2022 Season Preview: Kansas City Royals

Photo: Associated Press

Kansas City Royals

by Jacob Zacharia

2021 Record: 74-88 (.457%, 4th in Division)

2021 Payroll: $78,410,000 (23rd)

Projected 2022 Lineup:

1. RF Whit Merrifield, .277 AVG/.327 OBP/.411 SLG, 2.1 fWAR

2. 3B Bobby Witt Jr., .257 AVG/.316 OBP/.466 SLG, 2.8 fWAR

3. C Salvador Perez, .261 AVG/.303 OBP/.509 SLG, 2.7 fWAR

4. LF Andrew Benintendi, .263 AVG/.336 OBP/.433 SLG, 1.9 fWAR 

5. 1B Carlos Santana, .241 AVG/.350 OBP/.416 SLG, 1.1 fWAR

6. DH Hunter Dozier, .234 AVG/.309 OBP/.413 SLG, 0.5 fWAR

7. SS Adalberto Mondesi, .247 AVG/.289 OBP/.427 SLG, 2.1 fWAR  

8. CF Michael A. Taylor, .241 AVG/.300 OBP/.393 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

9. 2B Nicky Lopez, .266 AVG/.335 OBP/.363 SLG, 2.0 fWAR

Projected 2022 Rotation:

1. Zack Greinke, 177.0 IP/4.61 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR

2. Brad Keller, 159.0 IP/4.48 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 1.7 fWAR

3. Brady Singer, 150.0 IP/4.23 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

4. Kris Bubic, 124.0 IP/4.53 ERA/1.43 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR

5. Carlos Hernández, 125.0 IP/4.89 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 0.8 fWAR

Projected 2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. Scott Barlow, 74.0 IP/3.78 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR

2. Amir Garrett, 68.0 IP/4.14 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

3. Jake Brentz, 63.0 IP/3.76 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

Offseason Recap:

The Royals offseason started out very slow, as expected, with the only major move before the lockout being the signing of former Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Taylor Clarke to a one year deal. After the lockout ended, and spring training had begun, the Royals were rumored to be in the mix for Oakland A’s starting pitcher Frankie Montas. Kansas City ended up going a different direction via free agency, reuniting with former Royals’ Cy Young Award Winner and 2002 first round draft pick Zack Greinke. On March 30th, Royal’s manager, and University of Michigan alum, Mike Matheny announced Greinke will be the opening day starter. 

The same day as the Greinke signing, the Royals traded starting pitcher Mike Minor and cash to the Cincinnati Reds for the left-handed relief pitcher Amir Garrett who posted a 6.04 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 4.03 xFIP and 4.45 xERA over 47.2 innings in 2021. While there were other moves made during the offseason such as the signings of JaCoby Jones and Brad Peacock to minor league deals, Clarke, Greinke, and Garrett were the major moves made for the 2022 season. In 2021, Clarke put up a 4.98 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 4.50 xFIP, and 4.45 xERA. As for Greinke, his 2021 season consisted of a 4.16 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, and 4.39 xERA. With disappointing 2021 seasons, all three pitchers will be looking to start over and bounce back with their new squad. 

2022 Season Preview:

The 2022 Royals will be a very young and very interesting team. They have a vast amount of young talent coming to Kansas City this year including AL Rookie of the Year favorite Bobby Witt Jr. They also have young starting pitchers Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Carlos Hernández, and Angel Zerpa. On top of all of these young arms and the most exciting player in the Royal’s farm system, there is also anticipation for the Major League debuts of catcher MJ Melendez, first baseman Nick Pratto, and possibly even first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. Melendez, Pratto, and Pasquantino are all ranked as top prospects throughout the industry as a result of all having monstrous offensive seasons last season in the high minors. They could have a major immediate impact on the Royals as soon as they are called up. 

Besides all of the young talent, there are also established Royals and veterans that will add depth and leadership to the club. The most intriguing established veterans out of the bunch are Nicky Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi. For Lopez, it will be interesting to see how he will adjust moving back to second base from shortstop. He actually led the entire league in Outs Above Average per Baseball Savant in 2021. Besides the position change, the Royals want to see if Lopez can continue to improve offensively after coming off a much improved 2021 season where he hit for a batting average over .300. Last year consisted of moving runners over by hitting the ball to the right side, getting a bunt down, or doing whatever was asked of him by the Royals’ coaching staff. Lopez showed impressive levels of improvement in 2021, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps the ball rolling in 2022. 

As for Mondesi, there has been disappointing season after disappointing season, despite possessing great potential. Most of this is due to multiple run-ins with the injured list last season after repeated problems with both of his hips. When healthy, Mondesi shows great flashes, but he just needs to stay on the field. If Mondesi can stay healthy and play to his ability, it could result in a surprising first time All-Star year for him. There is a lot that has to go right, but with his above average power, speed, and contact at his disposal, he will be an interesting Royal to pay attention to this season. 

Whit Merrifield and Carlos Santana are both coming off disappointing seasons and are looking to get back to their old selves this season to stave off conversations of their decline. Merrifield had a lower batting average, fWAR, wRC+, and wOBA than each of the past three seasons, but improvement is expected from the leader in the clubhouse. If not, it will be another season of league average play by Merrifield that does not bode well for his future. Santana, however, had a much larger decline in productivity from 2020 to 2021. While he walked about a million times, posting a wRC+ of 83 and a -0.3 fWAR was not nearly worth the $8.75 million he was owed last season. Santana will have to hit a lot better if he wants to live up to his contract, as he’s getting paid $17.5 million. If Santana does not improve, the Royals are flush with options to replace him. 

Another fascinating question going into the season is who will be the team’s fourth outfielder. Young guns Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares are both ready to have a legit role in the Major Leagues, so it will be interesting to see who makes the team and how much playing time that player will get. JaCoby Jones is another name that could win this competition. That’s right, the former Tiger signed a minor league contract with the Royals and is fighting for the last spot in the outfield. 

As of now, it seems that either Isbel or Olivares will get the job, with both being up at different points in the season. They’ve earned their shot at commanding serious playing time based on their minor league production. In 2022 Spring Training games, Olivares is leading the Royals in batting average, RBIs, and OPS, while being tied with Isbel for home runs. Whoever wins the job will have the opportunity to solidify a spot on the bench and even have the opportunity to usurp a current starter.

The Royals’ greatest level of depth production in 2022 will come from the bullpen. With late-inning, high-leverage flamethrowers Scott Barlow, Josh Staumont, and Jake Brentz as well as returning relievers Joel Payamps and Domingo Tapia, the bullpen is ready to build off of a solid 2021 foundation. On top of these solid options, there are also the additions of Amir Garrett and Taylor Clarke as well as the young arms that will contribute at some point in the season such as Dylan Coleman, Jon Heasley, Ronald Bolaños, and Jonathan Bowlan. 

Overall, the Royals have a lot of inexperienced talent with some backsliding veterans that offer great leadership. This season will be a big transition year for the future of the Royals to become a legit contender in the American League.

Record Prediction: 80-82

As previously stated, the 2022 Royals are a good mix of young talent and veterans with solid potential overall. This team could lose 90 games and play similar to the 2021 season, but could surprise MLB and be in contention for a final playoff spot in the new 12-team format. They have a lot of upside in guys like Bobby Witt Jr., Adalberto Mondesi, and all of the younger pitchers including Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar. These young pitchers are the biggest wildcard out of any part of the roster and will really determine what direction this team will go. 

The rotation is anchored by veterans Zack Greinke and Brad Keller. Some of the younger guys could break out and live up to the hype, or not live up to expectations and take a longer time to develop like Brady Singer. They are all still very young and have many years ahead of them. However, if a major leap can be taken this season by the pitching staff, then the Royals will be looking good. This all starts with the two veterans who need to improve and prove themselves this year. Besides the young starting pitching, the lineup is similar in that some veterans need to hit better than last season. 

With a more experienced team from last year and the addition of young studs like Bobby Witt Jr. and veterans such as Zack Greinke, the Royals should be poised to improve from a lackluster 74 win season last year, but it remains to be seen by how many games they improve. No matter what happens, 2022 is the year that Bobby Witt Jr. and the young talent the Royals have been developing since their last World Series win has finally finished their trek through the minors, and the Royals are once again ready to surge.

Player to Watch #1: SP Brady Singer

The once highly touted Royals pitching prospect Brady Singer will be entering his third season in MLB in 2022. He leads the prospect-studded 2018 Royals pitching draft class which includes other young arms Jackson Kowar, Kris Bubic, and Daniel Lynch. So far he has shown flashes of dominance, but has not lived up to the relative expectations. 

Surprising many, Singer was announced as a starter at the beginning of the 2020 season, and put up a solid rookie season with a 4.06 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, and 3.85 xERA over 64.1 innings pitched. That’s a solid season, but fans expected more.

Going into the 2021 season, the optimism and excitement that built up expecting improvement from Singer was cut short by injuries suffered by the pitcher leading to disappointing numbers including a 4.91 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.11 xFIP, and 4.57 xERA. This should be the year Singer takes a more dominant role in the staff and solidifies himself as a top of the rotation starter as the Royals drafted him as. 

Player to Watch #2: 3B Bobby Witt Jr.

The MLB Pipeline #1 Overall Prospect being listed as a player to watch should not come as a surprise. Witt Jr. has all the tools a team needs in a star, ranging from his elite power to his top end speed It was all showcased in his 2021 campaign split between the high minors where he hit 33 home runs and had 29 stolen bases in 497 at-bats. Bobby Witt Jr. has been one of the most hyped up prospects since he got drafted second overall by the Royals in 2019. All expectations are now leaning towards Witt Jr. becoming a Rookie of the Year award winner. 

Player to Watch #3: C MJ Melendez

MJ Melendez is exactly what the Royals are missing. He is yet another power bat, but Melendez plays above average defense behind the dish. This would allow Kansas City to move Salvador Perez to DH and slot Melendez in the middle of the order where his 2021 minor league leading 41 home runs would pair great with Perez’s 2021 MLB leading 48. Melendez was recently optioned to minor league spring training, so he will likely start his season in AAA. When he is eventually called up in 2022, Melendez will make an immediate impact wherever it may be on the diamond.

Categories: 2022 Season Preview

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