We enter the second half of the season with the 43-49 Royals sporting their best record at the break since 2003 when they were 51-41. ARE YOU NOT EXCITED? We gathered the Royals Review writing staff together to discuss what has been and what will be in the second half of the year.
(Note: Some of the discussion took place before the five game losing streak)
The Royals are 43-49, 8 games back of Detroit. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being "Dayton Moore signs ex-Braves player" and 10 being "Jeff Francoeur enjoys 100 walk season", how surprised are you at their record at this point in the year?
Josh Duggan: I'm not surprised at all. This is about where I figured they'd be, so on the 1 - 10 scale, I'll go with a 2. Not surprisingly, the Indians are ahead of the Royals, though the fact that they're holding steady with Detroit was not something I expected. As of the moment, there are five teams in the AL East, two in the Central, and three in the West with better records than the Royals. 11th best record in the AL doesn't bode well for the playoff hopes of the "All-In" Royals of 2013.
Craig Brown: I'll go with 1. I picked this team for 78 wins before the season started and they're on track to hit that number or at least come within a game or two. If the rejuvenation of Hosmer and the streaky Moustakas can keep it together for another couple of months, the offense should be able to handle the unsteady Davis, Guthrie, Mendoza/Chen rotation portion and the possibility of the regression of Shields/Santana and keep this team hovering around .500. While I say it's a "1", it's nothing short of amazing they were able to survive May to reach this position.
Clark Fosler: I guess my answer is 3. The Royals have been worse offensively (duh) than I expected, but the pitching has been better and I say that as a guy who thought Shields would be good and Santana decent. This looked like a .500 team going in and was appearing to be one still (albeit a streaky .500 team). A bad stretch and this ‘.500 team’ could end up with 76 or 77 wins. A nice hot streak and this .500 team could end up with 83-84 wins. That won’t be enough to make the playoffs as the wild card race is full of teams with better records than Kansas City and I still think the Tigers are going to have a hot couple of months, not just a nice hot streak.
im_not_that_bright: I would say a 1. I am not surprised at all with the record. Lots of other things are surprising, like Lee Judge giving up Polk Points and Jeff Francoeur hitting 3 home runs, but the record isn't surprising.
Connor Moylan: It’s hard to be too surprised, although I thought the team would be a little better this season. The journey to get to 43-49 has certainly had surprises, but the overall record is not. I will place myself at 3.
RoyalsRetro: I'd say a 4. The overall record is not that surprising considering most of us had the Royals pegged as a 76-80 win team, but still its kind of surprising they've hit their projection and haven't been like a huge disappointment. Its like I don't even know who this franchise is anymore. Where is the team I grew up with that would go on 16 game losing streaks?
Will the Royals be buyers or sellers at the deadline? Should they be? If so, what kind of player should they pursue? Who should be available in a trade?
Josh Duggan: I would guess they'll be buyers because Moore will be in full-on job-saving mode. They should be sellers, as a move to deal prospects to try to win an extra game or two will not really do much, unless that player were only an Arb-1 and had more than two years of relatively cheap club control left. I think they should be attempting to move Santana as soon as possible to get the most in return for him. I can't really see the Royals actually ponying up the qualifying offer and if they did and Santana declined, I fear that no other team will bother forfeiting their first round draft pick for him.
im_not_that_bright: I am afraid the Royals will be buyers. They should be sellers. If they are going to buy, then I don't care what they do as long as Mondesi and Ventura are off limits. Don't touch either of those guys. Dayton Moore making deadline deals? Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Craig Brown: I just don't see the Royals as sellers for a couple of reasons: (1) I think they genuinely think they are in contention, and (2) it would be a public relations fiasco to sell so soon after making "The Trade." We mock the Royals for their PR mistakes, but they are sensitive to how the public sees them. While it's not PR per se, they wouldn't risk the backlash of trading established players.
Are they buyers? Perhaps, which like everyone, makes me nervous. There's still plenty of talent on the farm, but a deadline deal carries a high price. I'm hoping they will stand pat. They are more than one player away from contention, so it just doesn't make sense to move prospects for a run at the pennant. Of course, I said that last December.
Clark Fosler: I think the Royals will be a "dip your toe in the water" buyer. If Moore can get a ‘name’ for a minimal price (i.e. Brandon Sisk for Ervin Santana type deal) I think he will buy. However, even with the quasi all-in moves of this winter, I don’t believe even Dayton Moore thinks his team is close enough to a playoff spot to make a big deal to really improve the team. Let’s face it, if (and it is a big if) there is a deal out there that makes Kansas City enough better to challenge for a playoff berth, the price is going to be pretty much everyone you care about that is left in the system (Ventura and Mondesi just to get the discussion started).
I doubt Moore takes that plunge or, for that matter, that such a deal even exists. Who should be available? I really like Ventura, but would move him for the right return. Mondesi is untouchable (although didn’t we think much the same about Cheslor Cuthbert when he was 17?) and I don’t trade Kyle Zimmer unless Giancarlo Stanton is the name coming back. What happens if the Royals sweep Detroit coming out of the All-Star Break? All bets are off then.
RoyalsRetro: I don't think the Royals will make any major moves. Dayton has said he believes the club can improve internally, and that is probably the best way the team can improve without sacrificing the long-term. We've already seeing how swapping Lough for Francouer and a pupu platter of Tejada/Gio/Elliot Johnson for Getz is an mprovement to the lineup. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dayton pick up a reserve right-handed hitting outfielder or something, but I rather doubt we see him acquire anyone the mainstream Kansas City media has heard of.
NHZ: I can see them as "soft buyers" who add a lefty-masher or something, but they should really sell. A shot at finishing at .500 isn't worth further demolition of the farm system. so I really can't see the sense in buying. Moore should be shopping Santana heavily, since it's unlikely he re-signs and debatable whether he should be (in light of his up and down track record and other deficiencies), and any relievers that might fetch a decent return. And by a decent return, I do mean "people who might hit at the major league level."
Connor Moylan: My guess it the Royals will stay pat at the deadline, as long as they don’t lose six straight out of the All Star break. Dayton Moore is in an awkward position right now; he needs to continue the façade of pseudo-contention, but needs to improve the team for 2014. I would see if I couldn’t get a player under team control next season in return for Ervin Santana, but not force anything. I would also put out feelers for Greg Holland to see if a bullpen-desperate team would overpay for the Royals closer.
Who is the most important Royal for the second half of the year? What are your expectations for that player?
Josh Duggan: Much like he was at the beginning of the season, Eric Hosmer is the player mostly intrinsically tied to the Royals' success. If he is middle of the road so, too, are the Royals. If he's the franchise cornerstone and perennial MVP candidate that seemingly everyone was predicting in and after 2011, then the Royals could be playoff contenders. If he's 2012 Eric Hosmer, the Royals struggle to win 75 games. I honesty have no idea what to expect. I hope for MVP candidate, but my Pavlovian response is to assume the worst. My guess is somewhere around where his season line is right now, though repeating his June performance each month for the rest of the year would cause me to consult a physician in the hopes of subduing an unending erection.
im_not_that_bright: I think the most important second half Royal is Lee Judge. His brilliant baseball analysis can only lift and inspire the Royals to victory. I expect lots of shots at Giavotella and praise of Elliot Johnson.
The second most important Royal is Billy Butler. I think he goes off in the second half and the Royals offense is much improved. That will be needed, as the pitching can't possibly be as good in the second half as the first.
Clark Fosler: The obvious answer is Eric Hosmer, if for no other reason than he is the one who has the most potential. So much of Dayton Moore’s off-season moves depended on Hosmer and Moustakas, but more on Hosmer becoming an offensive force. It’s not rocket science to note that the Royals have won more games since Eric started hitting. My expectation is for Hosmer, who is currently approaching the level of production we saw out of him as a rookie, to finish out the season a notch above those marks. It has been just a small hot streak, but it gives me hope that Hosmer may yet become an upper echelon hitter in the league; maybe as soon as 2014.
Craig Brown: I'm going to go with Mike Moustakas. He really needs to put together a decent stretch at some point and find his power stroke. Sadly, I don't think it's going to happen for him this year and I think the Royals are hell bent on keeping him in the majors to work with the new hitting coaches. He really needs to go to Omaha to find his power and regain his confidence.
Connor Moylan: If we are talking about winning in 2013, it’s probably Eric Hosmer. The first baseman has turned his season around, and has Royals fans excited about his future once again. If we are already focused towards 2014, I would like Mike Moustakas to show signs of being a functional hitter during the second half of the season. If Moustakas can’t hit for league-average this year, Moore needs to really think about a potential replacement or platoon partner during the off-season.
RoyalsRetro: I think its obviously Hosmer for many of the reasons you guys outline. I will say however that David Lough and Johnny Giavotella are pretty important too. If one or either steps up and becomes a Major League quality starter, that's one less position that Dayton won't feel the need to panic and overpay/make a stupid trade for a Major League veteran.
Of course, they could really hit well, and Dayton may still ship them away because they get picked off too much or some silly reason like that.
What do you predict will be the Royals record at the end of the year? Has that changed since opening day?
Connor Moylan: I predicted 83 wins before the season began, and that now looks too optimistic. I’ll stick with the prediction and hope the Royals play better after the All-Star Break.
Josh Duggan: My preseason prediction was either 77 or 78 wins. I've seen little to indicate that the initial prediction was off enough to change it.
Craig Brown: I predicted 78 wins and think they're still on target. The five game losing streak takes some of the luster off the first half of the season, but they will still be hovering just under .500 for the rest of the year. All-in!
Clark Fosler: I predicted 85 wins based, in part, on thinking Santana would have a bounce back year and that the Royals might get a little lucky at some point (call it my usual spring bout of optimism). I see the 2013 Royals ending up with 80 wins.
NHZ: 80-82 is what I called, I think. I think it's likely to end up a couple games worse than that down the stretch. I'll go with 78-84, just because I don't think Santana and Shields will be super human in the second half, and I can see us dropping a close game or two if the Royals (correctly) choose to move Holland for an actual prospect.
RoyalsRetro: I predicted around 76-78 wins as well and I am still fairly confident about that. But I think we should all expect the pitching to regress a bit (Guthrie, Mendoza, Davis and the bullpen have already begun this to an extent). So we're really counting on Hosmer to start living up to potential, Butler to become Butler again, Gordon to get out of his slump, Moose to not be a total zero at the plate anymore, to get at least some production out of second base and right field now that Getz and Frenchy are gone, and oh yea, no injuries. That could be a tall order that ends up not happening, and the season could turn south in a hurry.
im_not_that_bright: Remember Bell's Theorem regarding the Royals, "It Can Always Get Worse", so I am tempted to pick a record of 43 - 119. However, they can't lose them all, so I think the Royals finish with 80 wins. That is what I predicted on Opening Day, so nothing has changed. I think the bottom falls out for the next month or so, but they finish September with 20 wins, thus convincing Glass and family that all is well.
Is Ned Yost still the Royals manager on Opening Day 2014?
Josh Duggan: God, I hope not, but only because I assume if he's gone that Moore is, too.
NHZ: Probably not, I'll say he either goes out with Moore, or gets fired as a scapegoat.
im_not_that_bright: No. Dayton Moore will fire Yost and appoint The Cartoonist as his replacement. Even if that doesn't happen, I don't think Yost will be back. Somebody needs to take the fall, and if Glass doesn't fire Moore, then Dayton has to do something.
RoyalsRetro: Did you see the tears Dayton shed over Trey Hillman's firing? He's not canning his Braves buddy. Ned goes when Dayton goes, and Dayton is on a fifteen year plan.
Clark Fosler: Yes, because that’s how it goes when you are a Royals’ fan.