If you took my postseason predictions that I posted on Twitter and went to place bets, I sincerely hope you chose to completely ignore me and do the opposite. Otherwise, please don’t charge me for your losses because I’ve pretty much whiffed the playoffs. Which, of course, leads me back to the Royals and just how improbable their two-year playoff success was. It’s just tough to keep on winning, but they absolutely did. Future Royals teams may be better than the 2014/2015 clubs, but it would surprise me if they had the same success in just steamrolling through the postseason. Every year we get away from that and see the volatility in the postseason, I look back on those two years with fonder and fonder memories.
- Clint has written a couple really interesting pieces looking at the 2009 system vs. the 2019 system and the comparisons (pitchers here and hitters here). One thing that stands out to me is that I do believe there is additional depth in the system at the expense of star power right now as compared to a decade ago. But given the changes the organization has made in those 10 years, I’d actually bet on the depth coming through and maybe putting a more sustained winner on the field than what we saw from that last group that came from the best farm system anyone had ever seen to that point. You certainly can’t argue with a world championship and two AL pennants, but I think an argument can be made (and I’ve made it) that they still underachieved individually. Eric Hosmer never became a star. Neither did Mike Moustakas. They didn’t get an ace out of the system, though with the tragic passing of Yordano Ventura, maybe that was taken away too soon. I believe that their development is so different today than it was 10 years ago that they have an opportunity to turn their additional depth into more winning. Maybe they don’t have the marquee prospect right now, but they should after the June draft and likely should get another one in the 2020 draft with a relatively high pick. We’ve already seen the system working much better in churning out guys like Jakob Junis and Whit Merrifield. Maybe I’m wrong and nothing will be different, but they just do such a better job today in development than a decade ago that I’d actually bet on the depth maybe even putting up better numbers than the star prospects they once had. The biggest thing for me is the pitching development has gone from archaic to much more open-minded, and I will all but guarantee they’ll be rewarded for that in the near future.
- It seems like a lot of people are down on Brett Phillips. And I get it to some extent because he was underwhelming offensively after coming over in the July trade. That might be an understatement. He hit .188/.252/.313 and struck out an astonishing 50 times in 123 plate appearances. So yeah, it was bad. But I find it odd that some of what I’ve seen has people so sure that he can’t hit. He hit .279/.360/.475 in the minors in 2,760 plate appearances. He hit .276/.351/.448 in 98 plate appearances in the big leagues in 2017. He had a 10.5 percent minor league walk rate and is at 8.2 percent in his limited big league action. He swings and misses way too much, and that will be a problem, but I just think it’s pretty silly to write him off. He wasn’t exactly hitting well before he hurt his shoulder, but he went 3 for 23 with no extra base hits and 10 strikeouts after he came back and admitted he wasn’t playing at 100 percent. I honestly don’t know why they insisted on playing him when they had plenty of other outfield options available. I think all that last three weeks did was hurt the perception of him among fans and put him in a position to fail. I’m not saying Phillips is a surefire star or anything, but we have to remember the Royals picked him up in exchange for two months of a guy who had to wait until March to sign because there was so little demand for him. I still like him and if he can be a .240/.300/.410 hitter even, there’s a place for him in the big leagues. I get maybe being a little disappointed in his start with the Royals, but to write him off now seems pretty silly to me.
- As the Royals look to build back up to a World Series contender, one thing they’ve mentioned quite a bit is speed and defense, which I believe will be a hallmark of every good Royals team ever. They’ve got some work to do on the defense side. I did mention a few weeks ago that the outfield could be near elite next season with the right pieces in the right spots, but looking at Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA), there’s definitely room for growth. Mike Moustakas was the team’s best defender by that metric with Jon Jay third best and Lucas Duda amazingly eighth best. The positive is that Phllips was worth 4.6 runs while Whit Merrifield, Alex Gordon, Adalberto Mondesi (in half a season) and Ryan O’Hearn all rated positively. I’m a little surprised on O’Hearn as he looked stiff and indecisive at first base, but the metrics say otherwise. Alcides Escobar ranked near the bottom for the team, so him hopefully going elsewhere will help, but the big concern for me is Hunter Dozier. He was worth -13.3 runs last season between mostly first and third. You can’t be that rough defensively and hit .229/.278/.395. And even with the optimism over his last couple months, he still hit just .256/.293/.467 in his final 48 games. Dozier is in a big time important season in 2019 for him if he wants to have a big league career, with the Royals or elsewhere. He did look smoother at third as the season went on, but defense is very important to the Royals and their infield defense appears to be more important than ever before as they began getting more and more groundballs from their pitching staff. He’s in the crosshairs this year.
- And finally, just something a little quirky to look at. I wanted to see the Royals record by run differential to see if they had a winning record at any run differential this season. If you predicted they did not, you are correct. They were 1-1 when the difference was 10. You might recall they beat the Mariners in April by a 10-0 score back when they could only win when they threw a shutout. But, alas, the Blue Jays beat them 15-5, so there went that. The next closest they came to a winning record was going 11-14 when the margin of victory was two runs. So yeah. Just another way to look back at the 2018 club and realize just how bad they were.