Remember how we’ve talked about checkpoints throughout the season for these Royals? Memorial Day and/or the end of May was the first really important one, and while the team improved in May, it wasn’t and isn’t enough. They’re now so far behind where they need to be that I think it would be difficult to make up the ground they need to, especially knowing what we now know about this team. I don’t think this team is necessarily that bad, but they were so bad in April that they have to be incredible the rest of the way to make this season special. I don’t think they have it in them.
- A lot of people see the injury to Danny Duffy as a reason why the Royals will sell, but I see it a different way. They have to tread water while he’s out for it to matter and the AL Central needs to continue to be lackluster, but I see the Duffy injury as an excuse to stand pat for a little while longer for the Royals. If they can just hang around, the Royals will look at Duffy’s return (and maybe the return of Nate Karns if he stays out) as “big ticket acquisitions” near the trade deadline. So if they’re still within five or six games of the division lead at that time, it’s not difficult to envision Dayton Moore and company seeing that as a reason to not do anything and hope that a team on the outskirts of the race can get back into it with those two returning. Because of that, June becomes an insanely important month. The Royals play 26 games in June. They need the month to go one of two ways. They have to be absolutely dominant and go something like 20-6 or they need to tank and go something like 9-17. Something in the middle will lead to indecision without any real shot at the postseason and that’s not a good thing.
- The Royals issues with men on base and runners in scoring position is sort of fascinating to me. With nobody on, they’re basically an average offense relative to the league. They show a little less patience and slightly less power, but that’s normal for them anyway. They score runs at a pretty typical rate with nobody on. But then when men get on base, they just crawl into a hole basically. The league sees strikeout rates drop and walk rates wise. They increase their average and their OBP and their power remains the same. The Royals, though, see the walk rate drop and the strikeout rate stay about the same and they just can’t buy a hit, it seems. It gets even worse with runners in scoring position, though their walk rate increases to a somewhat respectable level (though still nearly 2.5 percent lower than the league average). I don’t have an answer for you. I thought that maybe it was that the good hitters get on base with nobody on and then the bad hitters can’t get them in, but of the Royals five current quality hitters, only Mike Moustakas and Jorge Bonifacio aren’t complete duds with runners on and runners in scoring position. It’s truly puzzling and when the story of the 2017 season is written, I think it’ll feature prominently.
- How about some positivity? How about Whit Merrifield? Dude is hitting .294/.353/.484. That means he has the best OPS on the team, the third highest slugging percentage, and the second highest batting average. If you prefer wRC+, he leads the Royals in that, too. Or if you prefer TAv, he’s pacing the Royals offense as well. I will say that I didn’t expect him to be this good, but it blows my mind that the Royals opened the season with him in Omaha and Raul Mondesi on the big league roster. I don’t think making the switch would change the season that much. Maybe he and Jorge Bonifacio would account for an extra win between them, but you also never know what happens if they could get that extra win. If you believe in the butterfly effect, maybe one win early changes the way April goes. I doubt it, but it’s interesting to think about. What’s crazy about Whit is that he was put into the leadoff spot and really struggled quite a bit. He was hitting .193/.243/.333 after the 1-0 loss to the Indians on May 7th. The next day, the Royals inserted Alcides Escobar at the top and dropped Whit down and he’s hit .377/.434/.609 since, with four homers in 20 games. For my money, I’d rearrange the lineup and actually move Lorenzo Cain to the top, leave Moustakas at two and then slide Merrifield into the three spot. His bat control and ability to avoid the strikeout would do well there, and if his power is for real, that would play, too. It could be a way to help jump-start things.
- A lot of people have asked me about trade returns for the various Royals trade pieces. My guess is the biggest return is going to come from dealing Kelvin Herrera, if the Royals are willing to make that move. We’ve talked a lot about the pending free agents, and for non-superstar players, three months just doesn’t bring back the haul fans think it might. Herrera, though, is under team control through next season and he’s one of the 10 or 12 best closers in baseball, so I think he could bring back quite a bit. If we’re ranking the returns, I’d say Cain gets the second most, Vargas the third most, then Moose and Hosmer at the back of those five. I just don’t see a team trading big time prospects for corner infielders with the flaws those two possess. Maybe I’m too close to the situation, but I wonder if the Royals aren’t just better off keeping both and getting the comp pick after the first round when they sign $50 million plus deals. I guess we’ll see how desperate teams get.