With the first month of Royals baseball in the books, the Kevin assembled to reflect on what has been a wild month with hit batters, on-field brawls, and oh yea, lots of wins.
The Royals are off to a blazing hot start with the bats. Who do you expect to crash and who do you think might be better than the projections predicted?
Max Rieper: I think Eric Hosmer is finally for real. He's off to a good start for seemingly the first time in his career, hitting for power, and showing newfound plate discipline. Mike Moustakas isn't quite this good, but he's looking like a totally different hitter putting up a career season. I do expect to see Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales, and Salvador Perez to crash pretty hard though.
Matthew LaMar: There's a giant train wreck looming for the hitting as a whole. Last year, only one regular had a wRC+ of 121 or better. This year, six do. In addition, Alex Rios, Alcides Escobar, and Paulo Orlando are likely to regress as well. I think the team will hit better as a whole compared to last year though. As far as who will hit better than the projections, I think Kendrys Morales and Mike Moustakas will hit significantly better than their projections. Morales' 2014 was just bizarre, so the projections might not have correctly evaluated him. Meanwhile, Moose's opposite field shenanigans have changed everything.
Josh Duggan: Well, it's probably unlikely Moustakas sustains a .341 BABIP, and it's probably even more unlikely that Kendrys Morales holds his .354 mark in the category. I think Moustakas is still likely to outperform projections as he's been a completely different hitter this year, but he will come back down to Earth a bit. Morales will likely do so harder, as will Perez, but Morales has been walking enough to give hope for a strong-ish campaign.
Shaun Newkirk: Pretty much the entire offense. I'm also not fully bought into Moustakas just yet as I'm not sure of a meaningful change other than how some balls have been hit.
Kevin Ruprecht: I'm waiting for Salvador Perez to crash. He's walking even less than ever, though pitchers have thrown him more strikes this year. The biggest thing is popups. He hasn't hit many this year so far. Only a 3.3% IFFB compared to 12.6% for his career. It's still early, so that number will probably go up. I think Moustakas will be better than the projections; it seems he is committed to beating the shift by going the opposite way. That's the kind of thing for which projections cannot account.
Chris Young looked very impressive in his first start, while Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas have struggled. How long do you think Ned Yost continues to go with Young in the bullpen and who does he replace, if he does replace anyone?
Matthew LaMar: Too long. The Royals kept Kyle Davies for four and a half brutal years. They kept Bruce Chen for longer than they needed to. Young probably moves into Guthrie's spot if he is replaced within the next few weeks. Otherwise, we may see Kris Medlen in the rotation if the Royals stick with Guthrie for a few more months.
Josh Duggan: Hopefully, Young is in the rotation in the next week. Unfortunately, it feels like the Royals will have to endure at least another month of both Guthrie and Vargas, though it would be wonderful to be proven wrong.
Kevin Ruprecht: Yost will probably stick with Guthrie for another three or four starts. Vargas was better than Guthrie last year and is younger, so he should have a longer leash. If Guthrie doesn't improve, Young should take his spot.
Max Rieper: Ned Yost frequently pulls Jeremy Guthrie a hitter or two too late, and he'll probably pull Jeremy Guthrie from the rotation a start or two too late. I'd say Jeremy is pulled from the rotation after Memorial Day.
Shaun Newkirk: From Monday's article you should be able to read my thoughts on Guthrie. Vargas I'm willing to give more time to. He usually has a closer to league average K/BB rate and his BABIP is 40 points higher than his career. But somebody needs to replace Guthrie ASAP.
Do you think the skirmishes with other teams has died down or will we see another incident before the season is over?
Josh Duggan: It's unlikely that the Royals will go the whole season without another bench-clearer. Expecting them to continue at the break-neck pace of the early goings of this season, however, is probably worrying for no good reason
Max Rieper: I think the Royals are done with the fussin' and the fightin', but the A's may have other plans when the Royals visit Oakland in June. I didn't care for Josh Reddick's comments and I was a bit surprised he didn't face any kind of repercussion from the league office for that. I certainly hope its all over.
Kevin Ruprecht: I think it's died down for now, but I don't think we've seen the end.
Matthew LaMar: I think it's mostly over; the Royals have proven their point. The June series against the A's will be rough, though. Maybe no skirmishes, but hit batters and ejections are likely.
Shaun Newkirk: Probably has died down. Just hoping the Oakland series in June doesn't get stupid.
Aside from the team's hot start, what has been the biggest surprise to you?
Shaun Newkirk: It's gotta be Mike Moustakas right? He was like top five in baseball in fWAR a few days ago and is currently tied for twelfth. Meanwhile Lorenzo Cain is killing it even harder and his BABIP is just .006 points higher than his 2014 total. Additionally, Hosmer has surprised me as well. I was expecting him to hover around 105 wRC+ plus or minus a few points, but he's been excellent as well and went to "walk school" over the winter.
Kevin Ruprecht: Moustakas' success at going the other way.
Josh Duggan: Giving any answer other than Mike Moustakas's revelatory performance hitting second in the lineup would be lying. He's going the other way for roughly half of his hits. With his contact rates, his ability to get wood on the ball as he waits a bit longer on the ball could continue to yield exciting results after years of serious struggles on BABIP into the shift if he keeps using the whole field.
Max Rieper: Yea, its got to be Moustakas. I slammed Ned Yost for hitting him second on Opening Day, and I'll be the first to admit I was dead wrong. Ned actually knows what he's doing, what is this world coming to?
I'll give some love to Edinson Volquez, who, while I liked him better than the rest of the roundtable, I never expected him to be this good. Over his last 100 innings, he's been incredible. I don't know if that means much going forward, but I appreciate watching him pitch.
Matthew Lamar: It's got to be Moose, right? His wOBA this year is 80 points higher than his career. Giant jump, completely out of nowhere.
What is your biggest concern with the Royals going forward?
Matthew LaMar: The rotation. The Royals can't go down the stretch with this rotation. Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Vargas, and Yordano Ventura have been shades of horrible so far, and though Ventura and Vargas are probably going to put up better numbers going forward, Volquez won't be tossing an ERA of 2.10 either. An injury to Danny Duffy or Volquez would be a death blow unless the Royals pull off a mid-season trade for help, which they should probably do anyway.
Josh Duggan: The rotation is looking pretty suspect right now. Ventura's velocity might be dropping, Vargas and Guthrie have been abysmal, and Duffy flashes brilliance but has had troubles with pitch efficiency. Volquez is the only one who's pitched relatively well. Chris Young should be inserted into the rotation yesterday, and Kris Medlen cannot get healthy soon enough.
Shaun Newkirk: Regression train coming at 250 MPH.
Kevin Ruprecht: The starting rotation. While there is some depth, only Danny Duffy has lived up to the expectations we have placed on him. Ventura has had issues this year, Vargas hasn't been good, and Guthrie hasn't been good. Edinson Volquez has been a wonderful surprise, but he's running the lowest walk rate and home run rate of his career. He's throwing more strikes, but his first pitch strike rate is way up. Hitters will adjust, and he will almost certainly regress by walk rate and home run rate.
Max Rieper: The rotation concerns me, but I would expect some regression upward for guys like Ventura and Vargas, and they have options to turn to should guys like Jeremy Guthrie not be able to get out of their funk. The injuries to the starting lineup still concern me a great deal. Its nice Paulo Orlando was a nice story for a month, but he's already fading back to earth and any other injuries to the starting lineup probably mean a not-very-good career minor leaguer up from Omaha is getting major playing time.
Will this team still be in a pennant race by the July trade deadline?
Kevin Ruprecht: I think so. If the Royals play .500 ball to the trade deadline, their hot start combined with other teams' weak starts will have spotted them some games over the other contenders (Angels, Athletics, Mariners, etc).
Shaun Newkirk: Yes, but mainly because they've got a pretty good head start. BaseRuns had them as the best team in baseball on Monday.
Max Rieper: May is a pretty important month as we've seen the Royals struggle during May before (18-11! Never forget!) But you have to like the great start they've gotten off to and they do have some guys who look like they'll exceed their projections. I think the Royals will be in the Wild Card mix in July, although I don't know if they can hang with the Tigers for the division by then.
Josh Duggan: Given the insanely hot start, it's hard to imagine the Royals dropping from the pennant race by the trade deadline, barring a rash of injuries of course.
Matthew LaMar: Absolutely. They're 16-9 right now with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order records of at least 17 wins. The Royals are no lock to make the playoffs, but with this start it seems highly likely they'll be in the conversation.