The second half of the season, which is really the second 40 percent or so gets underway tonight, and with four days to reflect on the atrocity that has been the Royals season to this point, it feels a little different. Yes, the season was over sometime in mid-April, but being able to take a step back away from the daily grind makes that somehow even more obvious and makes the second part of the season entirely different. Now it’s the summer of Adalberto and the Jorges and maybe even Rosell. For me, my frustration with this team doing such dumb things and losing in such dumb ways is that it’s been mostly veterans causing the issues. If young players are showing what they can do and having some issues in the process, I’ll be much more accepting of that. Of course, it’s easy to say that after four days off. The first silly mistake a young player makes tonight will have me yelling at the television, so, you know, maybe it’s not all that different.
- The rotation in the final 67 games is especially intriguing to me. Barring a trade or injury, Danny Duffy is going to get 13-14 more starts. Barring another injury, Jakob Junis is going to get 13-14 more starts. Both of them are pretty important if the Royals really do plan to look competitive as soon as 2020 (which I still think is too soon). The rest is fluid to me and very interesting. Brad Keller has shown quite a bit as a starter, but his last two starts pretty much highlighted every reason why people who were skeptical about him were skeptical about him. Then there’s Burch Smith, who I don’t think is even a big leaguer, if we’re being honest. And then there’s Ian Kennedy, who is owed a lot of money, but that money has been spent. There’s no reason not to get a look at some pitchers down the stretch, even if it means a temporary sojourn to the bullpen for him. You guys know that I’m a Trevor Oaks fan, even though his couple of starts haven’t gone well. I’d like to see what he can do in 8-10 starts down the stretch. Eric Skoglund just had a successful rehab start in Surprise, so it looks like he might be back soon. I’m very curious to see if the progress he made early in the year is sustainable. If/when Scott Barlow is healthy, I’d love to see him make some starts as well. And honestly, even if the Royals have to back off Duffy for a start here and there to get a look at some other guys, I’m more than okay with it. The hope is obviously that a couple of the guys from this draft are up and at the top of the rotation by 2021 or so, but there’ll need to be others to fill in. It’ll be good to find out now (and next season) who can be part of that.
- For your weekly Adalberto Mondesi update, remember back to the series in Milwaukee when he first started looking like a big league hitter? Well, since and including that series, he’s hitting .294/.308/.549. Yes, it’s 52 plate appearances. That’s not a lot. Yes he’s walked just once. That’s way too few. Yes, he’s got a .343 BABIP, which actually might not be that high for a guy with his speed, but it’s still high on the surface. But it is so nice to see him have some big league success finally. Even his overall numbers show something. He’s got a .194 ISO, so he’s clearly hitting for power. He has roughly half the extra base hits of Alcides Escobar in about 20 percent of the plate appearances. He’s still swinging at way too many bad pitches and he’s still really struggling with breaking balls, but that’s likely going to plague him for at least awhile. It’s probably why he isn’t likely to be a star, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a key cog on the next good Royals team. He’s flashed exciting defense as well, so if he’s able to maintain a moderately high average and show off the type of ISO he’s shown off to this point, the Royals are in very good shape with him moving forward. They have 67 games left, and he needs to play at least 62 of them, with at least 90 percent of them coming at shortstop. I’m not confident that’ll happen, but you never know.
- The Dodgers trade of Manny Machado is great news for the Royals in their efforts to move Mike Moustakas and maybe even Whit Merrifield. Since the Dodgers weren’t in on either and some teams like the Phillies, Yankees and Braves were in on Moose and maybe Merrifield too, along with Machado, it bodes well for the Royals chances of getting a better return on at least Moose and maybe makes Merrifield even more desirable. On the Moose front, I’m still skeptical that he’ll bring back much, but when teams get desperate, they do some crazy things. Plus I’ve been wondering if offering certain prospects for one player in a deal that doesn’t get completed makes those prospects more likely to go in a different deal. It’s sort of like loosening the lid on the jar. Once the GM has decided they’re willing to move on from a prospect, is it easier to pry that prospect away? I really don’t know the answer, but I find it interesting to consider anyway. My guess is Moose ends up in either Philadelphia or New York, but the National League is so crazy that I could see the Cardinals, Rockies and maybe even the Diamondbacks getting involved. And that’s before injuries could factor in, though there’s less than two weeks before the deadline, so that time is running short. As for Merrifield, I think the Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, A’s, Phillies, Brewers, Rockies and maybe even the Nationals make sense for him as both short-term and long-term plays. It’ll be an interesting couple weeks and it’s made more interesting by the Dodgers splash this week.
- I’m starting to look ahead to the 2019 season, and while it’ll likely be more of the same for this team, I imagine we’ll see some small one-year deals signed similar to the ones for Jon Jay and Lucas Duda. There are obviously in-house options for pretty much every position, but I could see a scenario where the Royals go shopping for a first baseman, third baseman and center fielder next year. If they don’t end up trading Merrifield, he could be an option in center field if they end up going with Nicky Lopez and Mondesi up the middle, but if they do, maybe they go get Jay one more time to play center for a little bit or Cameron Maybin, who they were rumored to be interested in this year. At third, they have some options if they decide Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert can’t cut it. Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval or Luis Valbuena could all be a short term fit with an eye on trading for more prospects at the deadline. And at first, they should almost definitely go with someone in the organization just to give a shot to someone like Frank Schwindel, but maybe Duda gets a reprieve or they go with Matt Adams. I guess the point isn’t so much the names, but rather starting to think about where the Royals might be looking for short-term veteran fits, and those are the places that pop into my head.