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2016 MLB roster outlook: Kansas City Royals

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2016 MLB roster outlook: Kansas City Royals

2015 record: 95-67, first in AL Central, World Series champions

Manager: Ned Yost, seventh season

Estimated 2016 payroll: $125 million

Key additions: RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Dillon Gee, RHP Joakim Soria 

Key losses: RHP Johnny Cueto, 2B Ben Zobrist 

Projected lineup 

1. SS Alcides Escobar 

2. OF Lorenzo Cain 

3. 1B Eric Hosmer

4.  DH Kendrys Morales 

5.  3B Mike Moustakas 

6.  C Salvador Perez 

7.  OF Alex Gordon 

8.  2B Omar Infante

9.  OF Jarred Dyson

 

Projected rotation

RHP Edinson Volquez 

RHP Yordano Ventura 

RHP Ian Kennedy 

LHP Danny Duffy 

RHP Chris Young 

Top relievers

RHP Wade Davis 

RHP Kelvin Herrera 

RHP Joakim Soria 

RHP Luke Hochevar 

Biggest questions entering 2016

1. Is this rotation good enough to get the Royals back to the World Series? In 2015, the Royals' starting staff lacked a true ace, but still gutted its way to a championship. This year's rotation is largely the same, with the biggest difference being the newly-signed Ian Kennedy replacing the San Francisco-bound Johnny Cueto. They say that starting pitching is the key to any deep October run — and the Royals starters certainly didn't pitch poorly — but their formula for winning didn't require a dominant effort every outing. Of the six pitchers who started last year, only Chris Young and Edinson Volquez had an ERA under 4.00. Will they be able to get by again if they post similar numbers in 2016? 

2. Can the bullpen continue its magic? Of course, the Royals have compensated for so-so starting pitching the last few seasons with their incredibly dominant bullpen. By any metric, this group has been the best in the game since 2013; if Kansas City had a lead going into the seventh inning — especially in the playoffs — it's usually meant game over.

But keeping together a solid group of relievers for several years is difficult to do. Last season's closer, Greg Holland, remains an unrestricted free agent and is presumably hoping a team is willing to overspend for a top bullpen arm. Assuming he's not re-signed, Wade Davis will take over in the ninth inning, with Kelvin Herrera bumped up to the eighth. The addition of Joakim Soria should help, but KC has to hope the loss of Holland isn't the beginning of a regression. 

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

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Stephen Strasburg returns to Nats lineup after DL stint

Friday night marks the first second-half game of Major League Baseball's 162-game season. 

The Washington Nationals begin 5.5 games out of the first-place Phillies and host the second-place Braves for a three-game series before traveling to Milwaukee. 

One big piece to Dave Martinez's staff who has been missing since June 8 is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander was activated from the DL and will start on the mound Friday night. 

Ryan Zimmerman was also activated but is not in Martinez's starting lineup. 

Prior to experiencing inflammation in his right shoulder during a June 8 start that forced him out of the game early, Strasburg saw flashes of dominance throughout his 13 starts owning a 3.46 ERA with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Zimmerman hasn't played since May 9 due to a strained right oblique. With the emergence of Matt Adams, it will be interesting to see how Martinez uses both guys throughout the summer. 

Here is a look at Friday night's official lineup: 

According to Byron Kerr, Zimmerman is still happy to be back, despite not being in the starting lineup. 

Catch the Nationals hosting the Braves Friday at 7:05 p.m. on MASN2. 

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

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8 bold MLB predictions sure to be proven wrong

It doesn't have quite the same feel as Opening Day, but the first games after the MLB All-Star break certainly have their own unique excitement to them.

Teams are jockeying for playoff position, and the trade deadline is rapidly approaching. The Nats have struggled through the first half, but are still within striking distance of a spot in the 2018 postseason, so every game matters.

To help get you ready for the rest of the 2018 regular season, our baseball writers have provided a couple of bold predictions which are sure to be proven wrong by August.

Bold predictions for the second half of the 2018 MLB season:

Ryan Wormeli: 1) Despite the consensus top three teams in baseball all residing in the American League, this year’s World Series champion will be a National League squad.

2) Max Scherzer does NOT win the National League Cy Young award, even though most fans agree he has the best statistical season.

Cam Ellis: 1) Bryce Harper ends up with 45 home runs this season.

2) Koda Glover eventually gets the 7th inning spot.

Michaela Johnson: 1) Nationals win the NL East (I know this VERY bold but like I said I have high expectations).

2) Tanner Roark will get back on top of his game.

Tyler Byrum: 1) The Milwaukee Brewers will drop out of the playoff hunt. 

Every year the Brewers seem to be close to running away with the NL Central. Then, once we get closer to the All-Star break and move beyond they go silent. It’s getting quite ridiculous at this point. Last year they had 50 wins in the first half, finished with only 86.

2) Philadelphia will make a trade deadline acquisition, but it will not get them over the hump. 

There are just too many issues with the Phillies; starting pitching behind Aaron Nola, consistent batting as a team, and the bullpen. They’ve done a fantastic job to piece together a 53-42 record and sit atop the division, but it will be tough to maintain it. 

Right now, they are almost the exact opposite of the Nationals.