SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Everything is up to date in Kansas City. The Royals have a new general manager, new rotation, new closer, new setup man and two new corner infielders since the 2006 season started.It all starts with Dayton Moore, who became the Royals' general manager on June 8 and immediately began overhauling the organization. Moore, who came from the pitching-rich Braves organization, has completely turned over the rotation. After 31 blown saves, Moore signed free agents Octavio Dotel to close and David Riske to set up. He traded for first baseman Ryan Shealy on July 31, while third baseman Alex Gordon should be a Rookie of the Year candidate. Team strength: Shealy, Gordon, Mark Teahen, David DeJesus, Tony Pena Jr. and John Buck may not be household names just yet, but these six young position players are stars on the horizon and could be the Royals' foundation for the next several seasons. Achilles' heel: The Royals' 5.79 ERA ranked last in the Majors in 2006 and was a franchise worst. The Royals need more innings from their starters to prevent overworking the bullpen. Top newcomer: The Royals signed 28-year-old right-hander Gil Meche to a five-year contract, and they believe he is entering the prime of his career. Equally important could be Dotel, who should significantly cut down the blown saves.
An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
Ready to make the leap: Shealy's path to the Majors was blocked by Todd Helton with the Rockies, but after coming to the Royals, first base is all his. He hit .280, including .301 with runners in scoring position, with seven home runs in 51 games with Kansas City last season.You can bank on: Teahen, who is moving from third base to the outfield, hit .290 and topped the club with 18 home runs in 109 games last season. His slugging percentage increased .141 points from .376 in 2005 to .517 in 2006. His numbers should continue to rise. Litmus test: If Mike Sweeney, who was restricted to 60 games last season because of back injuries, can stay healthy, that would have a sizeable impact on the Royals' offense. The Royals also need Meche to develop into a staff ace, which is a new role for him. Games you don't want to miss: The defending World Series champions and cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals come to town for a three-game series, June 12-14. The Yankees make two trips, July 23-26 and Sept. 7-9, to Kauffman Stadium.
The Phillies, with NL MVP Ryan Howard, who went to Missouri State, make their first trip to Kansas City since the 1980 World Series from June 9-10.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.