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Hok Talk: All-Star Mailbag

Let’s answer some questions while we wait for the season to end, shall we?

Pittsburgh Pirates reveal commemorative Willie Stargell stamp before a game on July 21.
No stamps required, here!
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The All-Star Game is next week. In recent years the Royals have repeatedly sent multiple players to the event. As recently as 2015 they actually sent seven players. As a fan who started watching in 1998, that was something I would never have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I still remember the year 2000 when the Royals actually sent two players to the All-Star Game. That was probably the absolute most excited I had ever been for the team. They had to be good, didn’t they? They managed more than the bare minimum guaranteed to them by the rules!

But I was also here for Mark Redman, Ken Harvey, and Aaron Crow. Yeah, I wish Whit Merrifield had gone, this year. Many fans want to see their old favorites show up at the All-Star Game but, as you might have imagined given my status as a Royals fan, I’ve always been enamored of underdog stories. The guys who get their first and perhaps only All-Star Games have always been the ones that interested me, the most.

But the people who insist none of us will even remember who played in that game in a few weeks, much less a few years, are also right. So I’m not going to spend a whole lot of energy getting worked up about it. Instead, I thought we could spend some time answering some of your fine questions, this week. So, without further ado, thanks for doing half my job for me!

So here’s the thing. This sounds super convenient in a world where cash is hardly ever used anymore, right? Absolutely! The thing is that we also live in a world where credit card transactions are taking longer than ever in an attempt to keep them secure. If they opened up credit card purchasing at every parking lot entrance this would slow things down even more than they are.

So I suggest a compromise. It’s than a decade since I attended a real, honest-to-God Royals game in person so I might be mistaken but I believe every entrance has multiple booths? If they changed one of those over to credit cards and let the other remain as cash booths it might could work. Of course, you probably still want to bring cash because, as I said, the credit card transaction is going to take a LOT longer.

Well, I think Ned’s first inclination was to give the job to Brandon Maurer. He’s the only guy with any kind of experience in the role. Brandon has done everything he can to make that choice exceptionally unappealing, though.

Shortly after Kelvin Herrera was traded our own Max Rieper wrote an article asking this exact question. And while he didn’t present an answer he did provide a poll. The results of that poll were that “No One” should close the Royals’ games for the rest of the year. In second place was “Someone Else” so you can see Royals fans are really excited about the relief pitchers on the roster.

Sean Thornton wrote his own article proclaiming that the Royals closer situation has an easy fix. He just wants Ned to play the percentages. Use a lefty versus lefties. Use a groundball pitcher versus home run guys. That all seems well and good but Ned isn’t the only manager who would rather just pick one guy and go with him.

At this point I’m going to guess it’s Wily Peralta, assuming the Royals have any save situations in the near future. He’s had good stuff out of the pen and he’s the most veteran of the pitchers down there with Blaine Boyer on the 60-Day DL and Justin Grimm released.

I have neither the knowledge nor the time to list the top 3 prospects from each team but I can tell you this: The Royals won’t be getting any of them with the guys they have to trade.

Probably not in any real sense. If the young guys come along a little bit better than we’re all expecting - for example, maybe Adalberto Mondesi becomes a legitimate star - then they might win a few more games but not enough for most people to notice. Hopefully, they’ll at least be younger than they are now which is inherently more exciting because while the prospects in the upper levels of the minors aren’t highly rated they might do something good while the veterans on the current roster only seem to be getting worse.

There were a LOT of questions like this one where fans were either asking us to fire Ned - sorry, we don’t have that capability, here! - or asking us if he should be fire or if there was any way he wouldn’t be fired.

Here’s the answer none of you are going to like: Ned Yost isn’t going anywhere unless Ned Yost wants to leave. For starters, he is not the reason this team hasn’t won, this year. These guys just aren’t good enough to compete with other major league teams. There is literally nothing Ned Yost can do to fix that. Additionally, he was skipper for half of the franchise’s pennants and world series victories. No other team manager has led this team to a central division crown. You don’t fire that guy because you gave him a terrible team three years later.

I lamented at length TWICE last week about Ned’s refusal to let Salvador Perez or Alcides Escobar sit on the bench for a game. I actually implied he should be fired, as well. But there are no perfect managers. And it’s a bit miraculous that this team has it together as much as they do given how much they’ve been losing. As long as Ned Yost keeps the guys from losing their minds he’s doing well enough to stick around for a while longer.

It would have to be Mondesi, I’d think. Lorenzo Cain was second on the team, last year, and he’s not here anymore. Alex Gordon came in third with seven. So far this year Whit leads the team with 16 but Mondesi and Gordon are currently tied at 5. Rosell Herrera allegedly has enough speed to at least pretend to make it a competition but he’s also been caught 3 times while stealing only one base, so far, so it may be that he needs to work on his technique a bit and he needs to focus more on his ability to hit.

Speaking of Merrifield...

The short answer is because the Royals haven’t gotten an offer they like, yet.

The longer answer is because the Royals probably over-value Merrifield to a degree due to his positional versatility and the fact that they like to be loyal to their guys. His situation is also quite complicated because as a guy with lots of club-control left he should be more valuable in the current deal-making-environment but he’s also already 29, which should be the beginning of a decline phase and makes him less valuable in the current deal-making-environment. The Royals, and others, can argue that he keeps himself in great shape and should age better than most but we have all seen how that worked out with Alex Gordon.

I’ve been saying since before the season started that the Royals should absolutely look to trade Whit but that I also didn’t expect them to actually do so unless they were completely blown away by an offer. It doesn’t look like anyone out there is willing to blow them away, just now.

So let’s address the position players starting for a World Series aspect of this question. The four in question are Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. Mike and Alex are actually holding up their ends of the bargain, playing almost as well, this year, as they did, then. The problems start with Salvy and Esky. They were both on the decline, even in 2015, and that decline has only gotten more precipitous as they’ve aged and played season after season with few off days.

Then you have to realize that while in a sport like basketball or football a couple of guys can completely change the look of a roster that baseball needs most of the team to be exceptionally good in order to win. Lorenzo Cain was actually the best player on that team, he’s gone. Eric Hosmer was the third best player, he’s gone. Wade Davis was fourth, he’s gone. Kendrys Morales was sixth and he’s gone.

And, finally, you have to realize that age comes for everyone. Even if the Royals still had all those guys none of them are playing nearly as well as they did, that season. If you want to field a consistent winner in baseball you’ve got to have prospects to replace guys as they get too old to produce at the same levels. The Royals, through a combination of horrid drafting and unwillingness to pay for contracts in trades, haven’t had any prospects ready to go for a while, now. Those failures have come home to roost.

They actually do have some top-100 guys, now. Seuly Matias and Khalil Lee each made a mid-season top 100 prospect lists. And that’s part of why 2021 was the goal for this team before the season started. The idea for a lot of media members was that the Royals had a handful of promising guys in the low minors who could be ready by then. Adalberto Mondesi would be in the prime of his career. Salvador Perez and Danny Duffy could impart some veteran leadership. And the prospects they got back from dealing Herrera plus any of the vets who turned valuable would put a jump start into the system and fill some gaps that will inevitably be left by guys who look good now but don’t quite pan out.

But the Herrera trade didn’t go as well as any of us outside the organization had hoped and 2021 seemed like a pipe dream. But Dayton Moore and co.’s decision to draft almost exclusively college pitchers means that they’re still aiming pretty hard for that 2021 season. If everything - and I mean everything - goes according to plan the college pitchers will match up well with the current crop of hitters in the low minors and they’ll all break into the big league level nearly simultaneously having dominated the minors, together. Kind of like how the Best Farm System in the History of Whatever did back in 2010-2012.

Chances are high that things won’t work out perfectly. Depending on who you ask prospects fail anywhere between half and two-thirds of the time. The Royals would need almost all of the guys currently in the system to pan out because they don’t have anyone to trade to fill in the gaps. And, sure, they could trade prospects in the future to fill in the gaps for whoever makes it to the big leagues but that would require having some actually good prospects left to trade after everyone with talent currently in the system makes the big leagues and it would also lead to the same thing that happened last time. The Royals had to fill gaps in the 2013-2015 rosters which meant guys like Jake Odorizzi, Wil Myers, Mike Montgomery, and Sean Manaea are all playing for other teams instead of the Royals, right now. And that is why the team could only make the playoffs for two years before needing a rebuild. It would have been nice to see Dayton learn from that mistake.

I’m glad you asked, Kevin. Just because the Royals are going to lose a historic number of games this season is no reason not to look for silver linings! The best part of the remaining season is going to really start after the trade deadline. At that point, there will be less reason than ever to play veterans and we should see a lot more young guys making debuts. Until then we at least get to watch Brad Keller, Tim Hill, Rosell Herrera, and especially Adalberto Mondesi try to prove they belong in the show. Young guys coming up to be the next saviors of the franchise is something we haven’t seen much of since 2011 and it will be nice to get back to this staple of Royals baseball.

Additionally, I think people should be plotting out some terrific ideas for when the Royals inevitably lose their franchise-record game number 107. Maybe sketch out a few ideas in case the reach or surpass the 120 game, mark, too. The key to enjoying a losing season is to really have fun with it. If you can trick yourself into viewing every loss as another step towards amusing history you can actually have a ton of fun with a season like this.