The 2018 season for the big league Royals was never meant to be a championship season. It was never meant to provide thrilling moments in August and September. It was never meant to provide even a glimmer of hope that the team could even be in contention at the one-third mark. Sure nobody in the organization would have been upset if the season went against the expectation, but nobody was going to be upset if it followed the course it had. The most important thing in the organization this season is to begin to rebuild a farm system that even the most optimistic Royals ranking has in the bottom five of baseball.
With the draft coming up this week, we’ll begin to see that happen as the Royals have the highest pool allotment and four of the first 40 picks. I believe the performance of many of the Royals top prospects have probably helped their standing in prospect rankings. Guys like MJ Melendez and Seuly Matias starting off so strong, along with solid seasons from Khalil Lee, Nicky Lopez and others, looks good for the organization. It’s still a long process, though. And even with that, there are three other areas that the 2018 season can be judged at the big league level, so I wanted to take a look at the progress of those three areas:
While nobody would argue that the Royals have enough impact talent in the upper levels of the organization to compete quickly, they do have some pieces that could be useful parts of the next good Royals team. This season was important to determine if they can cut it in the big leagues long-term or if they’re just placeholders for when the big prospects make their debuts over the next few years. It was important to see if Jorge Soler and Jorge Bonifacio were long-term pieces, along with guys like Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier and maybe even Ramon Torres.
So far, the reviews are mixed on both the players and the Royals ability to learn anything. Soler has played every day and has done quite well, though he’s in the midst of a slump right now. He looks like a part of the next good Royals team whether he’s in the lineup or part of a trade to acquire more talent. Cuthbert has played regularly and struggled mightily and is now on the disabled list. I imagine he’s facing his last days as a Royal soon, and part of that is that I believe the Royals have been impressed with what they’ve seen from Hunter Dozier. Even though the power has been lacking, he’s had good at bats and hit the ball very hard while looking good at first base.
Obviously they haven’t yet had the opportunity to see a sophomore season from Bonifacio because of his suspension, but his time is coming with the Royals scheduled to play their 81st game on June 29th in Seattle. And with Ramon Torres, they chose to enter the season with Ryan Goins on the roster. I assume this is because Dayton Moore was tired of people making fun of Chris Getz, so he wanted to show everyone what a truly awful baseball player could do, but I can’t be certain. Even so, those two along with Dozier need to be front and center for the Royals for at least a few weeks to give the Royals an idea of what they can expect moving forward.
When the Royals signed the veteran trio of Lucas Duda, Jon Jay and Mike Moustakas, the general consensus was that they were doing so to make the team more watchable in the short term and to find some trade chips in the slightly longer term. They also signed a couple veteran relievers that I’m sure they hoped they could flip at the deadline for non-zero prospects in Blaine Boyer and Justin Grimm. In addition to them, the Royals already had Kelvin Herrera, Danny Duffy, Jason Hammel, Whit Merrifield and maybe even Ian Kennedy as players the Royals could try to move at the deadline.
Moose has been fantastic this year, and provided there are needs at third base, figures to be a somewhat coveted bat. The issue is that there are a lot of the same problems plaguing his trade value that plagued his free agency given that there isn’t a huge need out there. Still, the season he’s having and the attitude he’s shown have been big pluses for him. Duda was starting to come around before getting hurt, but he has the same issues as Moose as far as need with the added issue of more trade chips around the league at first. But that’s nothing the Royals weren’t expecting. With Jay, he’s been quietly much better than I want to give him credit for, though he still has an empty batting average and even a slightly empty OBP due to his lack of speed and ability to take extra bases. Merrifield has turned in another really solid start to his season. If the Royals are willing to deal, there’ll definitely be takers for him.
On the pitching side, only Herrera has done the Royals any favors this year. I imagine he’ll bring back the best return at the deadline of any player the Royals deal, simply because of the need for lock down relievers. Like I’ve mentioned before, he has the added bonus of having done it before in the postseason and having done it well. We all know the stories about Duffy and Hammel and Kennedy was a long shot to be dealt anyway. He’d have had to pitch like a legitimate number two just for a team to consider taking on his contract and, while he’s been good at times, he hasn’t been nearly good enough. And then there’s the relievers, but you know that story.
Keeping Things Interesting
As I said above, signing some veterans to the roster was designed to make the team more watchable and interesting. Adding some pieces to the offense would help the team score some runs while the bullpen looked like it’d be in a big time transition early in the year while waiting on guys like Richard Lovelady, Josh Staumont and others to progress. If the team could plate a few more and keep a few more off the board in the late innings, maybe they could be decent enough to keep the team competitive in games and interesting.
Nah. This team is 3-13 in games decided by five or more runs, allowing 136 of the 301 runs allowed on the season in those 16 games (127 of the runs in the 13 losses). The offense has been better than it likely would have been with Jay getting on base and Moose hitting home runs, as well as a bit of a breakout from Soler. The pitching has been a disaster and the veteran bullpen arms have been a huge part of the problem. So no, this team is decidedly not entertaining or especially watchable, though they have been better of late, so that’s something.
Overall, the Royals have gotten a decent start on their 2018 “to do” list, but plenty of work remains. They need to get Richard Lovelady, Josh Staumont and others up to the big leagues. They need to find out what they have in Trevor Oaks. They need to see what Adalberto Mondesi can show in the big leagues. They need to stop giving time to useless veterans like Goins and Boyer. They now have 107 games left to do that this season (and let’s be real, next season is more of the same). If they can get through this year and have an idea on most of these guys, along with getting some value back for their current veterans, this year’ll be a success even if they don’t win another game.