MLB: Atlanta Braves at Kansas City Royals

For the weekend, everything was coming up Royals

Sure, it’s a three game winning streak, but when the Royals have only won three consecutive games one other time the entire season, it’s a cause for celebration. And when it’s the first three games to open the season’s de facto second half, maybe it seems like rock bottom is in the rear view mirror.

That’s obviously a stretch. The Royals came by their first half .284 winning percentage honestly. The record and the eye test told you the same thing – this was a bad, bad baseball team.

The brilliance of baseball is that even the worst teams can catch lightning. The Royals actually went 13-15 in May and that was the month they won their three straight. The good times didn’t last, but that doesn’t mean they can’t return at some point. That’s exactly what happened last weekend at The K.

It’s addition by subtraction. Or something like that. The Royals rotation, which will turn over on Wednesday sets up thusly:

Danny Duffy
Jakob Junis
Brad Keller
Heath Fillmyer
Burch Smith

That’s two Rule 5 guys sandwiched around a dude who, on Monday, will be making his second major league start. That’s not exactly a rotation that will inspire confidence. Yet after watching the stylings of Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel for most of the summer, this starting five is A-OK by me, even if I can’t shake the feeling an implosion could happen at any moment.

The victims of the Royals kickstart to the second half was the hapless Minnesota Twins. The Twins were supposed to be better than they’ve shown, but somehow have lost six of nine against Kansas City. The Tigers roll into town next, and they’re another team the Royals have had success against, taking six of 10. Chew on this – the Royals have won 30 games this year. Twelve of those have come against the Twins and the Tigers. That’s 40 percent. Light a candle for Minnesota and Detroit.

You know things are going your way when Drew Butera breaks open a tie game with an inside the park home run. Yes, you read the previous sentence correctly. AN INSIDE THE PARK HOME RUN. 

Witness!

After sporting a -193 run differential in the season’s first half, the Royals outscored the Twins by a 15 to 10 margin. The starters kept the team in the game. The lineup did just enough. The bullpen bent, but did not break. This isn’t the start of some kind of major turnaround and the team was so dreadful over the first 95 games of the season that they still have a firm grasp of landing at least the number two overall pick in next summer’s draft. Sometime in the next few days, Mike Moustakas should be on the move and there could be one or two more players changing uniforms. With any moves on the horizon made with an eye to the future, the heady days of three game winning streaks won’t last forever. It doesn’t mean that it’s not fun.

Speaking of the lineup, the Royals made a trade on Sunday, acquiring outfielder Brian Goodwin from the Washington Nationals, in exchange for right-hander Jacob Condra-Brogan. Trades like these are easy to get behind. Goodwin is a former first round draft pick (2011) and has hit some speed bumps along the prospect path. He’s collected 401 plate appearances spread over three seasons in Washington and hit .246/.315/.464 with a .271 TAv. His best stretch came in his extended look last summer. He was out of options and in the crowded outfield of the Nationals, wasn’t going to get much more of a look.

Not so long ago, (2013 in fact) Goodwin was ranked as BP’s number three prospect in the Nationals system. He was behind Anthony Rendon and Luca Giolito, but ahead of Nate Karns. In the writeup, which is probably a tad too optimistic in the hindsight of prospect watching, Professor Parks noted he had plus speed, with excellent range in center and contact-ability at the plate. He graded Goodwin as a future first division player. 

After a largely successful repeat campaign in the Eastern League, Parks reiterated his support the following year, again ranking Goodwin at number three in the Nationals system. Injuries and inconsistency dulled his prospect luster, but he’s done decent enough in limited action in the majors. The days where he projected as a first division regular are probably long gone, but for the Royals he will provide solid production at a controlled cost. Besides, what’s the harm in turning the young man loose, giving him regular playing time for the first time in his career where he’s not waiting for the knock to come that would bring him back to the bench – or the minors.

This is exactly what Dayton Moore and the Royals need to be doing at this point, where they look to take advantage of a market where a player with the untapped potential could be lurking. Goodwin should see regular playing time between now and the end of the season. And with just over a year of major league service time, it will be another year or two before he makes much more than the major league minimum. 

Let’s not get hung up on the defensive metrics where he grades as below average. He’s accumulated just 737 innings of outfield experience at the major league level. The guy has the versatility to play all three outfield positions, which probably tells you more than a small sample size of defensive metrics can illuminate.

Goodwin should slot in as the everyday center fielder. Don’t worry about figuring out playing time for the others who could occupy the Royals outfield. Rosell Herrera and Paulo Orlando can duke it out for the fourth outfield role. Jorge Soler can DH when he returns from his broken toe and Hunter Dozier can play third once Moustakas gets moved. 

See? Sometimes everything can work out just fine.

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