Any hopes for a playoff push for the Kansas City Royals is out of the question at this point in 2012. Instead, it's yet another familiar look ahead to "next season" in the hopes that it's actually the year the team becomes relevant. It's been said year after year, but 2013 seriously holds some potential for postseason play, which means the rest of this year is actually quite important.
Will Smith is the perfect example. The Royals rotation is a total mess, but there are signs of life in the farm system, players returning from injury and slightly intriguing players already in house at the ML level. Perhaps Smith is the best of those, as a player who made his Major League debut earlier this season to disastrous results but has since come back to show what the Royals saw in him in the first place.
Smith takes the mound today for the Orioles and this should continue through season's end if management knows what it's doing. Smith has shown great flashes from start to start but he's also not dependable at this point. The good news is that Smith has thrown at least five-plus innings in each start since his return to the Majors, but he needs reps. He needs experience. He needs the chance to work out of situations and see a line-up several times -- even the same team multiple times.
The stretch run will tell the Royals about a lot of players, but Smith in particular could be key. If he can gain some level of consistency and provide the rotation with a predictable six innings each and every time on the mound, that's at least one slot the team can count on for next season. Given the state of the rest of the rotation, that's a major plus for a team in need.