The Kansas City Royals haven't been taken seriously for a very long time. They're like the Ralph Naders of baseball. That's all about to change. My American League "dark horse" team for 2012? The Kansas City Royals.
The Royals' offense has improved drastically over the past few seasons. Alex Gordon finally played up to the Alex Gordon everyone expected him to be when he first entered the majors. Eric Hosmer, a 21-year-old rookie in 2011, had a fairly decent campaign and should be one of the top seven first basemen in the American League next season. KC lost Melky Cabrera to the Giants, but in return they got Jonathan Sanchez, who should improve their rotation. Billy Butler, who is shockingly 25 (thought he was older) brings his steady bat back to their lineup. This team is absolutely loaded with young talent. Their bullpen is young and strong with the likes of Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, and Louis Coleman. Joakim Soria will be closing out games again, but this time he'll have Jonathan Broxton as his set-up man. Broxton is a risk, but if he pays off, then the Royals have one of the best setup/closer duos in baseball. The problem that the Royals have had is getting it to the 8th and 9th innings with the lead.
Luke Hochevar had a decent season with a few hiccups in 2011, but I feel like he'll be even better in 2012. The addition on Jonathan Sanchez gives them a good #2 or #3 guy in the rotation. They re-signed Bruce Chen, who had a shockingly good year with them in 2011. I hope they let Jeff Francis go, and look for a more reliable starting pitcher from either a trade or free agency. It looks to me as though the Royals could finally be contenders. I'm not saying that they're going to win the World Series in 2012, but I do believe that they're going to be a thorn in the sides of a lot of teams.
What do you think? Who is your American League "Dark Horse"?