With one week of spring training games in the books and just over three weeks to go before the start of the 2011 MLB regular season, it’s time to look forward to this year and take a look an early look at the 2011 version of the Kansas City Royals.

First of all, the lineup will see some notable changes in 2011. Free agent outfielders Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur were acquired in the offseason, and they are projected to be the starting center fielder and right fielder, respectively.

The shortstop position will also feature a new face in Alcides Escobar, who was one of the four players the Royals received in the Zack Greinke deal in December.

As of right now, Cabrera, Francoeur and Escobar appear to be the only new starters for KC to start the season, but that could change depending on the development of many of the Royals’ highly touted prospects such as Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer.

This is how I see the lineup stacking up for KC when they kick off the season against the Los Angeles Angels on March 31st:

3B Mike Aviles

CF Melky Cabrera

1B Billy Butler

DH Kila Ka’aihue

RF Jeff Francoeur

LF Alex Gordon

SS Alcides Escobar

C Jason Kendall

2B Chris Getz

As for the offense, it will be a work in progress once again with many question marks heading into the season. Defensively, the Royals should be solid as they have upgraded their outfield and the left side of their infield defense since last season.

Pitching wise, the team will be relying mainly on younger guys like Vin Mazarro, Tim Collins and Louis Coleman to get the job done.

Here are the pitchers I believe the Royals will break camp with to begin the ’11 season: Luke Hochevar, Vin Mazzaro, Jeff Francis, Bruce Chen, Kyle Davies, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Blaine Hardy, Jesse Chavez, Robinson Tejeda, Blake Wood and Joakim Soria

It should be another interesting season for the Royals, as we wait patiently for many of the prospects from their top-rated farm system to arrive in Kansas City in the coming years.

2011 Royals record prediction: 70-92, fifth place in AL Central

I see this year’s team finishing a few games better than the ’10 team but still not anywhere close to a winning squad overall. They are still in the process of building for the future, and maybe next season they can be competitive. Just not this soon.

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