I imagine Royals fans will be blaring some Sarah McLachlan in the coming months as we watch the core of the championship club begin to sign elsewhere. This upcoming weekend, for me at least and probably many others, is about getting to see these guys in Royals blue one last time if they do indeed end up going elsewhere. It’s hard to argue with what these guys have given us as Royals fans and have given all of Kansas City over the last few years. There’s just one thing left to watch for, and it’s if they can end the year .500. The Diamondbacks are a tough opponent, so it’ll be no easy task, but five straight years of .500 or better is nothing to sneeze at.
- If the Royals do go into 2018 with expectations to compete, the bullpen is going to need to be a major focus for them, which is going to be a difficult task given what they already have committed to the payroll for next season. I think we all feel good about Scott Alexander in the bullpen next year and for all the disappointment of the Padres trade, Ryan Buchter has actually been pretty good for the Royals as well. Kelvin Herrera looked as good as he’s looked all year on Tuesday night, and a bounceback season from him would be helpful. Then you add in Joakim Soria’s solid season (I know there will be arguments on that given the blown saves, but he’s been better than you probably realize) and that’s not a terrible base to work with. Still, I think they need at least one more impact arm. Mike Minor would be perfect if money was no object, but I fear he’ll be looking for a deal like Brett Cecil got last season from the Cardinals and the Royals really don’t need to be spending $30 million plus on a reliever. The odds are that if they don’t spend big, which as a reminder, they shouldn’t, they’ll need to find a surprise either in the minor league system or a free agent. Whatever it is they do, the bullpen will need to be addressed.
- After the free agents leave, assuming they mostly do, this is going to be an organization filled with role players at the top. Having role players is not a bad thing at all. Great teams need role players, but they need stars as well. As much fun as it’s been to watch Whit Merrifield this year, if he’s your best player, you’re probably a bad team. If he’s a supporting player to your other three best, you have a chance to be pretty good. Right now, looking at the 2018 roster, there isn’t a star in the bunch, other than maybe Danny Duffy on the pitching staff, but even he hasn’t shown he can be a true star yet. The key for the Royals both next year and in the near future is Raul Mondesi, and I really wish he’d have gotten more at bats down the stretch. Hitting .305/.340/.539 in Triple-A with 41 extra base hits in just 357 plate appearances has made me hopeful again that he can be that top line player the Royals need so badly. He has looked much more comfortable in this stint in the big leagues, but he’s also played sparingly and had just eight at bats, so I don’t think that tells us much. I just know that if the Royals want to get back to the promised land relatively quickly, they need Mondesi to step up and soon. And realistically, they need someone else to step up as well. I see a few options, but I don’t have a ton of confidence in any of them. Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler could be those guys if they take huge steps forward, but it might be a couple years while the guys in the lower levels progress through the system before we see someone else who could help support the role players.
- There is a bit of a problem with the Royals needing Mondesi and it’s that I’m terrified of what might happen with Alcides Escobar. Heading into action on Thursday night, he’d hit .333/.353/.512 in his last 56 games, spanning 171 plate appearances. That’s 54 hits with 20 extra base hits. The encouraging thing about it is that he’s only struck out in 10.5 percent of those plate appearances, so the extra contact will help a little bit, but he hasn’t exactly been tearing the cover off the ball with plenty of soft contact in that time. I have about the biggest worry I can that the Royals will look at this stretch and see Escobar as a player who just had a tough start to the season and will re-sign him to a one or two year deal. He was never truly as bad as he was during his horrifically slow start, but at the same time, he is not nearly as good as he’s been lately. If the Royals want Mondesi to develop into a star, he needs to be the shortstop. I have no doubt he could handle second or even center field as some have mentioned, but he needs to play shortstop, so the Royals better not re-sign Escobar or else I’ll write a strongly worded article about it, and ain’t nobody wanting that.
- This season hasn’t gone as we all hoped from the start, but there have been plenty of ups to go along with the downs that we would all like to forget. It’s been a season of wondering how the Royals would handle the core offensive players leaving, and now we’re about to find out. But through it all, you’ve been right there with us, so I just wanted to take this brief opportunity to thank you for going through this ride with us at BP Kansas City. We’ll do it again next year with a whole different cast and crew to get mad at for things out of our control.