The Royals season is completed and somehow us fans survived watching 104 losses, the second-worst season in franchise history. We brought our team of writers to discuss the season that was and look forward to the off-season and beyond.
For a 104-loss season, people seem pretty upbeat about this team. Was this a successful season?
Matthew LaMar: Hugely successful. It A) convinced everyone that the rebuild was truly something that needed to happen, B) secured a top-three pick (at #2 behind a historically inept Orioles team), and C) featured two out-of-nowhere young successes in O’Hearn and Mondesi
Sean Thonrton: I think it all matters on what your expectations were going into the season. If you thought this team was going to be moderately competitive (or at least hanging out around that .500 mark) then it probably wasn’t too successful for you. But if you knew this team would struggle and that the Royals needed to see what some of the younger players could do, then the last couple months definitely gave you some hope for the future. For those that believe in the rebuild, there is at least a framework in place right now. What they do for the next act will be very interesting to follow.
sterlingice: I guess, since the Royals got the #2 pick. Think back to when the season started, all of Royals Review had them between 70 and 80 wins, no man’s land for the start of a rebuild. It was going to mean a mediocre draft pick, management indecision, and a mostly lost year. Instead, the bottom fell out for the team almost immediately and the veterans with value were sent packing for good returns at near optimal times: Jon Jay was dealt while he was hot, Kelvin Herrera while he was healthy, and Mike Moustakas to a team that had some blocked high minor guys with decent upside. Older players were replaced with younger ones and the team played better. Another bonus: avoided the club record for losses.
Max Rieper: I wrote earlier this season about how well the season was going for tanking purposes. The emergence of some intriguing young players like Brad Keller, Ryan O’Hearn, and Adalberto Mondesi only makes this season more successful.
Alex Duvall: I don’t know how on earth you can consider a season in which Esky gets 500 PA; Danny Duffy, Jorge Soler, and Salvy get hurt again; and Hunter Dozier and Jorge Bonifacio take steps back successful.
Ryan Heffernon: It would have been successful, regardless of the last month and a half of winning, but that winning made it far more tolerable. Nobody likes losing, even when it is best for the franchise long-term. Losing 104 games while also getting to watch good baseball in the second half was having our cake and eating it too.
Shaun Newkirk: There was some success. We got to see a lot of the “younger” guys play (younger in quotes because some of those guys are 25/26 years old) and despite it being miserable, they lost a lot, which is exactly what is needed for a rebuild that is or is not happening.
The failure was spending too much time not playing young guys or giving them a shot, further compounded by not trading the vets like Perez, Merrifield, Duffy, etc...
Hokius: The biggest, most important thing to do is to throw everyone remotely ready in the minors into the fires of the big leagues and see what happens. The fact that the Royals have THREE guys who are young, controlled, and look to be above average pieces after half-seasons is a really, really good start whether you believe they should be traded for more pieces or will be part of the next core. The fact that it took Moore half a season of horrors before he finally dropped the veterans and let the kids play is not an example of terrific job performance but the outcome is still much more successful than we had any right to assume given how poorly the farm system was ranked, even if one of those guys did come from somewhere else.
Are you happy with the decision to bring Ned Yost back next year?
Hokius: It’s fine. I am neither unhappy nor happy. He’s not going to hurt them any more than any other manager.
Sean Thornton: Indifferent is probably a better word. A new voice in the clubhouse sounds appealing (paging Vance Wilson), but I get why the Royals wanted Ned back. His best attribute might be how he handles younger talent, which is why both Milwaukee and Kansas City brought him in. Ned will be dealing with a much younger roster in 2019 (or at least it appears that way) and it will be his job to continue their advancement. How they perform might dictate how much longer Yost wants to stick around, because at this point it feels like the Royals will keep him as manager as long as he wants the gig.
Matthew LaMar: I’m not sure I could possibly be more neutral on it. Firing Yost is dumb, but there were legitimate reasons to maybe explore someone else for the gig and give them some a low pressure season to start with. Either way, it doesn’t matter much. Managers just don’t matter much.
Max Rieper: It is all about player development, not winning games, and Ned seems to be a good leader of young men.
Alex Duvall: Of course. I think what Ned Yost lacks in analytical knowledge he gains in that “old school” style of management, and I believe the Royals can surround their young guys with analytical minds in the way of bench coaches.
Ryan Heffernon: Yes. Ned has his quirks, but I think he is a great fit for the 2019 team. Bringing in a new manager is almost always messy. I don’t see how the Royals stood to benefit from that mess.
Shaun Newkirk: I think Yost is a particularly poor manager, but not even Joe Maddon is going to turn the 2019 team into anything better than 70 wins, so it’s kind irrelevant who manages. And I’d rather Yost rack up the losses than bring in a new guy who starts out his tenure losing 90-100 games for a few years.
sterlingice: As long as he’s still got gas left in the tank, absolutely. He seems to do pretty well developing talent and tactical weaknesses are pretty unimportant on a 100-loss team. While I don’t think the value of winning on development can be totally discounted, there won’t be enough talent on this team for a few wins here or there to matter. So why not keep the guy who can develop talent and take the pressure off the kids? Listening to his end of the year press conference on Sunday, you could tell the professional sports schedule was starting to weigh on him so I don’t think he’s going to be around much longer. The man has a World Series ring, the franchise record for wins, and millions of dollars in the bank - if playing the kids energizes him, good for him. Plus, it will take a 90 or 100 loss season off the resume of the next manager.
Ned Yost says they have the “nucleus of a championship club”. Do you agree or disagree?
Matthew LaMar: They do have the nucleus of a championship club...in Lexington. Not in Kansas City, though they have some nice future pieces.
Max Rieper: Man, you’d really have to squint to see that. They’re off to a decent start with the rebuild, but it seems premature to say anything about championship clubs.
Hokius: They have 1.5 above average starting pitchers. They have 3 above average hitters. They have no above average relievers. Color me skeptical.
Alex Duvall: Is this a joke? He’s talking about the 19-year olds, right?
Sean Thornton: Like, now? No. In a couple more years? Maybe. There are a number of solid pieces that have been put together this past year, but saying they could be part of a “championship club” feels a little bit like putting the cart before the horse. It’s a solid nucleus; let’s just see where that takes them in 2019 first.
Ryan Heffernon: I disagree and not just at the Major League level. The Royals are in a better spot than they were this time last year, but they are going to have to not whiff on the draft again. They’ll need some top-end talent (outside of Mondesi) to have another championship nucleus.
Shaun Newkirk: That’s a tough argument to make. They have basically no bullpen and their rotation just finished with a 4.55 FIP while having a lot of #4/5 type guys (Junis, Skoglund, Lopez, Fillmyer, Sparkman, Kennedy, maybe even Brad Keller - don’t @ me). Would really take some hard squinting to see this group 3-4 years from now being a championship caliber unit.
On the position player side it’s about the same. Seems like it’s more a collection of 0-2 win guys (Dozier, O’Hearn, Bonifacio, Perez, Phillips, Soler, Herrera) with one guy who should be gone this winter (Merrifield) and Mondesi who could be anywhere from a replacement level player, to a solid floor 2-win player, to a possibly 5+ win player.
sterlingice: Not really. I just don’t see nearly enough high ceiling guys to construct a World Series club and that’s before figuring in standard prospect attrition. The potential stars are down in A ball, years away and with a lesser pedigree than the championship wave. I just don’t see it, even with whoever the #2 pick is next year. That said, maybe this will be a bit different than last time. They appear to be using the MLB-level playing time to see if some blocked prospects are worth anything rather than giving up on Ryan Shealy after a few weeks to sign Ross Gload. Maybe these guys will be part of a “pre-wave” of players ahead of the ones down in the low minors or flipped for someone who can help out later.
What do you predict from the Royals this off-season?
Sean Thornton: I would expect it to be fairly similar to last year’s offseason. They’ll let most of their free agents leave, and scrounge for a few pieces at an affordable price. I do think if any money is spent, it will be on the bullpen. An upgrade needs to happen and Dayton sounds like he is on board with that.
But I wouldn’t expect anything monumental...other than Alcides Escobar coming back.
Max Rieper: Probably just signing 2-3 fringy Major Leaguers on one-year deals, probably pitchers. Maybe a trade just to take care of some roster detritus. And I agree, Esky is probably coming back on a minor league deal.
Hokius: Sign at least one veteran position player and 2-3 veteran relievers. Probably keep at least one guy they should jettison (Paulo or Cheslor, if I have to be specific).
Ryan Heffernon: Some talk of this team being sneaky in 2019, followed by some weird free agent signings. The usually pre-2014 treatment.
Alex Duvall: Lots of inactivity. Maybe a flier or two. Look out for a(n unadvised) Whit Merrifield extension.
sterlingice: Hopefully not much. If you get a great offer for Whit, trade him. Sign a couple of cheap, potentially flippable vets to holes where there isn’t anyone near MLB ready in the system. I don’t think that’s so much on the field but definitely on the mound. Take some fliers on high upside pitchers, both in the rotation and pen who are looking for playing time. If they do well, those will always fetch something at the deadline. If not, they can be released and hopefully some talent will have made its way up the system by August.
Shaun Newkirk: Whit won’t be traded. Perez won’t be traded. The Royals try to grab more Rule 5 guys. Too many veteran signings to count.
Who do the Royals really need to take a step forward in 2019?
Hokius: Keep playing the kids even when they’re losing. Look for opportunities to trade vets for excess value. But I’d be very surprised if they trade anyone of value for anything of value. Whit and Salvy are never going to be more valuable than they are now and I just don’t see them being all that useful when the Royals have pieces around them. But they probably won’t get traded.
Shaun Newkirk: Everybody.
Matthew LaMar: Hunter Dozier. Third base depth is nonexistent, and he has the athleticism to be a decent fielder and baserunner if he can only hit a little. Without Dozier, the Royals are adrift at the hot corner unless they feel Whit or Nicky Lopez can shift over, which isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Sean Thornton: To me it feels like one or two of the younger pitchers really need to take a big step forward in 2019. Considering what the health of Danny Duffy and Ian Kennedy have been these last two years, there is no guarantee they will be locked in for 30 starts apiece. Because of that, they will need a few of the younger pitchers to perform above expectations. Jorge Lopez might be the best choice for this, as his stuff can be a real difference maker when he is on point. But even if guys like Heath Fillmyer or Eric Skoglund or even Trevor Oaks takes a big step up next year, that could determine whether the team is a contender sooner rather than later.
Max Rieper: They really need one of those pitchers from the 2018 draft class to look like a stud.
Ryan Heffernon: Dayton Moore. His farm system got better in 2018 almost in spite of him. They have some good pieces now, but they just can’t afford to whiff on the upcoming draft.
Alex Duvall: Danny Duffy. The Royals can not compete unless Duffy returns to being a top 30-40 starter in baseball. Given his injury history, I won’t hold my breath at this point.
sterlingice: Define “step forward”. We’re at the very start of a (likely) long rebuild. I mean, if Merrifield, Mondesi, Soler, O’Hearn, and some mess of the outfield (Phillips? Goodwin? Herrera?) play to their 90th percentile projections or exceed them, I guess that has the makings of a good offense. But the odds of that are slim and we haven’t even talked about the pitching. But even if that did happen and regression is the team’s friend, is 75 wins progress? What does that get you? It would take a crazy offseason for me to envision a .500 team, much less a playoff one for next year. Just stay the course: play the young guys, accumulate more talent, and take some learning lumps on the field.
What is your World Series prediction?
Hokius: Yankees over Brewers.
Sean Thornton: Houston vs. Milwaukee, with Houston becoming the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to win back to back World Series.
Max Rieper: Yankees over Cubs.
Shaun Newkirk: Astros over Cubs.
Ryan Heffernon: I’ll stick with my preseason prediction. Indians over the Cubs.
Alex Duvall: Red Sox over Brewers.
Matthew LaMar: Brewers over A’s in seven. I’m going to be wrong regardless, so I’m just trying to wish the most exciting matchup into existence.
sterlingice: My dart throw says Indians over Cubs. Baseball gods, just let it be anyone but the Red Sox/Yankees and Dodgers. A World Series for the Brewers, Rockies, or A’s would be really nice, even if TV executives would hate it.
Who will win the World Series?
This poll is closed