Let’s hear it for baseball, everyone. Welcome back. And hey, the Royals are hot out the gates, so it appears the talk of them losing 90-100 games was a little premature. If there’s anything we know is true, it’s that spring training results always portend future success. I kid, of course, because I love. This team still looks like it’ll be in the bottom third in baseball, though it’s nice to see some encouraging results even if they aren’t worth much. Jorge Soler hitting two home runs on Tuesday was nice to see even if the Mariners only sent one pitcher with a number below 90 to the game, for example. It’s hard to be too upset when baseball is back, and baseball, my friends, is back.
- The Royals signed Lucas Duda on Wednesday, and I’ll echo what Craig said for the most part. At $3.5 million for a player who has been an above average offensive performer every year but one since 2011, this deal makes a lot of sense. It’s been talked about a lot, but the Royals are still very right-heavy, and Duda provides an experienced, legitimate power bat in the middle of a lineup to help take some of the pressure of Cheslor Cuthbert, Jorge Bonifacio and Soler. If the Royals rebuild is going to take less than the five to seven years it seems destined for, those three are likely going to have to be key cogs in a 2020 lineup. I have my doubts that they will be, but if it’s going to happen, they’re incredibly important. And I’ve talked about this a lot before, but I think part of the reason why some of the Royals star prospects have struggled initially is that they were rushed to the big leagues and/or had to take on a starring role on the team way too early. Personally, I’d rather the Royals figure out what they have in Hunter Dozier this year. He’s in his fifth full season in the organization and is 26 already, so it’s time to figure out what he is, but I also understand the Duda signing and think it makes a lot of sense.
- One theory I’ve been batting around in my head is that the Royals might believe the talk that the juiced ball is coming to an end. The reason I say that is the players they’ve had seemingly zero interest in and/or have looked to move or moved. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Mike Moustakas is going to be worth more in the short term than Eric Hosmer, but the Royals seemed to never even sniff him. They can say publicly that there are other reasons, but it makes me wonder when coupled with the fact that they weren’t interested in Logan Morrison, a guy who wanted to play in Kansas City, for a relatively small amount more than they ultimately paid Duda. They also traded Brandon Moss, a guy who hits an awful lot of fly balls and they’ve looked to trade a controllable asset in Whit Merrifield. There are a lot of reasons for all this, so I could be way off base, but it sort of makes sense to me that maybe they’re thinking ahead and wondering if these guys won’t be as effective in 2018 and beyond. And if you are bought into this theory that the ball is going to go back to the old ways as the season progresses and you play fantasy baseball, I might suggest dealing some of these guys earlier than later and maybe picking up some of the fly ball pitchers who saw their home runs allowed jump. But that’s just me, and I don’t really play fantasy baseball anymore.
- We’ve been awfully spoiled as far as bullpens go over the last few seasons, so it’s easy to look at what the Royals are planning to run out there this year, especially without Scott Alexander and Ryan Buchter and think it could get ugly. And I’m not going to tell you that it definitely won’t be ugly, but I actually do see a fair amount of upside. Of course, it all depends on Kelvin Herrera regaining his pre-2017 form, but if he can be stable at the back of the unit, the Royals do have a few intriguing arms. Burch Smith, one of their Rule 5 picks, has a chance to be an absolute steal if he can both stay healthy and control where the ball is going. Both are tall tasks, but that’s what 2018 is about. Richard Lovelady has been talked about quite a bit, but at some point, he can be a key cog in the Royals bullpen and that point might be relatively quickly in the season. Tim Hill has drawn some solid reviews early in camp with his funky delivery and Andres Machado has looked good so far. Obviously it’s incredibly early, so a lot can change, but those guys in addition to Brian Flynn, who has proven to be a solid relief contributor, could make for a pretty solid bullpen at some point in 2018. It won’t be 2013-2015, but there’s some potential for the bullpen that I think gets overlooked at times.
- I’ll be in Arizona starting tomorrow morning, so be on the lookout for some on the scene Royals content pretty much every day next week. I think I’m most looking forward to seeing Soler and hopefully getting to see Burch Smith throw some smoke. But it’ll be good to check out the whole team because if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that three games worth of data will be enough to determine what the entire season is going to be like. I am curious to see how Alex Gordon’s approach is changed, if at all, and how Merrifield adapts to center field if he gets the chance to play out there while I’m there. But most of all, I’ll be telling you about the awesome food I’m eating and the sun I’m soaking in because that’s just the kind of guy I am.