The Royals have hit a bit of a skid over the last few days, but I don’t think the wins and losses are the main reason there’s been some optimism around Kansas City regarding this team. It has to do with how the young guys are playing and the exploits of Adalberto Mondesi and Ryan O’Hearn in particular have people thinking about what might actually be next season. I’m not here to ruin your Cheerios or anything, but I’m fully expecting a lot of people to talk about the Twins turnaround from 2016 to 2017 and even the A’s ascent this year as possibilities for the Royals. I guess you can never say never, but I expect those people to be disappointed. And that’s not to say the team can’t be good next year. It’s just that they’re not likely to be that good. I suppose stranger things have happened.
- I think it’ll be a really boring offseason, but also strangely fascinating, if that makes any sense at all. I expect a ton of rumors to swirl around the Royals with regard to Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez while nothing really ends up happening unless a team gets desperate and gives a franchise changing return for either of them. But I don’t really see a whole lot happening in terms of the roster outside of the bullpen, which we’ve talked about quite a bit throughout the season. I think we have a real good idea that Dayton Moore’s focus is going to be on bringing in relievers. My question is if he goes for veteran reclamation projects like he did this year in the hopes that it’ll work better and he can flip them in July or if he looks for guys who maybe didn’t fare well as starting pitchers and could benefit from a shift to the bullpen. Those guys might be able to be around for some good baseball in Kansas City if the rebuild goes as expected by the front office. I’m not sure who that would be, and they’re harder to find now that the role of the bullpen is important enough that teams don’t typically discard starters who might work in that role, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the route they take in trying to fix this unit. I’m also very curious to see how Jorge Lopez would look in a fireman role out of the bullpen, but I’m thinking the upside he’s shown as a starter with a few very good starts (you know, last night not withstanding) will mean he starts the year in the rotation next year. Either way, that part of the offseason will be very interesting to me.
- In thinking about next year’s defense, I believe it has a chance to get back to truly elite levels relatively quickly, but it all depends on how the Royals align. And some of that depends on what they think they can get offensively out of the guys who look to be excellent defensively. Think for a moment about an outfield of Alex Gordon, Brian Goodwin and Brett Phillips. And then a potential infield of Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez and Ryan O’Hearn. Okay, O’Hearn isn’t the elite defender, but if Merrifield can pick up third base as quickly as I feel like he can, that could be one salty group. The issues start to come if they decide to make room for Lopez by moving Merrifield to center or if they hope to get extra offense and play some combination of Jorge Bonifacio and Jorge Soler in the outfield. But there is potential for a fantastic defense next season, which won’t do anything but help the pitching staff just like it did during the championship seasons. I know it was a different offensive climate, but Jeremy Guthrie put on 303 base runners in 2013 and still ended up with league average ERA. That takes some serious defensive help.
- I saw an article by Bob Nightengale going over some of the changes to the game that John Smoltz would like to see happen. Ignoring the fact that some of the changes are just silly, I just want to talk for a minute about how ridiculous it is that one of the game’s ambassadors (and yes, that’s what he is a national announcer) is constantly ridiculing the game he’s supposed to be helping to promote. The fact is that things change in every sport and those involved either adapt or get left behind. I completely understand why some people don’t like what the game as become with the shifting and so many teams openly accepting being uncompetitive, but that doesn’t make it bad. It just makes it different. There are always ways to improve the game, and I’m not saying it’s perfect, but Smoltz is a tired act in my opinion.
- One underrated aspect of the Royals offense next season is that they might actually see a few more pitches than previous iterations of the Royals. The league average in pitches per plate appearance is 3.9 this year, and five players who look like at least decent bets to be on the 2018 roster have been better than that – Brian Goodwin, Ryan O’Hearn, Jorge Bonifacio, Hunter Dozier and Brett Phillips. Two more – Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield – are right around that average. And a couple of the guys who are way below that – Adalberto Mondesi and Salvador Perez – have value offensively in ways outside of plate discipline. I can’t promise you the offense is going to be good, but they might be a little tougher on opponents next season. That’s especially true when you talk about adding Lopez to the lineup later in the year if he can continue to work counts at the next level.