's one of the Royals' oldest starter at the ripe old age of 28 and is a nice value for an eight-round average draft position (Yahoo ADP 88).
Alcides Escobar wasn't a high draft choice, but has blossomed into a solid No. 2 hitter. His fantasy value is primarily as a stolen base threat after stealing a career-high 35 last season and his .293 batting average and .721 OPS won't hurt you.
The No. 3 hitter is expected to be first baseman Eric Hosmer. A third overall pick of the 2008 draft, Hosmer has been hyped throughout his climb to the major leagues. He put together an excellent rookie season in 2011 after an early May call-up (.293, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 11 SB, .799 OPS), but suffered through a sophomore jinx last season. He has the talent to produce 25-30 homers and 90- plus RBI and as an eighth-rounder in fantasy drafts (Yahoo ADP 94), he could be a steal.
Veteran DH Billy Butler is the team's cleanup man and a pure hitter with a .300 lifetime batting average. Not necessarily a home run hitter, he blasted 29 last season with 107 RBI and an .882 OPS - all career highs. Butler has an ADP of 47, meaning he can be had for an end-of-the-fourth-round selection. He's a low- risk selection because he's been consistently good over the past four seasons. He also usually plays enough games at first base to be eligible to play there in most fantasy leagues.
Batting fifth is 22-year-old catching phenom Salvador Perez. He has already shown he can hit big league pitching, batting .331 in a brief showcase during 2011 and in 76 games (305 ABs) last season when he batted .301 with 11 HR and 39 RBI. He probably has the most upside of any of the young Royals and with his Yahoo ADP at 129 might be one of the best bargains anywhere on draft day.
Slugger Mike Moustakas bats sixth in this loaded lineup. He's another high draft pick as the second player selected in the 2007 amateur draft. He's yet to live up to expectations following a 36-homer, 124-RBI season in the minors back in 2010, but he still managed to pop 20 homers last year. "Moose" is just 24 years old and no one should be giving up on him. He's a prime guy to stash on any keeper league, and 25 or more homers is easily obtainable this season.
"Old guy" Jeff Francouer is expected to bat seventh and is well known to fantasy owners. Back in 2006, he hit 29 homers and knocked in 103 RBI for the Atlanta Braves. He's not the same guy anymore, but he still owns 20-homer power. We aren't recommending you select him on draft day, but keep an eye on him throughout the season as he usually produces one hot month during a season.
Batting eighth is center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He spent most of last season sidelined with an injury and is getting very little attention from fantasy owners. He showed 20-20 ability in the minors and in 222 at-bats last season managed seven homers and 10 steals. If he sees 500 at-bats this season, the 20-20 season is a distinct possibility.
Second baseman Chris Getz bats last and is the weak link in the Kansas City lineup. He has very little fantasy value at this time.
The Kansas City lineup scored 676 runs last season (4.17 per game), which was below the major league average, but that should significantly change in 2013. With the modest prices on most of the hitters in their lineup, this could be the year that the Royals' batters help you win a fantasy title.