The NFL Scouting Combine continued, this time the quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends were the participants. Quick takeaway, Josh Allen is about as perfect a physical specimen as you’re going to find, the problem of course being that his numbers in games were not very good. But again, after the combine is over I’ll have a breakdown of what I saw in addition to that day’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. So with that, let’s get to the Kansas City Royals.
Record: 80-82, 22 games behind Cleveland Indians, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot
Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Lucas Duda, SP Wily Peralta, RP Blaine Boyer, SP Jesse Hahn, 2B Ryan Goins, OF Tyler Collins
Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, DH Brandon Moss, SP Jason Vargas, SP Chris Young, RP Mike Minor, RP Joakim Soria, RP Ryan Buchter
Best Offensive Player: C Salvador Perez
Best Pitcher: Danny Duffy
C-Salvador Perez, Drew Butera
2B-Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi
3B-Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier
RF-Jorge Bonifacio, Jorge Soler (DH)
SP-Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jesse Hahn, Nate Karns
Bullpen-Kelvin Herrera (CP), Wily Peralta, Brandon Maurer, Kevin McCarthy, Miguel Almonte, Brian Flynn
Manager-Ned Yost (9th season with Royals)
Hitting Coach-Terry Bradshaw
Pitching Coach-Cal Eldred
1st Base Coach-Mitch Maier
3rd Base Coach-Mike Jirschele
Bench Coach-Dale Sveum
Did the Royals win their World Series at the perfect time or what? Basically as soon as they hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy after Wade Davis struck out Wilmer Flores to end the 2015 season, the Royals have been preparing for this moment and at long last it has come: the Royals need to rebuild. I mean just take a look at that “notable offseason subtractions” list. You could fill a pretty quality roster with those guys. I should mention, though, that Mike Moustakas, as of this writing, is still unsigned so it’s not totally unthinkable that he returns to Kansas City considering they had a 7-year deal ready for Eric Hosmer. But with all those losses to their core, let’s take a look at who is returning to Kansas City.
1. Alcides Escobar-SS
2. Whit Merrifield-2B
3. Alex Gordon-LF
4. Salvador Perez-C
5. Lucas Duda-1B
6. Jorge Bonifacio-RF
7. Paolo Orlando-CF
8. Jorge Soler-DH
9. Cheslor Cuthbert/Hunter Dozier-3B
I’ve definitely seen worse, though I’ve also seen far better. The only guy still of note here is Salvador Perez, whom I consider to be the best all-around catcher in the American League. He’s a skilled hitter, is hard to run on behind the plate, and does a good job working with a pitching staff. The main issue with Perez is how he’s used. Catchers typically require more days off than any other position player but Perez seems to be the exception to that rule, though the Royals’ coaching staff seem to be wising up to this. Perez played in 150 games in 2014 and since then his games played totals have gone down in each year, bottoming out at 129 (which is more typical for catchers) in 2017. You may also notice that his home run totals have gone up in every season of his career, boasting a career high 27 bombs in 2017. This suggests that the extra rest has really aided his long-term level of play. Alex Gordon’s play has dropped significantly since the Royals won the World Series and 2017 was probably his worst season since he was threatening to become a catastrophic bust early in his career. Despite continuing to play the best left field in all of baseball, Gordon was atrocious at the plate in 2017, hitting .208 with 9 home runs, 45 RBI, reached base at a .293 clip, slugged a measly .315 and was replacement level with a 0.0 WAR in 148 games played. Like I said before, Gordon’s defense is excellent, but those numbers at the plate are just unacceptable. Offensively as a whole the Royals were just 24th in baseball in runs scored in 2017 and now they’ve lost their three best offensive threats in Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas. Kansas City is going to struggle to score runs this season.
Kauffman Stadium is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game and the Royals typically play very good defense so I’m not too concerned about how they’re going to pitch despite lacking any real star power on the mound. Though to be fair, when they won the World Series in 2015 their Game 1 starter was Edinson Volquez (they did have Johnny Cueto at the time, though he was a midseason addition and he didn’t pitch that well upon joining the Royals). So the Royals are used to succeeding on the mound without superstars in their rotation. Danny Duffy is their ace and he is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball. Last season he went 9-10 with a 3.81 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, struck out 8 batters per 9 innings, and only let up 0.80 HR/9. He has plenty of arm talent and will more than likely get the Opening Day nod for the Royals provided he can stay healthy, which has been an issue as he’s only qualified for the Major League minimum in innings pitched once in his career (2016). The rest of the rotation is made up of some filler guys, such as Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel. They did acquire Jesse Hahn from the A’s in exchange for Brandon Moss, which provides them with some decent depth in their starting rotation, however they lack a true ace, just a bunch of #3-caliber starting pitchers. But again, Kauffman Stadium is very favorable towards pitchers so I don’t think a lack of star power is going to hinder these guys too much.
There’s a lot to be desired with the Royals’ bullpen. Closer Kelvin Herrera is extremely talented, as his fastball is consistently around 98 mph, but he had a down year in 2017 as he carried a 4.25 ERA a year after back-to-back 2.7 ERA campaigns. Herrera also doesn’t strike out nearly as many batters as you’d expect for a guy who throws as hard as he does, as he’s typically somewhere in the 8 K/9 range and has eclipsed 10 K/9 in a season just twice (2013 and 2016). After him, there’s not much. Wily Peralta was the Opening Day starter for the Brewers a couple times but he hasn’t had a sub-4 ERA since 2014 and last season was particularly disastrous as he had a 7.85 ERA in 8 starts before moving to the bullpen to make 11 more appearances. Brandon Maurer is a talented reliever but 2017 was his second season where he carried an ERA over 6, though his FIP was sub-4, suggesting he was significantly better than his ERA might suggest. There still is much left to be desired in this Royals bullpen however the Kauffman Stadium effect does apply here and will likely help their overall numbers.
Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Royals somewhere near the cellar of the AL Central. In fact, I’d probably put them there if the Tigers weren’t looking so terrible. The Royals aren’t going to be very good, but I don’t expect them to be abysmal. Ned Yost is a good enough manager to where I think he could help this team steal some series’. I think the best case scenario for this Royals team is that they’ll be pesky and cause some teams problems, however they won’t be much more than that and will be looking to try and secure a high draft pick.
Projected Finish: 74-88, 3rd in AL Central
That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988. Let me know what you think of the Royals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.