Here we are, nearly a month into the season and the Royals sit in the cellar of Major League baseball at 7-17. Contrary to what Dayton Moore believed he would be receiving from his off-season acquisitions, the moves simply haven’t panned out, starting with infielder Chirs Owings, who Kansas City wrung in on a one-year $3-million investment. Owings has been utterly horrendous as an everyday player for the Royals, with a line of .165/.233/.304 with 29 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances. The experiment to transition the utility-man into a regular starter has caused abysmal offensive output.
Bullpen reclamation projects have backfired as relievers Jake Diekman and Brad Boxberger have collectively posted a 6.85 ERA while issuing 13 walks and 20 hits in just 19 ⅓ innings. Billy Hamilton has been serviceable, but his bat hasn’t been produced enough in the lineup to label the signing a successful one yet. The defense has been as advertised, but nowhere near gold-glove caliber. Martín Maldonado has definitely boosted the young rotation’s numbers with his glove work and framing abilities, but like Hamilton, his poor offensive production outweighs his overall impact.
Lastly, the ultimate head-scratcher was giving up outfielder Brian Goodwin for nothing, nada, and zilch. Moore wanted to add a veteran in Lucas Duda to aid to the inexperience of Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel, who now promptly sits in Omaha. After reading far too much into spring training numbers, Goodwin has slashed .361/.437/.623 with three home runs and ten RBI’s with the Los Angeles Angels. Keep in mind, the Royals have begun starting Jorge Soler in right field on a daily basis.
Preaching the need for him to remain healthy in the offseason and lining him up to be the team’s designated hitter, Soler has suddenly transitioned into the starting right-fielder, putting his injury-prone body at risk yet again. In Monday nights loss to Tampa Bay, he alone crashed into the wall twice attempting to make a catch on a line drive. Thankfully, he finished the game unscathed. As for Duda, Kansas City now rocks a lefty-lefty platoon at first base. Yep. You read that right. His -0.1 WAR and .174 batting average have been the return for shipping Goodwin away.
But this isn’t what this article is about. Sitting 7.5 games back of the first place Twins, there is no need to voice my frustration about the team. Look, we all have a right to rant and this organization has given plenty of reason to in part to head-scratching moves before we even reach May. The point to get across in this article is there will come a point in this season when the Royals will be a fun team to watch. Just like in August/September last season, the star-like potential of Adalberto Mondesi reeled some fans back in. Whit Merrifield’s chase to claim the MLB crown for hits in the season had you turning the television to FSKC to watch a team that sat nearly around 50 games back of .500. For a lot of you, it doesn’t matter the record or the team, it’s a routine. The Royals become a part of your everyday life for three hours starting at 7:15, 6:15, or 1:15.
Look, it’s difficult. When the only thing that brought national attention to your team this season has been controversy over an intentionally hit batter, it makes you long for the 2014-15 coverage. But if you need a sense of hope or something to look forward to, perhaps this lineup of names will entice the interest of the 2019 Royals more than it fails to do now. On August 1st, Kansas City will begin a three-game series against the probable first-place Minnesota Twins. The trade deadline will have just concluded and the Royals will surely be well out of contention. That being said, it isn’t a stretch to believe by August, Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan tweets out a lineup similar to this:
Whit Merrifield CF
Adalberto Mondesi SS
Alex Gordon LF
Hunter Dozier 3B
Ryan O’Hearn 1B
Jorge Soler DH
Nicky Lopez 2B
Bubba Starling RF
Cam Gallagher C
This isn’t to insinuate Lopez or Starling won’t make their debuts far earlier than August, because it’s still highly possible they do but expect this to be around the time both corral the everyday position.
Seeing as though Homer Bailey, Terrance Gore, Hamilton, Maldonado, and Diekman provide at least some value in a sense, expect all to be on different clubs by the time July 31st rolls around. It was clear last season Moore didn’t hesitate to jump on a deal when a player hits their stride. Jon Jay was dealt in June and Kelvin Herrera the same two weeks later. Players such as Owings, Boxberger, Peralta, and Duda likely won’t intrigue other general managers around baseball as well as they did to Moore, thus leading to their release or designation for assignment at some point before the deadline.
As for the bench:
Meibrys Viloria C
Erick Mejia UT
Brett Phillips OF
If Gore is dealt for the second straight year, the fourth outfield spot will need to be filled. That position could come down to two minor leaguers with Major League experience. This would narrow it down to Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio. They both have performed below average offensively with the Storm Chasers this season, but at some point, a chance to add either to the 25-man roster will come about. With the team valuing defense more than most, Phillips certainly has the edge on Bonifacio.
The utility man spot becomes interesting. Humberto Arteaga stunned most of the fan base when he tore up Cactus League pitching in the spring, but it should be noted Mejia did as well and has a few additional benefits to his game. Whereas Arteaga is a right-handed infielder only, Mejia swings from both sides and plays both infield and outfield positions. For those who are unaware of his origins, Mejia was acquired in 2018 from the Dodgers that sent Scott Alexander to the Dodgers and Joakim Soria to the White Sox.
SP Brad Keller
SP Jakob Junis
SP Jorge Lopez
SP Danny Duffy
SP Scott Barlow
Not much to change here other than a replacement once Bailey is gone. There are a few candidates in Triple-A and some who have made starts with the Royals before. Names such as Heath Fillmyer, Glenn Sparkman, Scott Blewett, Arnaldo Hernandez, and Ben Lively come to mind when contemplating potential fill-ins. But as two have displayed shaky numbers at the big league level and the other three have yet to appear in Kansas City this season, sliding Scott Barlow into the fifth spot may be the best long term decision. Barlow has been one of two trustworthy relievers out of the pen in 2019 for the Royals, the other being Ian Kennedy. Sporting a 2.70 ERA in 10 innings with 13 strikeouts and just four walks, the 26-year-old right-hander has pitched in numerous roles this year. Stretching from closing out a one-run game or throwing multiple innings of long relief, Barlow has mimicked the role Brad Keller held in the first months of the 2018 season. Throwing a low to mid-90’s fastball with an above average breaking ball, he may force the hand of Ned Yost to pry him from the bullpen and stick him in the rotation.
LHP Tim Hill
RHP Heath Fillmyer
RHP Jake Newberry
LHP Richard Lovelady
RHP Josh Staumont
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Kyle Zimmer
RHP Ian Kennedy
It won’t be vastly improved, but at the bare minimum, the younger arms will earn the chance to pitch in the high leverage situations they were blocked from by Boxberger, Diekman, and Peralta. Zimmer and McCarthy could be handed the first opportunity once the team cuts bait with the declining veterans. After that, the timing couldn’t be more perfect to test the abilities of Josh Staumont. Winning isn’t going to affect the standings in early August and there’s no shame in giving the pitcher with the best stuff in Triple-A a shot to prove himself.
The 2018 Royals endured 100+ losses and the 2019 squad won’t be far behind. There are going to be a lot of nights turning off the radio, television, or MLB At-bat app when it’s a six-run game in the top of the seventh. But if you’re finding it a challenge to be optimistic about the Royals after this bad month of April, there’s no blame whatsoever. However, there comes a point in every teams season when the front office accepts the one-year deals meant to keep the team competitive have no use hanging around. And comparing this year to last, the talent is developing quicker than originally perceived.
Hunter Dozier is on pace for 49 home runs. Brad Keller is being compared to a young Lance Lynn according to Brandon Kiley of 610 Sports Radio. Mondesi is continuing to flash signs of transforming into a superstar. Jorge Lopez has the arsenal to rival Keller as a future ace. Nicky Lopez is proving he doesn’t belong at the Triple-A level, same with Starling. Khalil Lee is one of the top hitters on the Northwest Arkansas squad in Double-A at just 21 years of age. The Wilmington Blue Rocks, harboring a plethora of the 2018 draft picks and 9 of the club’s top 30 prospects in the farm system, currently sit in first place in the Carolina League.
It’s ugly now, but once the old is rinsed out with the new, summer nights spent watching the Royals at either Kauffman Stadium or in your living room will be far more enjoyable than it continues to be in April.