Royals' biggest difference on the mound

Club adds power, but rotation, bullpen are key to 2017

Royals' biggest difference on the mound

With Spring Training fast approaching, will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Royals squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?

KANSAS CITY -- There is a growing narrative surrounding the 2017 Royals that the team is abandoning its foundation of speed and defense to transform into a more prototypical American League team, and that the big difference in this year's Royals will be more power.

There is some truth to that, but it is not as if the Royals have abandoned their core principles of speed and defense.

Sure, the Royals subtracted the speedy Jarrod Dyson and added slugger Jorge Soler in right field, giving them more pop at that spot since the days of Jermaine Dye.

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And the Royals last week added 33-year-old Brandon Moss, who hit 28 home runs last season and who occasionally will patrol a corner-outfield spot with, at best, average speed.

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But Royals general manager Dayton Moore, while acknowledging he'd like to see his team hit more home runs, insisted there have been no philosophical shifts in the organization: He still covets speed and defense.

"We still have guys like Terrance Gore and Billy Burns and Paulo Orlando and Lorenzo Cain and Whit Merrifield," Moore said. "We've got speed. Our first baseman [Eric Hosmer] can go first to third and score from second with the best of them. We're not going to abandon that.

"We know what wins in this ballpark. We know what we have to do. But also we know we have to score more runs and hit the ball out of the ballpark a little more. I think we'll be capable of doing that.

"It doesn't mean we won't rely on defense. We will, especially late. We've got enough horses that can cover this outfield."

Where fans will see a difference in the 2017 Royals is mostly on the mound.

The rotation will look markedly different with the loss of Edinson Volquez to free agency and, of course, with the loss of Yordano Ventura, tragically killed in a car accident.

Moore is sold on Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas as his front three. On Sunday, the Royals reportedly reached a two-year agreement with free agent Jason Hammel. The fifth spot likely will be a competition among Nathan Karns (acquired from Seattle for Dyson), Chris Young, Matt Strahm and Kyle Zimmer.

Where fans will see the biggest change will be in the bullpen. It seems like only yesterday the Royals' vaunted bullpen featured shutdown relievers Wade DavisGreg HollandLuke Hochevar and Ryan Madson. They've all left by trade or free agency.

Only Kelvin Herrera, the closer, remains from the once-heralded group. Moore is relying on Herrera, Joakim Soria, Brian Flynn and perhaps Strahm to be this year's stoppers. Moore also speaks highly of No. 10 prospect Josh Staumont, he of the 101-mph fastball.

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Because of the Royals' market size, change is inevitable. Rosters will fluctuate from year to year. Moore understands that.

But the core of the Royals championship team of 2015 -- Hosmer, Cain, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar -- remains for one more push toward another championship before several of those players may leave for free agency.

"This is who we are right now," Moore said. "It is what it is. And I fully believe this group can compete for another championship."

Pitchers and catchers have their first spring workout on Feb. 14 and the first full-squad workout at Surprise Stadium is Feb. 17.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.