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Hok Talk: It got worse

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The Royals finally won a game where the other team scored but they’re still bad.

Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays
Not even a Moose can carry this disaster of a team.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

A lot of attention has been paid to the Royals’ bullpen and there’s a good reason for that. Before Thursday’s action, the last time Justin Grimm or Blaine Boyer pitched, Grimm had allowed as many runs as the entire Toronto Blue Jays bullpen. Boyer alone had allowed more runs than 5 different bullpens.

There are some good relievers down in that ‘pen. Kelvin Herrera still hasn’t allowed a run, Burch Smith has recovered from a bad debut, Tim Hill still hasn’t allowed a hit. Boyer and Grimm have been relegated to the back of the pen but not removed, though. One reason for that...

Minor league relievers aren’t making any cases for promotion

At Omaha, the Royals have Josh Staumont with a pretty good ERA and FIP but he’s only pitched 5.2 innings and he’s still walked 5. The next lowest FIP among relievers belongs to Eric Stout who has walked nearly as many but struck out far fewer. After that is Brandon Maurer. Richard Lovelady does have a perfectly nice 1.69 ERA but he’s also walking twice as many as he has struck out in his first taste of AAA so now is probably not the time to rush him up to the big leagues.

in AA Northwest Arkansas Jason Adam has looked alright as a reliever with a 4.00 K/BB ratio but he’s also benefited from a .191 BABIP. The rest of the relievers look iffy at best. Some of the starters look OK and if the Royals were close to competing then it might make sense to see if they could convert that to success in relief roles for the big league club. But the Royals aren’t close to competing and a big part of the reason why is...

No matter how bad you think they are, the offense is worse than that

The offense looks worse and worse with each passing day. Alcides Escobar, who is tied for the team worst with a -0.2 fWAR according to FanGraphs and who has never been known for his power is third on the team in isolated slugging percentage. The offense as a whole actually comes in at rank 17 in batting average in the MLB, which could certainly be worse, but they have the tenth worst team at getting on base in general and are the fifth worst team in slugging percentage. Only 2 teams walk less often and only 3 teams have as few or fewer home runs.

There is still good news, though

All the losing pretty much guarantees not just a higher draft spot, next year, but that the Royals will actually attempt to sell at the deadline, this year. Jon Jay is falling off his hot start but Lucas Duda has been adequate at first base and if someone needs to fill that hole they could probably do worse. Danny Duffy rebounded a bit in his last start and whether you think he’s a part of the next winning team or the best trade chip the Royals have every good start he makes is a positive for the club. The Royals have won 3 of Jakob Junis’ starts, now, and he’s easily been the highlight of rotation that has been surprisingly good given how bad the rest of the team is.

If some competitive team had signed Mike Moustakas before this season at any price their fan base would be very grateful, right now, and he would probably be the talk of baseball. Even before he destroyed another baseball, yesterday afternoon - and make no mistake, he obliterated that ball - he was the sixteenth best hitter in the sport by wRC+. Of course, he’s playing for the terrible Royals so a lot of people don’t have a clue. But you better believe the GMs are salivating at the opportunity to add him at the deadline. This should especially be true of a team like the Atlanta Braves who recently signed Jose Bautista with an eye toward plopping him at third base. If they’re still competitive near the deadline and that experiment fails as badly as it seems likely to Moose could look very attractive indeed.

As I noted above the youngest pitchers in the Royals’ pen are all pitching well. Kelvin Herrera should probably be worth a decent prospect or two at the deadline while Brad Keller, Smith, and Hill could all be a part of the next winning pen. Smith and Keller might even find their way into the rotation if the Royals deal Duffy and/or Jason Hammel before the year is out. But the biggest surprise is...

Jorge Soler is on fire

Over the last week, the only better hitter on the team has been Moose. Before yesterday’s games Soler actually had a season 102 wRC+ - which means 2% better than league average - and came in second place among Royals position players with a 0.2 fWAR despite his horrid start. Somehow that kind of production still saw him sitting on the bench during the first half of the doubleheader without an opportunity to pinch hit despite several likely-looking opportunities. Defensive stats are notoriously noisy in small sample sizes but FanGraphs says that Soler even has a 0.7 contribution for defense on the team which ties him for third with Esky despite the terrible drop in right field the other night.

Some other stats outlining just how impressive #SolerPower has been over the last 10 days since he finally broke the oh-fer streak to start the season:

  • .353/.405/.500/.905 slash line
  • 3 extra base hits; tied for second on the team behind only Moustakas
  • Tied with Whit Merrifield and Esky in XBH but did it in fewer games
  • 2 hitless games versus 4 multi-hit games over the stretch

Honestly, right now it would make way more sense to bat Soler fourth and bump Duda down to fifth. If Soler can keep building on his success the 2019 lineup might have at least one legitimate hitter in it. This Jorge Soler looks more like the guy who played for the Cubs and it might be time for the Royals to start considering a contract extension for him to see if they can’t guarantee he’s around to power their next competitive team.