We preview the season by continuing our series of roundtable discussions with our writing staff on the season. Today we ask - what worries you most about this season?
Alex Duvall: The health of the Royals two best players. Adalberto Mondesi and Jorge Soler are both wildly talented, but the Royals have struggled keeping both in the lineup consistently. In a year that figures to see its fair share of losing again, those two players will be the reason folks show up to the ballpark. If they’re on the IL for much of the year...what reasons do we have to watch when Keller and Junis aren’t pitching?
Hokius; I’m still worried that Dayton Moore and the front office team don’t have a clue what they’re doing. They seem to actually have a plan, so that’s nice. But I’m not at all convinced it’s a good plan. Sure, OK, no one is paying for speed. But there’s a reason for that; it probably doesn’t help win baseball games, especially if you can’t get the speed on base to begin with. Even more concerning is the bust potential in the farm system. The Royals drafted a bunch of college pitchers, last year. I did some analysis a couple years ago to determine that even top 100 prospect pitchers flame out more than half the time. These pitchers are supposed to match up with a bunch of hitters who were in high-A last year and represent the next wave of winning talent to come to KC. But almost all of those hitters come with glaring flaws in their games. Some of them might succeed anyway but it seems awfully unlikely that they all will. And the Royals have almost no talent in the upper minors worth considering to fill in the gaps with even mediocre players around whatever studs do emerge from the current crop of guys in the low minors.
What I’m most worried is that of all these guys that finally pushed the farm system from “the worst in baseball” to “Not quite as bad as the worst” will bust and the Royals will continue to be absolutely nowhere near competing five years from now.
Shaun Newkirk: Can I say the 40-man roster? I mean, sure, there are some potential exciting players, but up and down the line it is filled with unexciting guys that aren’t really expected to have any value that could be swapped for better future value. The worst thing possible seems like a “dead year” for the team where nobody gets flipped, nobody takes a step forward and the 2019 Royals aren’t any better from a roster standpoint than the 2018 Royals other than adding a second overall pick.
Ryan Heffernon: The draft. The Royals farm system is improving but it is in need of top-end talent. In June, Kansas City will have the second overall pick in the draft, the highest pick they have had since they took Mike Moustakas second overall in 2007. It was easy to ignore the Royals’ draft failures when they had to 2011 mega-class or when they were playing in the World Series. Now, the focus is back on the farm. For the process to continue, Dayton Moore is going to need a strong draft.
Max Rieper: That Dayton Moore tries to win more games in the short term at the expense of the long-term. Already we are seeing moves like adding Lucas Duda and committing to giving Chris Owings a lot of playing time which isn’t encouraging when some of those at-bats could to go younger, more promising players. The Royals need to be very honest with themselves on where they are in the success cycle, so that even if they play well this year, they don’t delude themselves into adding a few more veteran pieces this summer so they can win 78 games. They need to take Dayton Moore’s advice and “Trust the Process.”
Jesse Anderson: How much is riding on the prospects we already have. We really need a handful of these guys to really take a step forward and move into the top 100, but there’s so much volatility with prospects that there’s a good a chance we have zero on the top 100 at season’s end as there is we have six or more. This season to me is all about rebuilding and if our prospects falter it just sets us back yet another year.
Matthew LaMar: I am worried that the front office does something stupid. Maybe this means blocking a minor leaguer for no reason, or not trading a guy they should trade, or misreading Kansas City’s position at the trade deadline and giving away assets for damaged goods. I am worried that the front office has no idea where the Royals are in their rebuilding process and will make mistakes that set back the process years.
sterlingice: The starting pitching. We mostly know and accept that the offense is going to stink. The bullpen is mostly castoffs and short-term signings that will be flipped or gone by the time the Royals are good again. But I think people have the idea that the quartet of Duffy, Keller, Junis, and Lopez might be better than expected. The upside is Duffy puts it together and shows the ace stuff he’s flashed for a month here or there, Keller improves on what he did last year, Junis takes a pretty good step forward, and Lopez is a sneaky sleeper.
However, there’s also the chance that Duffy remains hurt and erratic, Keller looks more like his xFIP and his results last year were a mirage, Junis is what he was last year: decent but unspectacular, and Lopez is not a major league starting pitcher. If I had to make a guess, I think Junis and Lopez are closer to their upside while Duffy and Keller are closer to their downside but it’s just a guess.
Josh Keiser: My biggest concern about this season lies in the draft. The Royals have the #2 overall pick and unless Adley Rutschman isn’t drafted first, there’s no obvious candidate for the Royals. With the farm system taking big steps forward the last couple of years, they need to add a sure-fire difference maker to the group. I’d personally like them to take an impact bat like Andrew Vaughn but I wouldn’t be too upset with a pitcher with ace upside like Daniel Espino.
Here lies my concern. The front office’s track record with high draft picks is not great and there are theories floating that the Royals could try to game the system by under-slotting the #2 pick, getting a decent player, and over-slotting their next pick, getting another decent player a la Dozier and Manaea in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, both of those guys add value to a system. But the Royals need the impact guy to go with their already talented wave.
What about you? What worries you most about this season?