The Royals roster currently has five players who are over the age of 30. Four of them are free agents at the end of the year (with one, Ian Kennedy, coming off the DL to add back to the 30+ group). The point here is that the youth has arrived, and while the results aren’t much better, it’s a better product to watch as a fan. Yes, Escobar is still playing too much, and yes, I’d like to see Ryan O’Hearn more as well over Lucas Duda. But every night, you’re seeing a sub-30 starting pitcher and a lineup that is at least two-thirds under 30 as well. That’s not to say they’re young per se, as some of their under 30 guys are guys like Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield who are pushing the number, but there’s at least some future possibilities there finally.
- Jorge Lopez was okay enough in his first start for the Royals on Wednesday night. I had a chance to be at the game and I was disappointed in his fastball. I thought it would look better than it did, but I was pretty impressed with his changeup. Now, it’s obviously a small sample, but his start didn’t really do much to change my mindset that I believe he’s a reliever long-term for this team. Heck, if the Royals ever decided to employ an opener strategy, Lopez seems like he’d be a nice option there. I just think the stuff will play better in a 15-30 pitch outing rather than a 90-110 pitch outing. Between Wednesday night, the couple big league outings I’ve seen and a little video I’ve watched of him in the minor leagues, the stuff just wasn’t all that dynamic to me in a longer outing whereas I could absolutely see it playing up as a late inning reliever or a strong middle reliever who can get five to seven outs if needed. While that sounds like a negative, I don’t think it really is. If the velocity plays up just a bit (he averaged about an MPH more on his fastball as a reliever with the Brewers this year than he did on Wednesday night) with that changeup and the potential plus curve, he’s a real weapon for this team moving forward. I would give him a start every fifth day for most of the rest of the season because there’s no reason not to, but even in a game where he couldn’t get through the fifth and gave up six runs on eight hits, I was encouraged by the potential there.
- I’ve said before that I believe the Royals will do whatever they can to fix this bullpen for next season. Part of it is that a bullpen this bad just can’t continue season over season, but part of it is that there’s a lot of value in a young team not suffering through some of the demoralizing losses this team has seen during the season. And with that in mind, the last 40ish games of the year can, should and likely will be an audition of sorts for the Royals to try to see what they need to get from outside the organization in order to turn the bullpen to at least an average unit. I mentioned Lopez, but you can add in last night’s starter Glenn Sparkman to the list along with recently acquired Jon Perrin from the Brewers. Sparkman is especially interesting to me. When I saw him in spring training, my first thought was he could be a setup man in a good bullpen. He has a good fastball, a slider with a lot of bite and he’s a bit of a bulldog. I wouldn’t say that he has the stuff to close, but I believe he can be a quality option in the sixth or seventh. With those three combined with Jason Adam, Heath Fillmyer, Josh Staumont, Richard Lovelady and some others, there’ll be plenty of options. They’ll determine how much the Royals try to go outside the organization in order to put together a bullpen that can at least hold a few leads here and there.
- I’ve talked about the outfield before, but next season has a chance to be very interesting. In the Royals outfield, they have Alex Gordon, Brett Phillips, Brian Goodwin, Jorge Bonifacio, Jorge Soler and Rosell Herrera to go along with Elier Hernandez and any surprises who find their way up the big league ladder as the 2019 season goes along. I think Herrera goes into next season as a bit of a super utility player, so he’s not really a huge concern for me, but with three lefties and two righties among the other five, I do believe the Royals can make that work for them if they choose to keep all six players. Like I said, Herrera can play all over and get three or four starts a week (if you feel the need to play him that much), but let’s be real about Alex Gordon. He really shouldn’t face basically any lefties. Soler and Bonifacio can both handle DH duties at times (as well as some other rotating), but Gordon should only start against righties. And the beauty of it is that this group has three players who can play center, so you never have to go into a game with Alex out there or even Bonifacio like he was in his second or third big league game last year. I think it can work and I think there can be a potential for 500 at bats for all of Phillips, Goodwin, Soler and Bonifacio if they so choose. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the Jorges gets shopped to make this whole discussion moot.
- I don’t have a ton to talk about here since Clint is the resident prospect expert (fine, not just at BP, but the best Royals prospect guy there is), but Arnaldo Hernandez throwing a complete game on Wednesday night in the manner he did absolutely earned him a bullet point in Friday Notes. The guy threw 97 pitches to get through nine innings, which is impressive enough, but he threw 80 strikes among those pitches. 80! He, of course, did not walk a batter in his outing. I should have included him in the group that might find themselves auditioning for a bullpen spot next year, though I could see him auditioning for a rotation spot as well with the way he’s pitched. Across three levels, he’s 11-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 121.2 innings and there’s nothing that impressive, but he’s always been a control guy who has added some velocity this season, according to Clint. He was Rule 5 eligible last season but didn’t get picked, but he’s only 22 years old and won’t be 23 until near the start of spring training, so maybe he can be a surprise development. If nothing else, a complete game with 97 pitches and 80 strikes is a fun story.