We are now just 81 days until the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline, which is really the story of this season for the Royals as we count down the days until we find out who they trade and who they get back. Some early surprise contenders (to some) like the Braves and Phillies are helpful for the Royals as they get to battle each other for the right to trade for Justin Grimm. But seriously, when rebuilding teams get there a year or two ahead of schedule, it’s fantastic news for sellers because they get the opportunity to potentially trade with a team that has worked hard to rebuild its farm system in recent years. As a Royals fan, it’s smart to root for the Phillies and Braves to keep this up because between those two and then the Nationals, there are some very interesting prospects to acquire in the National League East.
- Something that I’ve thought a lot about during the young season is how little athleticism the Royals have at the big league level. Look around the diamond and it’s a lot of plodders out there. If you look at the sprint speed leaderboards, you’ll see the Royals find themselves on the left side of the average line way too often. Alex Gordon ranking as the slowest left fielder is striking to me. You don’t think of him as fast or anything, but you also don’t think of him as having an identical sprint speed to Salvador Perez. Aside from Whit Merrifield and the surprisingly quick Jorge Soler, there just isn’t much about this team that screams any athleticism. I even had the thought, given Soler’s sprint speed, that maybe he should get a shot in center field. I mean, a lot of his issue is that he doesn’t read fly balls well and the angle is much easier in center, so it might be worth a shot. I don’t think that’s actually a good idea, but my galaxy brain makes me wonder if they should at least give it a shot sometime, just to see. Regardless, this makes it all the more obvious that they need Adalberto Mondesi to be good and be good soon along with some of their other athletes in the minors because no matter how much the ball is flying out of the park, the Royals need some quickness and athleticism to win consistently in their big park.
- I don’t think we really take enough to appreciate just how special a pitch the slider is for Jakob Junis. Last season, he’d unfurl one that caught everyone’s attention and there would be “oohs” and “ahhs” on Twitter talking about how nasty a pitch it is and all that. This season, I think it might be even better, and some of the reason for that is that he’s throwing it for strikes a little more often than last season, which forces hitters to make a decision on it. The increase isn’t huge; it’s only up by about two percent, but it’s still there. And this year, he’s allowing just a .133 average against it. His slugging percentage allowed has jumped up, partially because of that one ridiculously bad start against the White Sox, but it’s a dominant pitch. I think that’s something people might be missing any time they compare someone to Junis in the Royals organization. Yes, having similar control and velocity and size and all that might make some believe that various pitchers could have the same kind of big league impact that Junis has, but unless they have an actual out pitch like he does, it’s a moot point. The fact that a lot of his game centers around being pretty good at a lot and not truly great at much will likely limit Junis throughout his career, but the slider alone is a pitch that can give him a long big league career while some others just don’t have that one pitch that can catapult them to a mid-rotation starter.
- At the risk of beating a dead horse, the Ryan Goins experiment has to stop. Admittedly, I’m biased here because I think Goins is about as useful as a wet towel after a shower, but he just doesn’t do anything well. And the worst part is that I’m pretty sure the organization is passing along the information that he’s some sort of elite clutch hitter based on the way they talk about him on the broadcast. He is admittedly better with runners in scoring position, but better is relative. His career OBP in that situation is still below .300. I wouldn’t be so annoyed with him being on the roster except for the fact that while he’s not playing that much, he’s not being used like a backup when he is in there. By that I mean that I don’t understand why he isn’t being pinch hit for when he’s up in late game situations, such as the one on Wednesday night when he struck out in an at bat that made him look about as overmatched as a big leaguer can be. I get that wins and losses aren’t that important, but Goins isn’t some young player who needs to develop like they claimed with Alcides Escobar back in the day. Sure, a 12-25 team has much bigger fish to fry than a guy with 48 plate appearances through nearly a quarter of the season, but I really can’t stand watching him play.
- It has been so nice to see Salvador Perez back in the lineup over the last two and a half weeks, and has helped to turn the offense into what I thought it would be when the season began. He’s hitting .288/.319/.515 with four homers and 13 RBI, which is very good, but more importantly, he’s helped to lengthen the lineup and put hitters in a more appropriate spot for them. Since he’s been back, the team has hit .279/.341/.434 and they’ve averaged 4.8 runs per game. Of course this isn’t all Salvy’s doing, but when you combine his return with Jorge Soler going nuts, I now feel a lot better for believing that this offense could be better than people believed it would be. If the Royals can keep him rested, maybe just maybe he can keep up some semblance of this offense without falling off in the second half. If he’s going to be hanging around for long enough to see the next good Royals team, there’s no reason for him to be behind the plate too often, so we’ll see how that goes as the season progresses.