2019 Season Preview: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals

By Alex Fischer

2018 Record: 58-104 (5th AL Central)

2018 Payroll: $129,944,821 (20th)

Projected 2019 Lineup:

1. 2B Whit Merrifield, .295 AVG/.350 OBP/.439 SLG, 5.2 WAR

2. SS Adalberto Mondesi, .242 AVG/.276 OBP/.424 SLG, 2.8 WAR

3. OF Alex Gordon, .230 AVG/.312 OBP/.357 SLG, 1.6 WAR

4. C Salvador Pérez .252 AVG/.287 OBP/.463 SLG, 1.7 WAR

5. 1B Ryan O’Hearn, .227 AVG/.311 OBP/.424 SLG, 0.8 WAR

6. DH Jorge Soler, .238 AVG/.332 OBP/.422 SLG, 0.9 WAR

7. 3B Hunter Dozier, .229 AVG/.296 OBP/.370 SLG, -0.8 WAR

8. OF Chris Owings, .250 AVG/.294 OBP/.386 SLG, -0.8 WAR

9. OF Billy Hamilton, .245 AVG/.304 OBP/.336 SLG, 1.3 WAR

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Danny Duffy, 185 IP/4.14 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 1.1 WAR

2. Brad Keller, 184 IP/3.54 ERA/1.31 WHIP, 2.5 WAR

3. Jakob Junis, 162 IP/4.40 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 1.3 WAR

4. Ian Kennedy, 126 IP/4.92 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 1.0 WAR

5. Heath Fillmyer, 86 IP/4.72 ERA/1.56 WHIP, 0.5 WAR

Offseason Recap:

The Kansas City Royals were pretty active this offseason by acquiring the speedy Billy Hamilton to slot into their outfield and Brad Boxberger to close the door in the 9th inning. The Royals did pick up some other veterans, including Chris Owings, but all in all, there weren’t any acquisitions or resignings that put this Royals team over the edge. The Royals are very unlikely to sign Bryce Harper or Dallas Keuchel, as they don’t really have the funds necessary. Nor can I see these players signing a deal with them. The Royals could have done a better job this offseason, but they still addressed some needs on their team.

Season Preview:

The Royals are still in a rebuild mode after their World Series victory in 2015, but I really do think that this team has improved from last season. For a rebuilding team, the Royals lack a great farm system. They do have some young up and coming players, but they still don’t have much talent. Brady Singer, the club’s top draft pick in 2018, is their #1 prospect and could see major league action soon. During the leadup to the draft, there was a case to be made that he could go first overall. On the older side for prospects, Singer pitched in the College World Series for the Florida Gators, so he’s no stranger to high-pressure situations. Billy Hamilton was another nice signing for this team. He brings defense and speed to a team that already has a ton of it. His speed and defensive abilities remind me of what made the 2015 Royals such a good team, which prided themselves on their smallball-styled formula of defense and baserunning. Speed is also an important aspect of this Royals team, as they really don’t have a lot of power. Don’t sleep on the top of the batting order: Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi could be one of the best one-two hitting combos in the majors in 2019. Mondesi won’t hit for a great average, but he’s dangerous when he gets on base. With only a half of a season played last year, he managed to hit 14 home runs and steal 32 bases.

The middle of the lineup is definitely where things start to get shaky for this Royals team. Alex Gordon has been steadily declining, and I can’t see him hitting above .260 this year, yet he remains slotted into the three hole. At fourth is Salvador Pérez. Though a great defensive catcher, he doesn’t fit the typical cleanup hitter mold. Pérez has never hit more than 30 home runs in a season and has only eclipsed a .450 OPS once in a full season. Ryan O’Hearn is a young player hitting fifth, so we’re not exactly sure of his capabilities, but outside of OBP he isn’t great in any one category. A fringe .250 hitter throughout his minor league career, O’Hearn only displayed moderate power. Yes, O’Hearn is still young, but he doesn’t come off as a power hitter but rather an OBP maven.

There’s some pretty solid talent in the Royals lineup, but their pitching staff is another question. The only significant addition they made in terms of pitching was Brad Boxberger, which isn’t saying much. He is projected to be the teams closer entering 2019, but has been inconsistent from year to year. He has strong strikeout rates, but couples this with a not so great HR/9 figure. It makes you wonder if it’s perhaps better for a closer to just generate ground ball outs. The worst part about this situation is that the dearth of quality bullpen arms on the team means that Boxberger is pretty clearly their best reliever, and likely won’t have much competition for the closer job. The Royals’ starters also do not have much to brag about. Jakob Junis had a somewhat upstart year, but didn’t really end up contributing that much towards the end. Pitching in general is definitely a position that the Royals are lacking in. Thankfully, they have Singer developing in their farm system and he should get a call up sooner rather than later.

Record Prediction: 77-85

I think this Royals team will be around five games below .500 when all is said and done. They have a great pair of up and coming stars in Merrifield and Mondesi, but outside of that, they really don’t have much else to offer. Sure, Salvador Pérez is one of the top catchers in baseball, but he has been battling injuries these past two seasons. The team is still very interesting, though, mainly because of Mondesi’s potential. If Mondesi were to have played a full season last year, he was projected to hit well over 30 home runs and steal 60 bases. I really do like the signing of Billy Hamilton and can see him having an impact on this team early on. He will be getting everyday playing time in center field, and unlike in Cincinnati, he now has Mondesi and Merrifield hitting at the top of the lineup to relieve pressure off of him.

Player to Watch: Whit Merrifield

Whit Merrifield is still getting better every year and he just signed a contract extension, so the Royals are banking on him to be a leader of this team. Merrifield will be hitting right next to Adalberto Mondesi and should be given many opportunities to run. These two players will be very fun to watch and I think Merrifield could be a possible all-star participant. Stealing bases is one of the most intense parts of baseball and this lineup showcases that. Mondesi and Merrifield sure know how to steal and will get several chances.  

Player to Watch: Adalberto Mondesi

How can you not want to watch Mondesi, a guy who might join the 30/60 club when all is said and done? In all seriousness though, Mondessi has that sort of potential from his playing time last year. He has lethal speed that puts the opposing defense on edge whenever he gets on. His power is legit, as he worked on his swing last season and made major improvements in his statistics in power categories. I’m really going all in for Mondesi this year, but he really does need to improve on his eye after walking in a measly 3.8% of plate appearances.

Player to Watch: Brady Singer

Hailing from the University of Florida in a long line of Gator starters taken in the first round (Alex Faedo, A.J. Puk, and Dane Dunning) is Brady Singer. Singer had a great career at the University of Florida and was taken 18th overall in the 2018 draft. He has experience thriving in pressure filled situations and was thought of as a potential top pick. In terms of his pitching arsenal, he pairs a fastball topping at 97 MPH with a decent slider and changeup. Singer is also 21 years old, making him a candidate for getting his call to the big leagues soon. It will be interesting to see what happens next for Singer. He actually doesn’t have a single start in the minor leagues due to an innings limit from playing during College Baseball last season. Brady Singer is looking like he can help this rebuilding Royals right away. I really don’t see a scenario where it makes sense for the Royals to keep him in the minors for an extended amount of time.

Categories: 2019 Season Preview

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