by Duncan Wallis
Kansas City Royals
2017 Record: 80-82 (3rd in AL Central)
2017 Payroll: $158,275,155
Projected 2018 Lineup:
All Projections for 2018 from Steamer
- 2B Whit Merrifield .273/.316/.410, 2.0 WAR
- RF Jorge Bonifacio .249/.313/.416, 0.5 WAR
- C Salvador Perez .263/.298/.466, 2.9 WAR
- LF Alex Gordon .237/.326/.389, 1.4 WAR
- DH Jorge Soler .242/.331/.435, 0.5 WAR
- 1B Lucas Duda .245/.343/.490, 1.2 WAR
- 3B Cheslor Cuthbert .261/.318/.420, 1.2 WAR
- SS Alcides Escobar .256/.289/.352, 0.5 WAR
- CF Paulo Orlando .263/.300/.377, 0.1 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- Danny Duffy 180 IP/4.29 ERA/1.30 WHIP, 2.1 WAR
- Ian Kennedy 158 IP/5.10 ERA/1.40 WHIP, 0.6 WAR
- Jason Hammel 137 IP/ 5.00 ERA/ 1.37 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
- Jake Junis 162 IP/4.79 ERA/1.31 WHIP, 1.4 WAR
- Jesse Hahn 81 IP/ 4.72 ERA/1.47 ERA, 0.5 WAR
The offseason has been a little underwhelming for the Royals. There was a rumored deal on the table to bring back beloved 1B Eric Hosmer that fell through, Moustakas remains unsigned, and there haven’t been any additions to a team that seems to be just treading water in a newly competitive AL Central with the White Sox, Twins, and reigning Cleveland Indians. Although they may have missed out on the Hosmer deal, it may have worked out in their favor. Lucas Duda has signed for a much cheaper $3.5M dollars and has shown the ability to be almost as productive a hitter and defender as Hosmer. This could prove huge for the upcoming season as Duda provides some much-needed pop in a struggling Royals offense.
Heading into 2018, the Royals are a bit of a mystery. They certainly have not called it quits and gone into a rebuilding mode, but they haven’t quite provided themselves with an opportunity to compete for and deep into the postseason. They have retooled at first base, hoping for some help at third, and haven’t done a whole lot else. Whit Merrifield should be extremely productive asset atop the lineup. The projections suggest that Jorge Bonifacio is a bit overrated. Salvy should be his normal self as a productive hitter, but he will be in the three-hole this season, which doesn’t say a ton about this line-up.
Alex Gordon may be the key to a less-than-painful season for the Royals. His contract increases to $20 million this year and he still hasn’t shown the productiveness that he had at the beginning of his career making him a highly, highly overpriced veteran on an already aging team. If he can renew that youth and energy and revitalize his play we could see a surge from this Royals team. However, there are a lot of other question marks including the next guy lined-up: Jorge Soler. He was the piece received in return for a year of Wade Davis for the Cubs. He has great projected success as he is an absolute monster at 6’4” 215 pounds. However, he spent most the year at Triple AAA last year and hasn’t shown the same success at the major league level. He is another key cog in the Royal’s lineup that needs to be churning for them to have a shot at the AL Central crown. Newly acquired Lucas Duda should provide a little spark, at least. It wouldn’t be surprising if before the season is over he is hitting in Alex Gordon’s four-hole. After all, unless Gordon can match Duda’s power and homerun totals, he won’t last long there. Cuthbert, the third baseman, could be in for a good year according to his projected WAR total, but that assumes health and he’ll have to play a lot unless the Royals can find a better option. Escobar and Orlando are both returning vets that are aging and probably need to be used as trade assets. The entire pitching staff is projected to do even more mediocre than last year which won’t help the lack of run production from the lineup. This isn’t looking like a good year for the Royals.
In the bigger picture, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Royals to compete this year. The Cleveland Indians are looming as large as ever, the Twins are looking to contend in the postseason, the White Sox are well into a rebuild, and the Tigers are beginning a rebuild. The Royals can’t compete with those top two teams. If they don’t start to sell their remaining trade chips soon, it may take a longer rebuilding process than the fan base is going to appreciate (and it will already be worse after holding onto Hosmer and Moose last year). In my opinion, the momentum from the 2015 World Series wore off a while ago. The window has closed to make another run for it and it would be smarter to reload for a few years from now. This team needs direction, and I don’t expect a good season whatsoever. If they sell (they should), they may have a 2017 Tigers type finish. Buckle up.
Predicted Record: 65-97
Player to watch: Salvador Perez
This is a no-brainer for Royals fans. The heart of the franchise lies within this catcher. He plays hard, plays well, is proud of his Royal heritage, and gets along with the fans. What else can you ask for?
Player to watch: Whit Merrifield
Merrifield looks like he could be a solid player, again, in the Royals lineup. The table has to be set by him at the top of the lineup and if he is productive, it sets up the entire team for more production.
Player to watch: Lucas Duda
Duda will be interesting to watch. He spent much of his career with the Mets where he struggled with health issues. He hit 30 homeruns last season despite only 110+ games. He could be a steal if he continues that production over a full 162-game season. Health is key.