As long as weather cooperates, the Royals will be halfway through their season when they finish their four-game set against the Twins this weekend. That’s 81 games to know what this team is and what this team isn’t, and yet, I don’t think anyone is entirely sure what they are. We’ve seen them score 63 runs through an entire month and then score 42 runs over five games. We’ve seen the bullpen completely implode, but we’ve also seen the potential it has to be dominant. We’ve seen the ups and downs in the rotation, too. This is a weird team, and this weekend’s series is the biggest of the year to date. Bet you didn’t expect that of a series against the Twins.
- While it’s been incredibly disappointing to see Brandon Moss flail mostly aimlessly for the first three months of the season, one benefit is that it has opened up the DH role to be more of a rotation as the Royals had publicly stated they wanted for years. What that has done is allow Salvador Perez to get out from behind the plate more often than he had in the past. This season, he has started 58 games behind the plate and come in late to catch in one other. That’s 58 out of 77 possible games, which means he has not started 19. In 2014, he started all but 19 games for the whole season. Ned Yost has done a better job of resting him the past couple seasons, but he started 84.6 percent of games in 2015 and 79 percent of games in 2016. This year, he’s at 75.3 percent. The trend is going in the right direction, and Perez’s bat has been the beneficiary. Hitting in the first half hasn’t ever been the problem for Perez though, so while this is his best first half of his career to this point, where the real benefit will come should be later in the season. The dropoff from first half to second half has grown every season, which makes sense. The guy has caught a lot of games. Having a backup catcher Yost trusts has been huge for Perez. If he can even just be mostly what he’s been in the first half on offense during the second half, the Royals have a chance to continue making some offensive noise.
- There has been a lot of talk lately about the Royals actually being buyers at the deadline rather than sellers, which is an interesting development given how poorly they started the season. As Craig noted yesterday, they likely don’t have the pieces to be the kind of buyers they were in 2015, but they could pick up a couple pieces to help them out. I’ll probably go more in detail about some targets as it gets closer to the deadline and closer to reality that they will indeed buy, but I have some thoughts to share before then. I don’t see the Royals upgrading any of their current starting position players. You can kick and scream all you want about it, but other than maybe designated hitter, I have a hard time seeing them look to make a change. What I could see them targeting is a fourth outfielder who can cover center field. Rajai Davis is the first name to come to mind, but he’s having a pretty horrible season with the A’s. Other names include Ezequiel Carrera, Juan Lagares (if he gets healthy) and yes, Jarrod Dyson. Can you imagine how happy Dyson would be if the Royals traded back for him? The market is obviously still developing, so it’s hard to say who will actually be available, but that and middle relief are the two spots I could see the Royals targeting hard as “buyers.”
- I like to look ahead to the Royals next couple weeks in this space and talk about what they need to do to reach certain goals. Now, they have 10 games left before they reach the All-Star break. They currently sit at 38-39 and are suddenly in the thick of some playoff races. With four against the Twins, three against the Mariners and three against the Dodgers, they don’t face any truly bad teams, but you can question the quality of the first two opponents. I believe they need to take care of business there because the Dodgers are so good. Take three of four from the Twins. Take two of three from the Mariners and then find a way to steal a win in Los Angeles. Do that and they hit the break at 45-42, which is kind of beyond what anyone’s wildest dreams would have been a couple months ago. Get to the break above .500 and I think there can be legitimate discussion about this team making the playoffs. They’ll get Danny Duffy back either right before the break or right after, so that certainly won’t hurt.
- I know that he’s hit better of late, but it’s time to put an end to Alcides Escobar, every day player. It’s a pipe dream because the Royals will run him out there until he can’t even walk (and maybe even after that), but it just isn’t doing the team any good. His defense is still solid, but it’s not what it once was, at least according to the eye test and while his speed looks good with the new Statcast metric, he’s clearly slower than he used to be. Personally, I’d rather see what Ramon Torres can do the rest of the season as the starting shortstop to see if he can be a big leaguer moving forward. It’s the tiniest of tiny samples, but he’s shown in limited time that he can handle big league pitching and making adjustments with his swing from the left side has allowed him to improve his offensive game enough that it’s worth a shot. The likelihood is that Torres isn’t anything more than a utility guy moving forward, but given the dearth of offense the Royals are getting from shortstop, they might as well see what they have in one of their prospects. And to think, six months ago, he was the first name I thought of when the Royals had to make a move on the 40-man roster. Life comes at you fast.