Royals 2017 preview: How will Kansas City move on from death of Yordano Ventura?

This year's Royals roster is drastically changed from last, in part due to the tragic death of starting pitcher Yordano Ventura.

This year's Royals roster is drastically changed from last, in part due to the tragic death of starting pitcherYordano Ventura. Five months from now the Royals' championship lineup could change even more.

Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are all entering their free-agent seasons, perhaps their last in Kansas City. Already departedfrom 2016 are the likes of starter Edinson Volquez, slugger Kendrys Morales, pitcher Kris Medlen, closerWade Davis, speedster Jarrod Dyson and reliever Greg Holland.

Along with moving on from tragedy, the Royals must find a way to stay in contention this summer or general managerDayton Moore is going to be a busy man.

SluggersJorge Soler andBrandon Moss are able to replaceMorales' bat whileJason Hammel will need to step up in Ventura's absence.

According toBaseball Prospectus, the Royals are headed fora last-place finish in the AL Central. We disagree. That spot is reserved for the White Sox, while the Royals should be headed for a third-place division finish with nearly 80 wins while trading the likes ofCain,HosmerorEscobar before the deadline in order to rebuild for the future.

Kansas City Royals schedule 2017

The Royals begin the 2017 schedule on baseball's opening dayApril 3 in Minnesota against the Twins. Following the three-game set, Kansas City heads south to play the Astros.

Kauffman Stadium's home opener is set for April 10 at 3:15 p.m. against the A's. The Royals then welcome the Angels and face a 2014 World Series rematch with the Giants before embarking on a six-game road trip.

Kansas City Royalsroster

Royals projected opening day lineup

1. Alcides Escobar, SS

2.Mike Moustakas, 3B

3.Lorenzo Cain, OF

4. Eric Hosmer, 1B

5.Jorge Soler, DH

6.Alex Gordon, OF

7.Salvador Perez, C

8.Brandon Moss, OF

9. Raul Mondesi, 2B

Royals projected rotation

1.Danny Duffy, LHP

2. Jason Hammel, RHP

3. Ian Kennedy, RHP

4.Nate Karns, RHP

5.Travis Wood, LHP

Royals projected bullpen

Closer:Kelvin Herrera, RHP
Setup:Joakim Soria, RHP
Setup:Matthew Strahm, LHP

Royals fantasy baseball sleeper

Jorge Soler, OF: Soler disappointed in Chicago, but he didn't have everyday playing time and still hit 12 homers and upped his walk rate to 11.7 percentin just 86 games last season. Now batting in the heart of a solid Royals lineup,the 25-year-old will be free to swing away and get on base with regularity.

Kansas City Royals' top prospects

Third basemanHunter Dozier, the eighth overall pickin 2013,saw eight games at the big-league level last season after batting .296/.366/.533 in the minors before getting called up. WithMike Moustakas a free agent in 2018,Dozier may be the future at the hot corner.

Jorge Bonifacio's older brother Emiliois a speedy utility infielder, but the Royals' Jorge is a power-hitting outfielder. For a 6-1, 195-pound player, Jorge's .277/.351/.461 slash line with19 homers and 86 RBIs at the Triple-A level is quite impressive.

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