With the beginning of each year brings the promise of new chances. For those that call the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium home, spring brings the promise of another baseball season to occupy the hot summer nights. Once again, the Kansas City Royals traveled to Surprise, Arizona, for another spring training. For the first time in 10 years, the Royals are looking to strip the team down and begin the long and painful process of rebuilding a championship roster.
Saying goodbye is never easy, especially to those that you watched grow up before your very eyes. Kansas City watched this young core of players from the days of the MLB draft to the parade through downtown with the Commissioner’s Trophy in hand. But all good things must come to an end. Being the smaller market team that the Royals are, keeping all of their free agents was an impossible task, and one that wouldn’t have benefited the organization long term. With the departure of Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas, finding replacements will challenge this organization, but Dayton Moore did it once before, and with hard work, can replicate the magical seasons of 2014 and 2015.
With Hosmer headed to sunny San Diego, the Royals need to fill the right corner of the diamond. Early in house candidates for the spot were Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert. The long term solution appears to be Dozier, but with limited big league experience, the Royals signed former Mets first baseman Lucas Duda to a one year deal(yes, that Lucas Duda). Unironically, Duda’s most infamous play came against Eric Hosmer, the guy he’s replacing. Duda is a solid hitter, who racked up 30 home runs last year, but won’t quite be the glove that Hosmer was.
Just like the beginning of last year, there’s a two man fight for second base between Whit Merrifield and Alberto Mondesi. This is a very intriguing position, since Whit can play multiple positions and has had a very consistent bat with some added pop. Mondesi has had a strong spring training so far, but has yet to prove that he can consistently hit at the Major League level. More than likely, “Two-hit” Whit will win the second base job and Mondesi will having another season up in AAA Omaha. Don’t be surprised to see Mondesi play during late August and September.
Three truths known by humanity: the sky is blue, the grass is green, and Esky is playing shortstop. Hopefully the Royals can work out a three to five year deal with Escobar, or Alberto Mondesi will find himself on the opposite side of the diamond.
With the loss of Moustakas, the Royals will turn to Cheslor Cuthbert to fill the hole at the hot corner. Cuthbert has a good amount of big league experience to handle the position defensively, but won’t bring the bat that Moose had. If Cuthbert struggles, expect Hunter Dozier to make a few stops at the K this season.
The fan favorite Salvador Perez will once again find himself behind home plate. His veteran leadership will be crucial over the next few seasons as the Royals attempt to rebuild a farm system that is one of the worst in baseball. Expect Salvy to get the day off or DH every now and then so that Drew Butera can get some reps in.
With the loss of Cain and the Royals’ inability to keep a right fielder long term, this outfield will be a weak point on this year’s team. Hopefully Paulo Orlando can bounce back from his injury and take the center field job. Bonifacio looks to secure the right fielder job, but a strong performance by Jorge Soler could mean split time between the two. Which ever doesn’t play will most likely end up being the DH. Left field will be home to the five time gold glove winner Alex Gordon. Last year was a down year at the plate for Gordo, but after extensive work with the Royals’ hitting coaches, Alex looks to bounce back.
Don’t expect a whole lot from the DH this year. With the loss of Brandon Moss and no real in house options, the Royals will probably turn to whomever is available to hit that day. More than likely, the Royals will rotate Soler and Bonifacio between DH and right field. Salvy will also take a few swings this season at DH while Butera catches.
After the Mets picked up Jason Vargas, the Royals turn to lefty Danny Duffy to be the ace of this staff. Ian Kennedy is expected to lock up the second spot in the rotation, with spots three, four, and five being fought over between Jakob Junis, Jason Hammel, and Nate Karns. Karns had several good outings last year before being sidelined with thoracic outlet surgery in July. Hopefully this staff can surprise everyone, as they’re predicted to be in the bottom half of the league.
Back in 2014, the Royals had the most lethal bullpen in all of baseball, headed by a three headed monster in H-D-H (Herrera, Davis, Holland). Being a copycat league that baseball is, other teams began following the Royals formula to win late games and shut down opponents in the last innings. Now, four years later, only a third of that formula remains. Hopefully Herrera can come into his closer role more than last year. Brandon Maurer will be the go to guy before the ninth, and Almonte looks to be another reliable arm. Hopefully the starting pitchers can go seven innings or more, because this bullpen won’t be able to carry them through games like they did in years past.
The Royals offense will struggle greatly this season with the loss of Hosmer, Moustakas, and Cain. Most of the home run power is gone, along with most of the RBI production. With an average pitching staff and a poor bullpen, the Royals will need to keep the opponents off the bases and keep most games low scoring if they want to have a chance to win any. The next few years will be painful but necessary for the Royals to become playoff contenders down the road. The repercussions of being in the win now state of mind destroyed the farm system, but brought us a championship. Hopefully, Ned Yost and Dayton Moore are up for another rebuild, because that’s what it’s going to take to win another championship.
How I think the division will finish:
- Cleveland Indians (100-62)
- Minnesota Twins (87-75)
- Kansas City Royals (73-89)
- Chicago White Sox (65-97)
- Detroit Tigers (58-104)