Position-by-position breakdown: Royals-Orioles

Position-by-position breakdown: Royals-Orioles

Deep postseason runs have been a long time coming in Baltimore and Kansas City, and now the two organizations collide in what promises to be an exhilarating American League Championship Series.

It all starts at Camden Yards on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.

The two teams have some differences, most glaringly in the power department. The Orioles led all of Major League Baseball with 211 home runs this season. The Royals ranked last with 95.

  Date   Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 10   KC 8, BAL 6 (10 inn.) video
Gm 2 Oct. 11   KC 6, BAL 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14   KC 2, BAL 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15   KC 2, BAL 1 video

But for baseball fans who love pitching and defense, this is a must-watch series.

The Royals and Orioles were the Majors' top two defensive teams, per Ultimate Zone Rating, and each feature Gold Glove Award winners and athletes who can make jaw-dropping plays.

And late-inning heroics just might be hard to come by: Baltimore had the third-best bullpen ERA in the AL, while Kansas City ranked fifth.

But it is October, and neither team has been here in awhile. Baltimore last played in the ALCS in 1997, while the Royals' last appearance was in '85. Here's a look at how these clubs match up at each position:

CATCHER
Salvador Perez is the best catcher in baseball not many fans outside of Kansas City know about. He threw out 30.5 percent of would-be basestealers in the regular season, posted the third-best catcher's ERA (3.26) and hit a career-high 17 home runs. And he's durable, playing in 150 of the Royals' games -- including 143 starts behind the dish. Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph have filled in admirably for the injured Matt Wieters. Advantage: Royals

FIRST BASE
Steve Pearce has proven to be a more than capable replacement for Chris Davis. Davis missed the AL Division Series because of a suspension and still has five games to serve, so he won't be part of Baltimore's ALCS roster. Pearce swatted 21 homers and slugged .556 in the regular season. Eric Hosmer is already a Gold Glove Award winner and is hot, with a .500/.632/1.071 slash line and two homers this postseason. This one is very close. Advantage: Royals

SECOND BASE
Omar Infante went hitless in the ALDS, but played solid defense aside from one error. Jonathan Schoop batted .300 and knocked in two runs against Detroit, proving he isn't fazed by the bright lights in his first full season in the Majors. Advantage: Orioles

THIRD BASE
Ryan Flaherty started all three games at the hot corner for the O's in the ALDS. He played well, getting two hits, but Mike Moustakas was one of the Royals' ALDS heroes with his Game 1 homer. It's been a rough season for Moustakas, a former No. 2 overall pick who spent time in the Minors this season, but he seems to have found his swing. Advantage: Royals

SHORTSTOP
J.J. Hardy and Alcides Escobar can flat-out pick it. Hardy is the reigning Gold Glove Award winner, but Escobar can make plays that leave your jaw agape. Hardy has the edge in defensive-WAR (2.1 to 0.7), as well as at the plate, though his power dropped this season, as he hit 16 fewer homers (nine) than he did in 2013 (25). Advantage: Orioles

LEFT FIELD
Make no mistake: Alex Gordon is the face of his franchise, and rightfully so. He's won three straight Gold Glove Awards and is no doubt going to get his fourth later this fall. He also has speed (12 stolen bases in the regular season) and power (19 home runs). Alejandro De Aza has played well since joining the Orioles at the end of August, hitting .293 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 20 regular-season games. Advantage: Royals

CENTER FIELD
Adam Jones has played in the All-Star Game the past three years, and is a key cog as Baltimore's No. 3 hitter, driving in 96 runs and launching 29 homers in the regular season. Lorenzo Cain, his counterpart for Kansas City, is capable of highlight-reel plays, but Jones is the better all-around player. Advantage: Orioles

RIGHT FIELD
Nick Markakis is as dependable as they come, playing in at least 147 games in eight of his nine seasons. He has double-digit home run power and also hits for a high average. Nori Aoki is a key part of the top of Kansas City's lineup and also made a couple of huge defensive plays in the ALDS. Advantage: Orioles

DESIGNATED HITTER
Nelson Cruz continued his phenomenal season in the power department in the ALDS, hitting two homers against Detroit after launching a Major League-leading 40 in the regular season. Cruz is the most feared hitter in a lineup that loves to go deep. Billy Butler had another solid season after a slow start, and who doesn't love one of baseball's best nicknames: Country Breakfast? Advantage: Orioles

BENCH
Why are the Royals in the ALCS? Clutch hits, of course. Dynamite bullpen, you bet. But speed kills, as the A's and the AL-best Angels can attest. Terrance Gore and Jarrod Dyson are perhaps the two biggest difference-makers off the bench this postseason. The Orioles counter with power-hitting Delmon Young and veteran Kelly Johnson. Advantage: Royals

ROTATION
"Big Game" James Shields has earned his nickname for a reason, and he's been key in changing the culture in Kansas City. Yordano Ventura brings gas every inning, while veterans Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas are solid. The supposed storyline is that Baltimore lacks an ace, but Chris Tillman posted a 3.34 regular-season ERA and fired five solid innings in the ALDS. Bud Norris also blanked the Tigers for 6 1/3 innings in the ALDS to complete the sweep. Advantage: Royals

BULLPEN
Wade Davis has had an historic season and the Royals' bullpen has been one of the Majors' best the past two years. Kansas City lefty Brandon Finnegan, who began the season with Class A Advanced Wilmington, has knockout stuff and has allowed one run over four postseason innings so far. But Kelvin Herrera's forearm issue is a question for the 'pen, and the Royals don't have as much depth as the Orioles. Baltimore can turn to Andrew Miller and Darren O'Day late in games, plus it has an impact weapon in regular-season starter Kevin Gausman. Zach Britton transitioned into the closer role seamlessly and put together a great year in his first stint as the ninth-inning man in Baltimore, saving 37 games. Greg Holland has posted 40-plus saves in each of the past two seasons, and closed out all three of the the Royals' ALDS wins. Advantage: Royals

MANAGER
Like every manager, Ned Yost has his critics. But he was at the helm of a Royals team that ended a 29-year playoff drought and now has it in the ALCS. Buck Showalter, highlighted by his brilliant use of the 'pen, is widely regarded as one of the best --- if not the best -- tacticians in the game. Advantage: Orioles

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.