The season has lasted eight full days and the Royals have played four games. That alone makes any kind of significant analysis difficult, and when you add in the abnormally cold weather, it’s hard to come to any real conclusions this soon. The only thing I think I can say definitively is that I still hate watching Brandon Maurer pitch. Otherwise, I’m really excited for the baseball season to really get going, and the Royals now have games scheduled for the next 13 days, so we’ll get to see how they handle things as they get to get into a rhythm. I imagine when that stretch is up, we’ll still see things pretty similarly, with this team being pretty rough, but at least we’ll have some data to back it up.
- The Miguel Almonte saga from this past week has me both confused and concerned. I talked about this a little on Twitter, but I’ll go more in depth here. As much as I thought he could have been a nice piece in the 2018 bullpen, losing him isn’t really that big of a deal. Yes he has talent, but until last season, he hadn’t pitched well since 2013. I don’t love getting rid of him in general, but I’m not worked up about that. What I am worked up about is the process, and the fact that Abraham Almonte was the reason they moved on from Miguel. Abraham is not what you’d call good, and on top of it, he was popped for the same steroid in 2016 that Jorge Bonifacio was earlier this spring. Abraham Almonte is a player you add to your roster when you have spots available, but not someone who you get rid of someone for, especially someone who could contribute. The Royals say that Almonte had a shoulder injury and that it’s hard to say when he might pitch again. And I get that, but why not just put him on the 60-day DL? I just really dislike this move for what it represents, more than the move itself and it has me pretty concerned about the decisions they’re going to be making moving forward.
- The Royals offense has been horrendous to start the year (again, just four games), but I wanted to look deeper into it and see if maybe it wasn’t as bad as it looked. I was pleasantly surprised that isn’t actually. The team has hit .197/.261/.291 with just the one home run in the first inning of the first game, but it seems as if they’ve underperformed a bit. Based on Statcast data, the Royals expected average is .278, which heading into Thursday’s action was the fourth highest xBA in baseball. Their xSLG was .467, which was 10th in baseball. Their average exit velocity of 88.3 MPH was tied for 16th with the Nationals, Yankees and Brewers, all teams with really good offenses. Obviously the sample is tiny for everyone and especially the Royals, but it’s nice to see that they may not actually be that far off. And the statistic that has me the most confused is that they actually have swung at the lowest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone of any team in all of baseball. Four games or not, this is the Royals we’re talking about, so I think that’s at least worth mentioning.
- One really encouraging thing we’ve seen in the early going is Kelvin Herrera has looked outstanding in his first three outings. Yeah, I’m tired of the small sample caveat, but it applies to everything so far. His fastball has looked good and he’s getting swings and misses with five strikeouts out of the seven outs he recorded. Of all the players who are scheduled to become free agents after the season, Herrera is the one who I think is most likely to bring back a big return in a deal in July. You could argue that Mike Moustakas could bring back even more, and I think he could if the right team presented itself, but to have a closer throwing the way Herrera is capable of could really alter a pennant chase down the stretch. I shudder at the thought of who would handle the ninth inning if Herrera is dealt, but it also doesn’t especially matter because the number one goal of the next two or three seasons is to rebuild the farm system, even if it hurts the big league club. But until he’s potentially dealt, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of Herrera looking good again because I really enjoy watching him pitch when he’s going well. Having said that, I probably jinxed him and he’ll probably blow a save tonight, but the nice thing about rebuilding is that wins are fun to watch, but losses have their benefits too, so it’s win-win.
- With the focus being shifted more to the minors due to the rebuild, it’s good to see minor league baseball back (and Diamonds in the Rough with it). There were already some positives from the first day of the season with Seuly Matias popping two homers for Lexington, Samir Duenez hitting one for Northwest Arkansas and Hunter Dozier hitting one for Omaha. I was disappointed to see Trevor Oaks struggle in his first start in the Royals organization because I think he has a chance to overtake Eric Skoglund for the fifth spot in the big league rotation relatively soon, but I’m just glad minor league baseball is back too. Make sure you’re following Clint all through the season for the best coverage of the Royals system out there.