I miss the playoffs. I know they’re happening right now, but what I mean is that I miss the Royals being in them. I miss writing series previews. I miss the graying process of my hair speeding up by years. I miss the nerves. I miss the relief. Maybe we’ll get to experience that again soon enough in Kansas City. It was easy to be optimistic at the end of the year with the young talent doing most of the heavy lifting down the stretch of a winning September and much improved post-break time. So we’ll see how that goes, but for now, it’s going to be quiet around baseball unless you’re a team in the postseason or a manager about to be fired.
- Speaking of managers, Dayton Moore announced prior to the final game of the season that Ned Yost would be back for the 2019 season. I’m sure some people won’t like that, but whatever. I think it’s a prudent move, especially if the next manager truly is in the organization right now, which I believe to be true. The 2019 Royals, no matter what you’re hoping for after that strong finish, are not likely to be good, but there is a brighter future ahead than what anyone likely saw at this time last year when there was just so much uncertainty around the team. Yost staying to absorb some of those losses and to help get the initial growing pains out of the way makes a lot of sense for the Royals and shows that Yost has the best interest of his successor in mind. That’s another reason why I believe the manager is in house. It sure seems like Yost cares enough about whoever’s fate. Personally, I think Pedro Grifol is the guy. I know a lot have speculated Dale Sveum and Vance Wilson, and I can’t argue with them, but I’ve heard whispers too often that Grifol is the next man in charge for me to shy away from making that prediction now (and on Twitter a few days ago, I guess I’m pretty transparent). And I think it’d be a good fit as he’s bilingual and mixes the analytics with the scouting extremely well. He seems to have a good relationship with Moore and the team obviously knows him well. Plus, it’s pretty clear the Royals, and maybe Yost specifically, have fought to keep him around even when he lost his job as hitting coach. Take it for what it’s worth. That’s my two cents.
- The sample is small for everything Adalberto Mondesi did in 2018, but the trend is somewhat interesting to me. There’s been some talk on the interwebs about how he’s laying off pitches better than before and all that, and this is just an extension of that. Prior to the break, he hit .250/.270/.444, which showed good power, but not nearly enough in the way of getting on base to show off his wheels. And he had a .306 BABIP, so without diving too deep into the back end numbers, he wasn’t especially unlucky. After walking twice in 74 plate appearances before the break, he walked nine times in 217 after. No, that’s still not good. But going from a 2.7 percent rate to a 4.2 percent rate is noteworthy to me. But even moreso, he began coming on strong on August 25th when he really started playing basically every day, and in his final 30 games, he walked seven times in 135 plate appearances. Nope, still not special, but 5.2 percent is much, much closer to acceptable. He hit .312/.351/.624 in that time with 10 home runs and 16 steals and a .354 BABIP, which honestly isn’t outrageous given his speed. He’s never going to walk a ton, but with his pop and his ability to add extra bases after the fact, he doesn’t need to have a 10 percent walk rate to be a star (though it’d be nice). I think he’s on the right track. I’m curious to see how things go in 2019, especially if he doesn’t get off to a hot start, but he’s one of the most exciting storylines of 2019.
- I’ve thought a lot about how pitching and roles are changing in baseball thanks in large part to the Rays sort of having to go on the fly with their opener strategy. And I know I’ve talked a little bit about how the Royals might go about that. As it stands right now, making the silly assumption of health, the Royals have four guys who will enter the season in the rotation – Danny Duffy, Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Ian Kennedy – and then have a fifth starter spot that’ll be open for some competition among Jorge Lopez, Heath Fillmyer, Trevor Oaks, Scott Barlow and maybe even a couple other guys like Foster Griffin or Scott Blewett if they’re added to the roster. So the Royals aren’t likely to be too innovative given what they have, but they could really benefit from using the opener for a couple of their pitchers. Junis stands out to me as a guy who would really benefit from getting to start his day with the fifth or sixth place hitter and only face the top four or five twice in a game. His third time through the order penalty isn’t crazy stiff, but his .306/.353/.529 is bad enough that it’s worth him not having to get there. Keller and Duffy didn’t really have any noteworthy third time through the order splits (in fact Keller still held opponents below a .700 OPS the third time), but Ian Kennedy struggled actually the second time through the order last season, and maybe if the hitters getting a second look at him are the 6-7-8 hitters and in the fifth or sixth inning, that would be helpful to him. It seems unlikely like I said, but I could see Richard Lovelady, Jerry Vasto, Tim Hill, Scott Barlow and Jorge Lopez all as guys who could be really good in that opening role. The lefties for their ability to get through a lefty heavy top of the order and the righties as guys who might be better in two or three inning stints. I imagine that time will come for the Royals once Yost leaves, but he’s surprised us before, so you never know.
- Someone mentioned on Twitter that it would be interesting to see what the Royals have actually lost in the Rule 5 draft in response to my article about what the Royals have gained over the years. Not surprisingly, the answer is that they haven’t lost much. Best I can tell, they’ve lost 15 players over the years with 11 of them seeing big league team. Such great names as Aurelio Monteagudo, Dick Colpaert and Ryan Baerlocher adorn the list of those gone to other teams, and the best they’ve lost is probably Victor Santos who went to the Pirates in the 2005 draft, but that was after five years in the big leagues posting a 4.99 ERA in 423 innings. So I guess he wasn’t really the best after the draft, but he was the best overall, I suppose. Rodney Myers was taken in that same draft by the Cubs and he actually put together some big league seasons, so that’s a plus for him. I guess the moral of this story is that the Royals have certainly gotten way more than they’ve given in the Rule 5 draft throughout their history and that’s a pretty good thing.