30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals

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.

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2017 Results:

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

Depth Chart:

C-Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

1B-Lucas Duda

2B-Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi

3B-Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier

SS-Alcides Escobar

LF-Alex Gordon

CF-Paolo Orlando

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

Coaching Staff:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.

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2017 Results:

Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto

Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu

Best Pitcher: James Shields

Depth Chart:

C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith

1B-Jose Abreu

2B-Yoan Moncada

3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)

SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez

LF-Nicky Delmonico

CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia

RF-Avisail Garcia

SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago

Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan,  Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)

Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson

Pitching Coach-Don Cooper

1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston

3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra

Bench Coach-Joe McEwing

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The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.

1. Tim Anderson-SS

2. Yoan Moncada-2B

3. Jose Abreu-1B

4. Avisail Garcia-RF

5. Welington Castillo-C

6. Matt Davidson-3B

7. Nicky Delmonico-LF

8. Tyler Saladino-DH

9. Adam Engel-CF

The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.

<> at Comerica Park on September 14, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.

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The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.

Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.

Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.