To stay warm today, I'm going to think summer thoughts.
Here’s the 20 questions I have about the 2014 Kansas City Royals, who teased their fans last year with their first winning record in 10 years and are being bandied about as a potential playoff team by the alleged experts...
1. Will Norichika Aoki finally be the prototypical leadoff man so the Royals can bat Alex Gordon lower in the lineup? Aoki was a subtle offseason acquisition for the Royals, who will just take what he’s done in the past and call it good.
2. Is new second baseman Omar Infante’s sore shoulder a cause for concern? Just be glad we don’t have to be burdened with watching “Getzie” and “Gio” anymore.
3. Can Eric Hosmer finally be the No. 3 hitter the team has envisioned for the last three years? There’s no reason he can’t be a 30-100-.300 guy for years to come.
4. How many games before Billy Butler grounds into a double play? Butler must return to his 2012 form or the Royals may entertain some offers as he could be starting on the downside of his career.
5. Can Gordon be a 90-to-100 RBI producer in the 5-hole? I’ve never been a big Gordon supporter because of the droughts he seems to experience after going well, but his glove is as good as they come.
6. We know Salvador Perez is legit defensively, but is he really the offensive force he showed last year or was that an aberration? Perez was mainly highly regarded for his defense, but he’s wildly exceeded expectations with the bat.
7. Is there any way Mike Moustakas can carry his springs over to the regular season? He always lights it up in Arizona against nondescript ham and eggers, but his bat turns to jelly in the regular season. It’s time to produce or the Royals will look elsewhere.
8. Can Lorenzo Cain actually play 145 games? My guess is that his hammy will give out before April is over.
9. Which is the real Alcides Escobar, the one on the cusp of All-Star status in 2012 or the one that swung at every pitch over his head or in the dirt in 2013? Like Moustakas, Ecsobar's future could depend on this season.
10. Can James Shields win the 17-20 big games it will take for the Royals to make the playoffs? He’s in a contract year and wants big bucks, so he’ll probably be at his best.
11. Will Jason Vargas put up similar numbers to the departed Ervin Santana? I believe the Royals were wise not to shell out big bucks for Santana. Vargas doesn’t throw as hard, but he’s reliable and can win 13.
12. After Jeremy Guthrie at No. 3, who rounds out the starting rotation? The Royals would like for erratic Danny Duffy and young flamethrower Yordano Ventura to claim the spots, but my guess is that it will be old reliable soft-tosser Bruce Chen and Wade Davis winning the spots coming out of spring.
13. Is there any way Greg Holland can come close to last year’s closer’s numbers? If he wants to be considered one of the greats of the game, he has to back up last year’s remarkable season.
14. Is GM Dayton Moore perhaps making a mistake by sticking with the same bullpen? Last year’s numbers were mind-boggling, but I look for Tim Collins and Aaron Crow to fall off the face of the earth and for Kelvin Herrera to bounce back.
15. What do the Royals do with "Speed Do?" Jarrod Dyson has tantalized the Royals with his speed, but his judgment lapses and inability to hit .270 frustrate them. "Speed Do" probably will be "Speed Don’t" most of the time.
16. Does Justin Maxwell play a key role? He has the power the homer-starved Royals covet, but his swing is swiss cheese. If he played every day, he’d probably hit about .250, with 20 bombs and 150 whiffs.
17. Is this the year Luke Hochevar is moved? He had a great year in 2013, but I’m sure he yearns to be a starter. It won’t be with this club.
18. How much have the Royals closed the gap on Detroit? No Jim Leyland, no Prince Fielder and no Doug Fister. Can’t believe the Tigers will be as good as last year.
19. If the Royals are in the hunt at the All-Star Game, will much-maligned owner David Glass open up the Wal-Mart pocket book and spring for that big name to help the team down the stretch? My guess is they’ll be 7 or 8 games back and Glass will horde his millions.
20. If the Royals are something like 8-22 or 10-20 after 30 games, will the plug be pulled on the Ned Yost era? He seems to have the backing of Glass and Moore, but this show has played out too many times. If they’re 10 or 12 back at the All-Star break, as famous White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson would say, “he gone.”