The trade of Lucas Duda to the Braves along with September starting gives Royals fans something to be excited for at the end of a long, difficult season. I’m guessing the Royals won’t bring up everybody everyone wants to see, but it’s another opportunity for them to add some younger talent to the roster to give the fans a glimpse of what the future might look like. And for the first time since 2012, they’re starting the month with no hope, so it’s an all out audition for the final month of the season, which can go any millions of different ways, but as long as they have the chance to evaluate, I’d argue that it’s going quite well, no matter the results.
- As the Royals do embark on September callups, quite a few potential additions need to have 40-man roster spots before they can be called up. They did free one on Wednesday with the Duda deal, and it might go to someone like Frank Schwindel, but Jorge Soler coming off the 60-day DL mid-week will require another move, so let’s just say the Duda spot goes to Soler for the purposes of his discussion. Where are they going to find the spots for Schwindel, Josh Staumont (who has to be added anyway to avoid being exposed to the Rule 5), Nicky Lopez, Richard Lovely, Arnaldo Hernandez and anyone else who might be deserving? Well obviously some trades might happen, and maybe they’ve already happened between me writing this and you reading this. So that’ll help. One spot seems easy. According to his Instagram, Eric Stout is out for the season. Put him on the 60-day DL and there’s an easy spot for Schwindel. Bubba Starling is another guy who makes sense as either a DFA or a 60-day spot, but he did just come back for a rehab assignment in Idaho Falls, so maybe he won’t actually get transferred to the longer disabled list. Other than that, it comes down to letting a player go. I’d just cut bait on Jason Hammel, Alcides Escobar and Drew Butera, but I’m not sure the team would at this point. If they decide to add Jecksson Flores, maybe they’d cut bait on Ramon Torres? Andres Machado seems to have taken a step back this season, so he’s another possible guy. I think the real answer here is that there are players not on the 40-man roster who do not have to be added in the offseason to protect them from the Rule 5 who might not get a shot at the big league roster in September. But we’ll see what they decide.
- I think I went about two weeks without praising Adalberto Mondesi in this space, so I’m going to have to make up for some lost time now. I’m certainly not going to put him on the same level as Mike Trout or Robinson Cano as some member of the Kansas City media has done recently (do they drug test because they should), but I will say that he’s showing why everyone loved him before he struggled in the big leagues. For the season, he’s hitting .267/.289/.453. The OBP is very underwhelming, which is a problem to keep an eye out for, but the power is very real with 16 extra base hits and an ISO of .186. But I believe it’s better than that. I think something clicked with him early in his time up this year and since that trip to Milwaukee, he’s played 41 games and is hitting .286/.306/.493 with 15 extra base hits in 146 plate appearances. But it’s not just that. He’s 17 for 21 in steals this year. The metrics indicate he’s playing a fantastic shortstop as well. And something interesting is that he seems to be hunting more strikes and more fastballs. The walks aren’t there yet, but he’s doing damage to the ball a lot more this season. His average home run is traveling 412 feet. He’s going to need to walk more, but even if he doesn’t, if he continues to flash the power, the speed and the defense, he can certainly get by. He won’t be a tier one star or anything without walking more, but if you give me a shortstop who can play that kind of defense, steal 50 plus bases (which is certainly possible and plausible for him) and hit 20 homers with 30 doubles, I’m happy to work around the lack of walks. He needs to stay on the field, but the potential is really starting to shine.
- The Arizona Fall League rosters were announced yesterday, and it’s no surprise that Khalil Lee will be on it from the Royals. He’s definitely the headliner as the team’s best prospect (in my opinion) and because he hasn’t played in a few weeks. It’ll be an opportunity to see him in action and hope he can build on some solid things he had done in a short time at AA. I think he has a shot, if he’s truly healthy, to look really good and turn some heads down there. His power should play up in that atmosphere and maybe he can have an eye opening season like Nicky Lopez last year. Meibrys Viloria is another interesting name as he was added to the 40-man last year when they probably didn’t really need to, but has had a bit of an uneven season offensively this year. The OBP and contact skills are there, but if the power doesn’t develop, he’s likely nothing more than a backup. Lee is the only player on the Surprise Saguaros roster who is younger than Viloria, so it’ll be a nice test for him. And the third big-ish name is Scott Blewett who needs to be added to the 40-man this year to avoid being eligible for the Rule 5. It’s just never really come together for him, so this is his chance to prove his worth to an organization that just drafted a bunch of pitchers who will be competing with Blewett next season in the system. The rest of the roster includes a speedster in Nick Heath and a couple interesting enough relievers in Grant Gavin and Walker Sheller. And hey, with Bo Bichette and Vladito on the roster, I’m guessing they’ll be on MLB Network a fair amount to watch.
- Hunter Dozier has a funny way of seeming like he’s going better than he is. I legitimately thought he was hot the other day until I looked up his numbers over the last few games and saw that he’s hitting just .268/.316/.423 in August, which I guess is a big improvement over his season numbers, but it just seemed like better than that. And this was actually before he went four for seven with two doubles, so his numbers were even lower then. The thing is that his Statcast numbers do make it seem like he should be better. There are obvious perils with looking at average exit velocities, launch angles, etc., but I’m going to do it anyway. He, on average, hits the ball harder than the average big leaguer. He makes hard contact more often than the average big leaguer. He has a really good average launch angle of 13 degrees. And he barrels the ball 10 percent of the time, which is why above league average. He swings and misses at breaking balls way too often (46.4 percent) so that’s causing him issues, but I’m more than okay with him getting two or three months at least next year to hold down third base and let Kelvin Gutierrez continue his development in AAA. If he can figure out a way to be passable against breaking balls, his ability to hit fastballs and off speed stuff (and recognize them) gives me hope. It’s not hope I’d carry if the Royals were expected to be good, but they have time to see if he can figure it out and they absolutely should.