19-42 (worst record in baseball)
.311 (worst win% in baseball)
22 games behind the division leader (most in baseball)
2 games behind last year’s pace when they lost 104 games.
There’s a lot here to frown about. As a team in the context of overall team baseball, it can’t get much worse than we’re currently seeing. Even Denny Matthews has seen enough...
HOF announcer Denny Matthews: “If this isn’t the worst game the #Royals have played this year, it’s in the top five.”— Randy Covitz (@randycovitz) June 2, 2019
But I’m here to tell you that this season is actually going quite well, maybe even the best case scenario.
Listen, I wanted to believe in this soft rebuild more than anyone. I got just as addicted to October baseball as anyone. I could squint and convince myself that this lineup didn’t even have to overachieve to be good enough to compete and that the starting rotation had plenty of upside to it and the bullpen was shaky but we’ve dealt with shaky pens before and did fine. I not only drank the kool-aid, but I went back to the cooler six times for more. “Inject it into my veins! Let me snort some! Soak a paper towel in it and let me put it up my...”
Anywhoo, it took about one month to realize that this team had legit flaws; two months to realize that the playoffs were a long shot; and two months and one day to realize that they are legitimately one of the worst teams in baseball.
But let’s not get too down, huh? This season is actually going really well! Here’s how.
There is a young core developing and it is producing
Resident handsome devil, Hunter Dozier, is having the best Royals offensive season (158 wRC+) that Fangraphs had on record (goes back to 2002). Jorge Soler could threaten Moose’s home run record. Adalberto Mondesi has shown flashes of superstar-dom even if he’s a bit inconsistent. Along those same lines, Brad Keller, Jakob Junis, Nicky Lopez, Kelvin Gutierrez, Glenn Sparkman, Scott Barlow, and Ryan O’Hearn have all shown some solid tools while battling consistency. They are here to cut their teeth against major league talent, and they’ll take plenty of L’s during that process. But those L’s are worth taking when you’re dealing with long-term development. It’s part of the proc...no. I’m not going to say that word. It’s part of their journey and they’re here for the right reasons. (Where’s my Bachelor Nation at?!?!?)
What this young major league core is really missing is strong, front of the rotation pitchers. And we don’t have to look far to know where that is coming from. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic are progressing nicely in A/AA ball and if all goes accordingly, we could see them at Kauffman by 2021.
We’re getting vintage Gordo!
Coming into the year, we all thought that Gordo was dunzo. He was still playing good defense but his bat was atrocious since he signed his big contract in 2016. Collectively we were praying that he would show anything of value so the Royals could trade him to a contender at the deadline. Instead, we’re being treated to a 127 wRC+ season, which is the second best season of his career. He might be slipping a bit defensively from what we’re used to seeing, but not a single person outside of Facebook will be complaining about that. We’re going to, at least, get to see the next Royals Ring of Honor inductee doing things he hasn’t done since his prime. And if something is figured out, he could be traded for something of value and make another run with a contender. No one on this roster deserves that more than Gordo does.
Trade candidates are showing value
Jake Deikman is putting up a 3.62 xFIP this season and left handed relievers are always hawt at the deadline. Brad Boxberger has settled in a bit and has a 2.61 ERA since May 1. Martín Maldonado is doing exactly what the Royals signed him for and he’s at least close to what he was producing when he was traded to the Astros at the 2018 trade deadline for a left handed pitching prospect and international money. Billy Hamilton might not be much to look at at the plate, but he’s got pinch runner/defensive replacement value a la Jarrod Dyson and that always has a market. Royals staples like Ian Kennedy, Alex Gordon, Jorge Soler, and *ahem* Whit Merrifield are all showing that they could be shipped out for varying trade packages if the numbers/packages were right. Getting what you could for any/all of these guys could speed up the rebuild significantly.
Salvy’s legs/body are spared a year’s worth of wear and tear
I was very bummed to hear of the news of Salvy’s Tommy John surgery. At the time, I was on my third go with the beer bong full of kool-aid and I was ready for a 4th.
But all things considered, I don’t think Salvy was going to be the difference between losing 110 games and a wild card berth. And in a throwaway year like this, keeping his legs/knees/ankles/corresponding ligaments from another year of crouching and his chest/face/jaw out from behind concussion inducing foul balls can only be a good thing. Worst case scenario is that he comes back with a smidge less arm strength but with everything else we love about him with a bit more tread on the tires than he would’ve had.
Early draft picks in 2020/2021
That farm system is in much better shape than it was back in 2017 but what it might be lacking the most is the cornerstone, mega-hyped prospects; the game changer, if you will. That might’ve changed on Monday with the addition of Bobby Witt Jr. The uber-athletic prep shortstop might be the first true five tool guy the Royals have had since Adalberto Mondesi! And we could add another player of that caliber in 2020 and in 2021 if we play our cards right. Next thing you know we are back at the kool-aid kooler and there’s a line longer than the shuttle buses to the ‘15 World Series parade.
So yeah, there’s plenty to make fun of by putting a yakety sax soundtrack behind this year. There’s roster moves that we will all question and regrettably tweet about. But in the end, this year has been the beginning of a hard rebuild. The front office might’ve wanted a soft rebuild, but sometimes the baseball gods nudge you in the right direction at the right time. As a fan base, we’ve got to be able to take the good with the bad. Otherwise, we’re no better than Cardinals fans, amirite?