Don’t look now, but the Royals have won two straight series and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. If they keep that pace the rest of the year, they’ll finish with about 84 wins. That shows you how far they have to climb out of if they want to get to the postseason. My guess is 90 wins would get it done. It might be 88, it might be 92, but 90 is a good guess at this point given the teams in the race. In order to get to 90 wins, the Royals have to finish 35-13. Let’s just say I’m not hopeful, but if any team had a schedule that was conducive to making a crazy run like that, it’s the Royals. Still, I wouldn’t cancel your October plans just yet.
- So, uh, Danny Duffy. When I wrote on Wednesday that he actually has a chance to win the Cy Young, I kind of expected a little backlash from it. A few people were skeptical, but I guess it was pretty logical given the lack of a standout candidate in the American League field this year. Well, he went out Thursday and made me look much smarter than I am. We know how brilliant he’s been, but since moving to the rotation he’s 9-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 17 starts. He’s averaging about 6.1 innings per start and that’s with three or four starts where he was on a pitch count to build up his stamina. I suggested a deal awhile back that would offer Duffy significant incentives as both a starter and as a reliever, but I don’t think that gets it done anymore. He’s averaging more than seven innings per start in his last nine with 67 strikeouts and six walks. Literally everything he’s doing is ace level right now. To me, he’s the number one priority to get locked up beyond next season. I feel like I’m rambling about him, but I’m just in awe of what he’s done lately. His evolution as a pitcher this season is truly the brightest spot in a somewhat dim year.
- I’d really like to see the Royals start making some moves with an eye on the future. I wrote a bit ago that they have a great opportunity to prepare themselves for next season and find out what they need, but the only moves they’ve made is that they’re getting a look at Matt Strahm and Raul Mondesi. Strahm has been so impressive and Mondesi has shown flashes of what kind of player he can be, but they need to be doing more. I believe they need to get Hunter Dozier to the big leagues. I think they need to get Andrew Edwards up here. I’d love to see Jake Junis get a few starts down the stretch. Most important to me, though, is Dozier. I want him getting big league at bats for the last six weeks of the season while getting the opportunity to work on his outfield play with Rusty Kuntz. The Royals lineup with him, Mike Moustakas and Cheslor Cuthbert all in there next year could be very good. Those three all have a chance to be impact bats next season and to get them all in the lineup would be fantastic.
- Speaking of Strahm, it’s hard not to love what we’ve seen. I mean, the guy has thrown four innings and struck out 10 batters. He had some issues in his first appearance, but he has the look of a shutdown reliever. Personally, I think he’s probably a starter long-term, but I don’t see any harm in leaving him in the bullpen for the time being (and by that I mean into next year) and letting him get his feet wet at the big league level. He obviously can be a nice depth piece for them in that rotation, but I really like the idea of him being a power lefty to put with Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis (and maybe Greg Holland and Luke Hochevar) in the 2017 bullpen. Adding an arm like that to the relief corps makes you think this bullpen can be dominant again next year after falling off a bit with the injuries in the second half of this season.
- I’m beating a dead horse here, but I watch Alcides Escobar play and I just don’t agree with the Royals picking up his $6.5 million option for the 2017 season. In Escobar, I see a player who has declined offensively, defensive and on the bases. He’s still a good shortstop, don’t get me wrong, but I see a guy who just isn’t as good as he once was. And with the bat that he’s carrying, he has to be better than he is defensively. Personally, I’d hand the shortstop keys to Mondesi next year and figure something out at second base. I’m not sure if that’s Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon or even a guy like Corey Toups, who is hitting well in Double-A. Maybe it’s a free agent, but I think the Royals are better off with the extra payroll wiggle room and without Escobar on the roster. The Royals see Escobar differently than we do though, so I don’t see it happening. I just think it’s a good idea to get one of the worst hitters in baseball off the roster, especially when he doesn’t contribute in other ways like he once did. It’s hard to argue with the impact he’s had on the franchise, but sometimes you just have to move on. I truly believe this is one of those times.