SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Through two World Series runs and a Fall Classic championship, the Royals have prided themselves on being a team that doesn't need superstars to win.So when it comes to Most Valuable Player or Cy Young Awards, or Esurance Player and Pitcher of the Year honors, it is
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Through two World Series runs and a Fall Classic championship, the Royals have prided themselves on being a team that doesn't need superstars to win.
So when it comes to Most Valuable Player or Cy Young Awards, or Esurance Player and Pitcher of the Year honors, it is rare when Royals players are even mentioned -- although Lorenzo Cain did finish third in the AL MVP Award voting in 2015.
Could this year be different? Yes.
The defensively minded Royals no doubt will contend for Gold Glove Awards at multiple positions all over the diamond, but they also have an ascending left-hander in Danny Duffy who has emerged as the team's ace, and who could find himself in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award or the Esurance Pitcher of the Year.
"He's evolved into an elite pitcher," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He's definitely become one of the top left-handers in the game."
Duffy started last season in the bullpen. But because of injuries, the southpaw was thrown into the rotation and became a dominant starter relatively quickly.
Duffy finished the season 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA. He nearly no-hit Tampa Bay in August, throwing seven no-hit innings before allowing a double. He also struck out a franchise-record 16 in that game.
"He has that potential each time out," Yost said.
Of course, there are some big names in any Cy Young conversation, such as Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber, rising star Aaron Sanchez and last year's winner, Rick Porcello.
Another ascending Royals player is first baseman Eric Hosmer, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, an All-Star Game MVP, and recently a unanimous pick to the all-World Baseball Classic team while playing for the champion United States squad.
Hosmer reached career highs last season with 25 homers and 104 RBIs.
Royals officials believe Hosmer is capable of 30-35 home runs, 120 RBIs and a .330 batting average.
Is this the year, which could be Hosmer's last with the Royals (he is a pending free agent), that the slugger puts it all together?
Hosmer, like Duffy, would face stiff competition for postseason awards. Mookie Betts, Michael Trout and Jose Altuve are all solid candidates for MVP honors every year.
"We still don't know Hoz's ceiling," Yost said. "He's a special player."
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.