Playing Pepper 2018: Kansas City Royals

In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Kansas City Royals
80-82, third in AL Central
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

Cardinal fans are always going to keep an eye on the Royals.  For some of them (given how far Cardinal Nation spreads) Kauffman Stadium might be closer to their front door than Busch Stadium is.  (That’s actually true for me, actually, by about 30 miles even though I’ve never been there.)  It could easily feel like the start of a new era in Kansas City this year, but what will that new era bring?  I’ve got a couple of guys here who have some pretty smart things to say about that.

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Josh: It’s pretty clear that the Royals have little chance at competing for at least four or five years. The major-league roster wasn’t great last year and lost a slew of key contributors to free agency. The farm system is one of the worst in the game. So what did Moore and the Royals do? Gum up the works with signings like Alcides Escobar, Lucas Duda, Jon Jay, and Mike Moustakas. While being completely all right with the Moustakas pillow contract, it’s hard to see how signing those four isn’t detrimental to the development of the Royals’ admittedly sketchy prospects being at least theoretically blocked. Sure, the win total nudged up a few wins, but with where the Royals are likely to finish, that’s just going to cost them positioning for a better draft pick in 2019. They’re likely to be worse than they were last year, but anyone can tell you that. 

Justin: The Royals made it clear during the offseason they were going to cut payroll. They brought back SS Alcides Escobar on a one year deal and tried to get Eric Hosmer back but it didn’t work out. In Spring Training they added 1B Lucas Duda, CF Jon Jay, and Mike Moustakas all on one year deals. I think what the Royals did was bought a year on their minor leaguers. This allows players more time to develop, come up at the same time, and keeps them here longer. Next year they could bring SS Adalberto Mondesi, 2B Nicky Lopez, IF Hunter Doizer, and CF Donnie Dewees all at the same time to try to replicate what they did in previous years.

C70: What’s going to be the strength of this team, pitching or hitting?

Josh: Neither? The rotation might be non-awful, but the bullpen is a gigantic question mark. The offense will be bad. So we’re talking degrees of worse. Who knows which side of the ball will be less bad?

Justin: If you would have asked me at the beginning of Spring Training I would have said Pitching but with the veteran hitters they acquired I would say hitting. There are a lot of question marks on both sides but the bats have more stability. They added some left handed bats to even out the lineup. The pitching staff has a bunch of questions mainly in the bullpen. There are a bunch of young players that are looking to prove themselves so it will be fun to watch.

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Josh: When everything is not awesome and nearly everyone knows it, it’s hard to peg just what might be overlooked. Again, I probably have to turn to the rotation. Cock-eyed optimists could see these starting pitchers be all right.

Justin: The Farm System is better than people think. It is not a top 10 system but there are some guys who do not get a ton of attention but could make a difference within the next few years. IF Emanuel Rivera and OF Khalil Lee are guys I think who could contribute down the road.

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the Royals to do well?

Josh: There is not a player who will be able to make the Royals do well. Jorge Soler seems like the guy who could put things together and begin to validate the Wade Davis deal (the Royals’ place on the win-curve excepted). Adalberto “Don’t Call Me Raúl” Mondesí turning into the player portended years ago would move the needle some too. He and Kyle Zimmer could both emerge as legit standout players, but expecting that from Mondesí or hoping that Zimmer pitches at all would be foolhardy. 

Justin: Alex Gordon needs to do well for this team to be successful. Since he signed a long term deal he has not hit as well as the Royals had hoped but there were other guys on the team to pick up the slack. This year there are not and he will likely hit in the top half of the lineup and will need to hit like it. Bringing back Moustakas relieved some of that pressure but he will need to improve form last year to give the Royals a shot.

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Josh: I mean if everything breaks right, maybe they win 78 games. Anything between 65 and 78 wins seems entirely possible. My guess would be 73 wins. There are three bad teams in the Central. The Tigers and White Sox seem like they’re more committed to losing. I’ll guess third in the Central but with the fourth-worst record in the AL. 

Justin: I expect them to finish around 75 wins and in third place in the central. The recent acquisitions of Duda, Jay, and Moustakas give the Royals some much needed stability in the lineup to be successful. They will not replace what they lost in Free Agency but they are much more competitive than they were to Spring Training. I like that the Royals are not tanking. I see the value in it but I also see the value in creating and maintaining a culture that wants to win.

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Josh: Is the World Series win fresh enough to make seven-plus years of ultimate irrelevance worth it?

Justin: How far off are the Royals from competing again? I think they are about 4-5 years. They have some talent in their farm system that needs to develop plus 3 first round picks. This draft is extremely important for the Royals heading into this rebuild. They will need to pick well and develop the guys they currently have for this to happen.

Appreciate Josh and Justin talking about the club with us today.  It should be interesting to see if this season lays the foundation for another strong Royals team!

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