It wasn’t until recently that I noticed the little bit of a run that Kansas City sports teams have been able to claim over the latter half of the last decade. With the Royals World Series runs in ‘14 & ‘15 and the Chiefs making it to the AFC Championship in ‘19 and winning the Super Bowl just a month ago, KC fans have been spoiled for a few years now. Although, that World Series in ‘15 seems like forever ago with how the team has performed over the last couple of seasons. 2020 looks like an optimistic one for the Royals as they welcome in the Mike Matheny era!
2019 Team MVP: Whit Merrifield
2019 Most Improved: Jorge Soler
2019 Team Cy Young: Brad Keller
The 2019 Royals didn’t have the best of seasons, obviously. There was the injury to Salvador Perez, forcing him to miss the whole season and Adalberto Mondesi missed about a quarter of the year with a shoulder issue. Pair their absences with the growing pains of a younger rotation and 59 wins is the result. There were positives though as we saw Whit Merrifield continue to rake, steal, and play amazing defense. Brad Keller, in my opinion, also had a productive year despite his 4.19 ERA and 7-14 record. And finally, 2019 was the final year that Ned Yost managed the Kansas City Royals. Yost was the skipper from 2010 – 2019, posting a record of 746-839 (.471%) but he became the winningest coach in Kansas City history during his stint.
C. The few moves that the Royals made this past off-season were average, they didn’t really move the meter for me. Depending on your outlook though, they don’t really need to add too much to their roster. A good portion of their lineup is fairly experienced while they have a few budding stars in Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, and Nicky Lopez. Kansas City seems to be an organization that loves to produce their own players – they love their players to be homegrown and come up through their farm system. That all makes sense, considering the Royals are a smaller market team that ranks 5th lowest in payroll entering the 2020 season with a total of about $84 million.
Moral of the story, when a team like Kansas City is looking to add players, it’s unlikely that they will go out and get a big fish. They are looking to retool and try and compete while developing their own talent. Anyways… Let’s discuss the three guys they brought in. I’ll start with Maikel Franco. Franco is a 3rd baseman that came up through the Phillies organization and was signed by the Royals as a free agent over the winter. Personally, I think Franco is a solid piece to add within their budget. The 27 year old right-handed bat blasted 17 bombs in 2019 and slashed .234/.297/.409. It wasn’t a very productive year for him as his career slash line is .249/.302/.431. He’ll slot in nicely at 3rd, moving Dozier out to RF according to my research and projections.
The Royals also added two key free agent pieces to their bullpen in Greg Holland and Trevor Rosenthal. Holland spent time with the Royals from 2010-2015, so most of you are familiar with him. He recorded 125 saves in a Royals uniform from 2013-2015 and should be a nice piece to slide in the bullpen. As for Rosenthal, he spent 2019 with the Nationals and the Tigers. It’s likely that his best days are behind him, but he will still be a fruitful asset for the K.C. pen.
Projected Lineup, Rotation & Bullpen
C- Salvador Perez
1st- Ryan O’Hearn
2nd- Nicky Lopez
3rd- Maikel Franco
SS- Adalberto Mondesi
LF- Alex Gordon
CF- Whit Merrifield
RF- Hunter Dozier
DH- Jorge Soler
Cam Gallagher (C)
Ryan McBroom (1B/OF)
Brett Phillips (OF)
Bubba Starling (OF)
1- Danny Duffy (LHP)
2- Brad Keller (RHP)
3- Jakob Junis (RHP)
4- Mike Montgomery (LHP)
5- Jorge Lopez (RHP)
Ian Kennedy (Closer, RHP)
Scott Barlow (RHP)
Greg Holland (RHP)
Tim Hill (LHP)
Trevor Rosenthal (RHP)
Josh Staumont (RHP)
Randy Rosario (LHP)
Glenn Sparkman (RHP)
Roster Analysis & Key Players to Watch
I got into it a little bit earlier about how the Royals don’t necessarily love to spend money on free agents, they prefer the homegrown route. If that’s the basis we are working off of then they are set for 2020. Seven out of the nine players that will start in their lineup and three of their five starters came up through the system. I always like to highlight a couple of players to watch for in 2020. Obviously we know what Merrifield, Modesi, and Gordon can do so I want to focus on guys coming back from injuries or rising stars on the Royals roster.
Salvador Perez: Probably the biggest asset that the Royals are getting in 2020 isn’t a free agent or entering via trade, it’s the six-time all-star, Salvador Perez. Perez underwent Tommy John in early March of 2019 and missed the entire 2019 campaign. He’s back and ready to roll as Spring Training is underway for the 2020 season. In my personal opinion, I think he’s going to have a big bounce back year. His career numbers are .266/.442/.439 and he’s smacked 141 homeruns and collected 503 RBI’s. He’s going to have a vigorous year hitting but his biggest impact will be behind the dish. He’s going to be able to help develop some of the younger pitching talent Kansas City boasts in Keller, Junis, and Lopez.
Hunter Dozier: If you’ve watched any Royals baseball over the past two seasons then you know who Hunter Dozier is. For those who don’t, Dozier was selected 8th overall in the 2013 draft out of Stephen F. Austin. He can play the corner infield positions but with the signing of Maikel Franco, he is getting bumped out to right field. This is a move that I am 100% behind considering the strength of his arm and they definitely want to keep his bat in the order. In 2019, Dozier slashed .279/.348/.522. He hit 26 longballs and grabbed 84 RBI’s. I’m not trying to make this a fluff piece by saying Franco is a huge signing, Perez is going to be an all-star after not playing a full season, and Soler is going to jack 50 bombs, but the one thing you can 100% mark me down saying is Hunter Dozier is going to be a mainstay in the Royals lineup for the next decade. K.C., I believe you have a good one in Dozier.
The Farm System
Before we get into my final analysis on how the season will go, I always like to dive into a couple of prospects that each organization should know about (if you don’t already). As for the Royals, their overall montra at this point in history seems to be going the “retool & rebuild” route. They haven’t completely blown up the team and started from scratch but they’re also not holding onto a bunch of “old-timers” who are past their prime. With that being said, here is a look at the future of the Kansas City Royals and a couple of guys that could give them a boost over the next 1-2 years.
Bobby Witt Jr. (SS): Let’s start with the Royals brand new toy, a product of the 2019 draft. The Royals snagged the shortstop out of Colleyville Heritage High School with the second pick of the draft. Witt was originally committed to play his collegiate ball at Oklahoma before the Royals swooped in and drafted him. He ranks 10th overall on the MLB Top Prospects chart. The number one thing about Witt is his hitting. The reports that I’ve read say, “anytime he swings the bat you expect 100 mph exit velocity and extra bases.” He was listed as a pitcher as well so you know he has the arm strength to gun the ball across the diamond. It’s estimated that he’ll be ready for the big leagues in 2022 which would work for K.C. He’ll be able to slide in at 3rd base and be an excellent compliment to Mondesi as he rounds out the left side of the infield for years to come.
Brady Singer (RHP): Brady Singer is a 6’ 5” right handed hurler out of the University of Florida. The former Gator was taken 18th overall by the Royals in the 2018 draft and currently ranks 59th in the MLB Top Prospects of 2020. Brady will slot into the rotation in the future as it’s his fastball (95-96), slider and change-up that he relies on. According to Baseball Reference, he owns a 2.85 ERA over 148.1 IP in his minor league career so far. He’s striking out 8.4 batters per 9.0 IP and giving up only 0.5 HR/9. That’s a small sample size and only represents his numbers in High A and AA, but this guy should earn a rotation spot in the future. Personally, from the tape I’ve watched and reports I’ve read, I think he’ll be a great 2-3 spot in the rotation in the future.
Season Projection & Prediction
Projected Wins: 64.5
My Prediction: 71-89, 4th in the AL Central
It’s no question that the Royals are a stronger unit than last season. Perez is #back and I think people underestimate the strength of having a reliable pitch-caller behind the dish. Dozier, Mondesi, and Lopez should take leaps forward while you know Merrifield, Gordon, and Franco will produce. The biggest issue with the Royals will be their starting rotation. K.C. didn’t have one starter under a 4.00 ERA in 2019 and they didn’t make any moves to improve this. I think Keller will be solid and Junis has shown signs of greatness but they aren’t ready to make a run at the playoffs yet. Additionally, I think the A.L. Central will be strong in 2020. The Tigers scooped Schoop, Cron, & Romine while the White Sox had a monster off-season and keep developing young guys. Not too mention, the Twins broke the homerun record in 2019 and they will be hungry for more than a first-round exit in 2020.
Kansas City is going to put out a decent product in 2020 but it won’t be enough to return to the playoffs. The X-Factor is the skipper, Mike Matheny. I really like the move to bring in Matheny as he seems to be a great “player’s coach.” I think the future is bright in K.C.