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Kansas City Royals

Player to Watch    Scouting Report | By the Numbers | Projected Roster

The X-Factor

In Florida last year he was known as Mr. Marlin. That said, Jeff Conine was a) Mr. Too Expensive and b) Mr. Mediocre in '97, which is why he was traded back to Kansas City, where he began his career eight years ago. Conine, 31, will start in left for the Royals, who—with the defection of DH Chili Davis to the Yankees—need more than the .242 average, with 17 homers and 61 RBIs, he put up while hitting in the middle of a stacked Marlins lineup. In fact, on a team where only Jeff King and Dean Palmer supply true power, 90 RBIs is a must for Conine if Kansas City expects to clear .500 and he wants a shot at being "Mr. Royal."

Off-Season Moves

What They Needed: A shortstop to replace Jay Bell, a slugger to replace Chili Davis, proven starting pitching and a closer so they can put a fork in slumpadelic Jeff Montgomery.

What They Got: Former Marlin Jeff Conine for the outfield, reliever Lee Smith, DH-first baseman Hal Morris.

What it All Means: K.C. didn't pick up any quality arms (Smith had one—once upon a time), and Davis's power was not replaced. Conine and Morris are the vanilla wafers of baseball, which means they'll hit .280, drive in 70 runs and won't excite anyone but their accountants. On a good team, they're perfect plug-ins; on the doomed Royals, they're stars. This is a bad thing.

Scouting Report | By the Numbers | Players To Watch | Projected Roster

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