Royals focused on improving number of HRs

Additions of Morales, Rios should help add more power to lineup

Royals focused on improving number of HRs

In the days leading up to Opening Day, is examining various aspects of each team's roster. Today, the time has come to focus on a key number for the upcoming season. For the Royals, it's 95: Major League-worst home run total in 2014.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Back in 2013, former Royals hitting coach Jack Maloof infamously conceded that the Royals likely would "lead the league in fewest home runs" that season.

That quote went viral -- as did the rest of a bizarre interview with Maloof -- and Maloof was dismissed within days, though the Royals insist there was no connection between what he said and his dismissal.

The funny thing is, though, that Maloof was right about the power outage. The Royals did lead the league in fewest homers that year with 112. They were last in homers again in '14 with just 95.

The lack of home run power has been a trend for years -- the Royals have been worst or tied for fewest home runs since 2011, when they were 11th in the American League with 129.

General manager Dayton Moore has come to accept that lack of power to a degree and has built his team to win with other methods, mainly with elite pitching, speed and defense.

"I know our ballpark has the most square footage (2.63 acres) of any other ballpark in the American League," Moore said. "We're not going to hit a lot of homers. That's a fact."

Royals players, too, know more than anyone the difficulty of hitting home runs at Kauffman Stadium.

"It's a big, big ballpark," first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

Hosmer's two-run home run

"Big park, man," third baseman Mike Moustakas said, shaking his head.

"El grande," catcher Salvador Perez said.

Still, there is a sense among players and the organization that in 2015, the Royals will deliver more long balls.

The club added Alex Rios, who hit 25 homers for the White Sox in 2012, and designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who hit 23 homers for Seattle (another big park) in 2013.

"I would be surprised if we didn't hit more homers this year," manager Ned Yost said. "It's the addition of those guys, plus I think our younger guys are going to break out to a degree."

Yost cites the maturation of his corner infielders, Moustakas and Hosmer, as possible 20-25 homer guys.

"Sal could be another guy to have a breakout year in terms of homers," Yost said. "And we really don't know the ceiling yet for Lorenzo Cain."

Cain has never hit more than seven homers in a season in the big leagues, but at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he is strong enough and experienced enough now to hit around 10-15 homers.

"I think that would be a good bet," Yost said. "I think he's capable of hitting 15. I really do."

Veteran outfielder Alex Gordon hit 19 homers last season despite playing the final three months with an injured right wrist that required surgery in December.

Not that the Royals are sweating their power numbers. The bottom line is winning, and they have found other ways to score -- they advance runners, they bunt, they steal (they led the league in steals last year with 153), and they win in ways that has the sabermetric crowd scratching its collective head.

Kansas City was ninth in the league in scoring at 4.02 runs per game, a tick below the league average of 4.18.

"We have to adjust to playing in our stadium," Moore said. "The way to win in our place is by pitching very well, playing great defense with athletic defenders, and running the bases very well. That type of team isn't going to hit a lot of homers, but you can't win in our ballpark trying to play that type of [power game]."

Hall of Famer George Brett, who hit just 136 of his career 317 homers at The K, said Moore's roster approach is smart.

"You have to build a team for your ballpark," Brett said, "and that's who we are now -- pitching, speed and defense -- and that's who we were back in the 1970s and 1980s."

Jeffrey Flanagan is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.