Friday Notes

Friday Notes

On the list of things I expected to see this season, a Royals starter taking a perfect game into the ninth inning was not anywhere to be found. So Jorge Lopez’s flirt with perfection was possibly the highlight of a horrible season, and if it’s not the highlight, it’s somewhere in the top five for sure. I guess it’s important to find silver linings in everything, and I think we’ve seen enough to make this not a total waste of a summer watching Royals baseball. Ryan O’Hearn’s crazy fast start, Brad Keller’s contributions and Adalberto Mondesi’s ascension to being something close to the player many always thought he could be have been great storylines to put a positive spin on a 100-loss season. Hey, they may even avoid having the worst record in franchise history.

  • It’s easy to forget about Jorge Soler because he hasn’t played in the big leagues since mid-June, but if you think back to the team in May, he was probably the most exciting part of it, and with good reason. Soler is a 26-year old with plate discipline, massive power and actual athleticism, and he was somewhat making good on his promise before yet another injury derailed his season. Now, it wasn’t all perfect. He hit just .175/.238/.361 over his final 105 plate appearances of the season, but he showed that he could actually carry an offense when he got hot. But since he got hurt, the Royals have added Brett Phillips and Brian Goodwin to the outfield mix and O’Hearn has entered the fray as another offensive piece for 2019 at least, so where do the Royals go with him? Looking ahead to 2019, the roster is a little bit cramped with Alex Gordon, the aforementioned outfielders, Jorge Bonifacio and Rosell Herrera, another new addition to the big club since Soler went down. Those five along with O’Hearn, Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Salvador Perez and likely Cam Gallagher as a backup catcher leave the Royals with really one roster spot open given their proclivity to carry 13 pitchers. Soler can fit there, but one of two things needs to happen for it to work. They have to believe Herrera can handle shortstop because Mondesi is not a 162-game player like Alcides Escobar has been (for better or for worse) or they’ll have to move away from Herrera’s versatility and sign a utility infielder (please not Escobar) who can handle shortstop as a backup. But if they choose to sign that utility player and keep Herrera, I don’t know where Soler fits. And while he had a nice season offensively, I can’t imagine his trade value is especially high. It’s a bit of a conundrum.
  • Some notable Royals who will be out of options next season are Mondesi, Bonifacio, Goodwin (he already is), Lopez and Brian Flynn. Of course, Cheslor Cuthbert is famously out of options and has been since seemingly 2010, so the Royals will have some restrictions on their roster next year. In addition, Paulo Orlando (big time DFA candidate) and Bubba Starling (same) will be out of options as well, which should enhance their DFA likelihood. Obviously, their hope is that Mondesi and Bonifacio are good enough to stay on the roster all year, so they’re not all that important. But Goodwin, Lopez and Flynn are interesting enough. I think Goodwin has shown a great deal since coming over with a nice bat and has shown well in center field. An outfield with him in center, Phillips in right and Gordon in left is one that can be one of the better defensive outfields out there, though Goodwin and Gordon aren’t the fleetest of foot, so from a ground covering perspective, Phillips might be needed to be in the middle even though his arm plays better in right than Goodwin’s. But there are other factors, such as Nicky Lopez and his potential callup to the big leagues that might push Whit Merrifield to center field again next year. So there are a lot of questions, but Goodwin is an interesting player to watch as someone who might be auditioning more for his next team than his role on the next good Royals team.
  • Even before they started winning, the Royals pitching started to look much better and in their last 21 games before last night, they’d posted a 3.53 ERA with fewer hits than innings pitched and a reasonable home run rate. Their walk rate has dropped by a decent amount as well over the last few weeks, which is really nice to see. The starters are the real bread winners here, averaging about six innings per start before last night (and that includes Duffy’s outing of less than an inning) with an ERA of 3.11, fewer hits than innings pitched and very few home runs. It’s been really encouraging to see what the young (for the most part) rotation has done. And Fillmyer, I thought, was terrific last night even though the numbers aren’t quite as good because of the eighth inning. The bullpen has been better, but not enough. They’ve given up too many home runs and they’ve been way too hittable. I will say it looks better if you take Jason Hammel out, but it’s still not where you want it. To me, I think guys like Jake Newberry, Glenn Sparkman and newly acquired Jerry Vasto are going to have their chance to join Kevin McCarthy and probably Wily Peralta in the 2019 bullpen, but I really believe there’ll be at least a couple new faces along with the potential debut of Richard Lovelady next year. There’s work to be done.
  • Since the start of this 18-game stretch where they’ve gone 12-6, one thing that I’m not sure stands out, but I’ve noticed is that they’re actually walking quite a bit more.  They’ve walked 59 times now in their last 18 games. That’s a walk rate of 8.8 percent, which isn’t anything special. It would rank around 11th or 12th in baseball, though, which is considerably higher than where they are. It’s also WAY higher than the 7 percent they were walking before this stretch. A lot of it is just silly randomness, but guys like Alex Gordon, Ryan O’Hearn and even Jorge Bonifacio have done a nice job of working walks and all have a place on the 2019 Royals. We’ve mentioned the patience of some of the players in the lower levels of the system, so we can at least dream a little that this is the start of a more patient lineup for years to come. I’m not holding my breath, but you never know.
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7 comments on “Friday Notes”

Always enjoy your Friday Notes David! With respect to the utility infield position, if not Herrera, how about N. Lopez? He could start 2 days a week at short, 1-2 at 2nd and 1-2 at 3rd. He’d be more of a Whit-type player than a true bench guy. Just a thought.

David Lesky

I could see Lopez as a guy who slides over to SS to give Mondesi days off, but I don’t think they’ll want to have him moving around in the big leagues when he could be playing every day at one position. I could be wrong, but I think the smart move is to get him comfortable at his primary position (probably 2B) and leave him there as much as possible.

I’m not sure the Royals are ready to give up on Bubba Starling. Maybe a trade candidate for a bullpen arm. Bubba has cut down on his strike out rate when he’s been healthy. Healthy is a key word in connection to Bubba.

David Lesky

I can’t imagine there’s a team out there giving up anything of use for Bubba Starling, decreased strikeout rate or not.

I think Nicky Lopez will be our 2nd baseman with Whit (if not traded) spending most of his time in CF but occasionally moving to 2B as Lopez can give Mondesi days off at SS. Whit can also play some 3B for Dozier. I don’t see Goodwin or Herrera making the team, in fact they might be traded for low level prospects and open up spots on 40 man roster including Mejia who is better prospect then Herrera. Phillips will be on 25 man because he would be the only other capable CF. Soler would be RF, DH. Bonifacio would be LF, RF & DH. Just my opinion!

David Lesky

It’ll definitely be interesting to see how they handle it. Just a bit of a logjam, but these things have a way of working themselves out.

skepticaltransplant

I don’t think the outfield situation is that difficult. Herrera and Goodwin are both similar in that they were once top 100 prospects, but they didn’t live up to the hype. Herrera can’t hit. Goodwin can hit well enough for a fourth outfielder, but he has a fringe arm for RF and fringe range for CF. He’d probably be alright in LF, but there are 20 million reasons he won’t stick there for the Royals next year.

They are both guys for whom it makes a lot of sense for a 100 loss team to give them a lot of playing time to see if they can possibly unlock more of the talent scouts once saw in them. They aren’t guys that stay on the roster when that doesn’t happen and there are other guys that need to play.

The starting pitching has looked better recently. I’m not sold on it. We’ve seen this before with other starters who look better late in the season and revert to being bad the next year.

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