You guys want this or Gladiators? This season has basically been a season-long blowout, but as I’ve said before, it’s probably a good thing. If they had started off well and were sitting at, say, 17-14 instead of their miserable 9-22, would we really believe this team was actually any good? Of course not, but the viewpoint of the season would be changed in an effort to try to make another playoff push, knowing what that can do for a franchise and for a city. So instead, the Royals aren’t fooled into anything. They can live with a few oh-for days from Cheslor Cuthbert in the hopes that he breaks out and can be a part of the future. Or not. And if not, that’s okay too, because this season isn’t going anywhere and it’s even more obvious than it was a month ago.
- One player who has gotten so much attention, and rightfully so, is Jorge Soler, he of the .312/.435/.538 line through the first month plus of the season. He’s not chasing bad pitches and he’s crushing the pitches he can hit. It’s a pretty easy formula. What’s not easy is the decision of how to handle him moving forward. In his contract, he has two more years of guaranteed salary left before a final arbitration season in 2021, but he has the option to opt into arbitration at any point. If he keeps this up, he’d be silly to accept his $4 million salary for 2019 when he can almost certainly exceed that through the arbitration process. How much could he make? I don’t know, but if he’s even 85 percent of what he’s been, he will file at a hefty increase from his $4 million salary in 2018. Let’s say he makes $7 million in 2019, $10 million in 2020 and then $13 million in 2021. That’s $30 million over the next three years. So do they offer him an extension and buy out a couple free agent years? It probably takes a deal similar to the one Duffy signed to get that done, and do the Royals want to commit that much to a player who just a year ago had to spend most of the year in the minors because he was so bad? They could go year to year with him, but maybe this is the highest his value will ever be, so do they look to shop him this offseason? I honestly don’t know the answer. The Royals have time to figure it out because there’s still a lot of season left, but it’s not an easy call.
- I’ve talked a lot about the future of the bullpen and how I think they’ll be much better even later this season than they are now, and this bullpen is actually shaping up to be full of some serious power arms as the season progresses. Brad Keller hitting 99 the other day in Boston made me start thinking about this, but even if they deal Kelvin Herrera as they should, teams will have to deal with some upper-90s heat from what’s left. If you’ve been following Clint on Twitter or in Diamonds in the Rough, you’ll know that Jason Adam is doing some incredible things out of the bullpen in the minors. In 10 outings, he’s given up two earned runs on seven hits in 18 innings. He’s struck out 26 and walked six and has flashed upper-90s velocity that we didn’t see the first time he was in the organization as a starter. At just 26 years old, he’s still young enough to carve out a nice career as a reliever, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him closing games for the Royals in August and September this season. Add him to the list with guys like Richard Lovelady, Glenn Sparkman, Keller and a few others and you can see how the Royals bullpen might turn itself into a strength sooner than later. It’s funny because it’s so easy to lose yourself in the team you follow closest, but I find myself marveling at these unknowns who come up for other teams and just light up the radar gun and wonder where that is for the Royals. Well, it’s here.
- I know this is old news at this point, but I realized I hadn’t talked about it and I also realized I want to. Last weekend, Salvador Perez earned his “fun police” badge by calling out Tim Anderson for having a good time playing baseball. It was out of character and, honestly, probably out of line for Perez to even say anything, but what’s done is done. The more I think about the situation, the more I can’t even begin to believe that he believes what he said. Think back to the events leading up to it. Perez was frustrated from being hurt to start the season and watched his team get off to a 5-15 start without him. Then, they immediately lost the first five games he played, including getting shut out for the first time earlier that day by a bad team that had somehow gone 5-0 against them this season. And then, the leadoff hitter of the next game immediately deposits one over the fence. So he was frustrated, and I think he feels pressure to become the leader of the team that his buddy Eric Hosmer was. And when you combine frustration with a desire to give the team a spark, what happened on Saturday happened. Then he doubled down on the ridiculousness of the situation after the game by talking about the White Sox not being in the playoffs and some other malarkey, but I really believe Perez was tired of losing and tired of his team looking lifeless and tried to do something about it. I guess you could say it might have worked because they won that game and the one after it, which is the longest winning streak of the year for this team. It doesn’t make it any less silly, but I think that’s the explanation.
- Whit Merrifield has been a bit of a disappointment to start the season, hitting just .250/.324/.371, but I’m wondering if this isn’t about what he is. The good news is that he’s swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone, sitting around the league average of 30 percent heading into play yesterday. The bad news is he just isn’t making the same kind of contact he made last season with a slightly lower exit velocity and a lower percentage of barrels this year. He’s also seeing considerably less pitches per plate appearance and he already didn’t see a ton. But that said, I think he’s a better hitter than .250 and if the increased walk rate is for real, once that stabilizes a bit and he adds 20-30 points to it, the OBP will come up and the SLG can sit in a very respectable spot. There’s been some thought that the ball isn’t quite as juiced as it has been the last few years, and Whit seems like someone who would be impacted more than most by that change. If he’s a .275/.340/.400 hitter, which seems reasonable, there’s plenty of value there. It’s worth noting, though, that he’s hitting .254 with a .418 slugging percentage against fastballs, but his expected numbers are .291 and .485 respectively, which is right in line with the .294 average and .489 SLG he posted against fastballs last year. If he can get those numbers in line, I imagine we’ll see a Merrifield resurgence soon enough.