The Royals continue their second half with one of the worst records in baseball. However, amidst the pitching woes, destructive bullpen, and offense struggles, a breath of fresh air presents itself in the second half. We have already seen the Royals call up Bubba Starling, and it looks like Terrance Gore will be the odd man out to make room for him.
As we approach the trade deadline, time in a Royals’ uniform for Billy Hamilton, Homer Bailey, Jake Diekman and Martín Maldonado, could be reaching an end. Less valuable trade assets like Wily Peralta and Lucas Duda could either be designated for assignment or shipped to a contender for cash. It should be a no-brainer to cut bait from players who are not signed past 2019, but finding seven replacements in the span of 18 days might be easier said than done. In a perfect world however, here is who may be filling the void in their absence.
Homer Bailey out, Kyle Zimmer up
In a year that has seen more failures than success from the Royals’ offseason additions, Homer Bailey has arguably become the best trade piece. With the Los Angeles Dodgers paying him $23 million to pitch for the Royals, he would cost any team just the league minimum and could prove to add depth as a four or five man in the rotation for a contender. Posting his highest strike out total and lowest WHIP since 2014, a top 30 prospect and a lottery ticket from an organization could be the return for Bailey.
In his place, the experiment of an opener could be utilized. In Triple-A, it has been Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont finding success as the Storm Chasers’ projects. As an opener, Zimmer has held opposing hitters to a .190 average and has struck out 19 to his 7 walks. Out of the bullpen, he has struck out 21 and walked 22 while hitters are batting .257 off of him.
Possible suitors for Bailey: Yankees, Reds, Brewers
Jake Diekman out, Richard Lovelady up
It was a rough stretch for Diekman in the months of June and July, where his ERA ballooned to 5.20. Based on those stats, it doesn’t like the left-hander would net more than a pocket of change and a non-prospect. However, according to Jeffrey Flanagan, scouts will look at his upside rather than the numbers.
“He has a 97-mph fastball and a wipeout slider. He may not be a late-inning guy for a contender, but he can be useful to someone’s bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning, according to several scouts. There’s just too much talent there to say no.”
When you take out one left-handed specialist, you need one in his place. That call would likely to be made to Richard Lovelady, who continues his dominance over minor league hitters. Mildly struggling in his first stint with the Royals in April, allowing 14 hits in 12.2 innings, Lovelady was returned to Omaha to work out some of his kinks. Without missing a beat, the Kennesaw State product is now striking out 10.5 hitters per nine and posts a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings.
Possible suitors for Diekman: Nationals, Phillies, Red Sox
Martín Maldonado out, Cam Gallagher starts, Meibrys Viloria up
Despite hitting just .226 and smacking five home runs in 71 games, Maldonado’s value resides more behind the dish. Similar to last season, teams won’t be calling the Royals for a starting catcher, but rather for catching depth with postseason experience. In 2018, the Angels dealt Maldonado to Houston for Patrick Sandoval (now the #10 prospect in the Angels organization) and $250,000 in international cash. Maldonado was only hitting .233 in 76 games before he was traded back then, but his defensive contributions and handling of the pitching staff made him a valuable asset on the trade market.
With Salvador Perez coming back for the starting job next season, games from August 1st to the end of September would become the perfect time for second-string tryouts in 2020. Also note the only two catchers in the organization familiar with members of the pitching staff at the big league level are Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria. Both of those players are currently on the 40-man roster as well. Gallagher has hit .198 in 86 at-bats in 2019. Viloria hit .259 with four RBI’s in 27 at-bats last September when he was promoted from High-A Wilmington to Kansas City.
Possible suitors for Maldonado: Astros, Athletics, Phillies
Billy Hamilton out, Brett Phillips up
Billy Hamilton is hitting just .217 with nine RBI’s and 16 stolen bases, so don’t expect other high caliber teams to project the 28-year-old outfielder to be their everyday centerfielder the way the Royals did. However, like Maldonado, his defense is what will catch the eye of teams who desire late inning defensive replacements in the postseason. In addition to his defense, his base running strengthens the pitch Dayton Moore will make when shopping him. Per Statcast, Hamilton is in the 98th percentile in sprint speed, 78th percentile in outfielder jump and 72nd percentile in outs above average.
With Alex Gordon, Bubba Starling, and Whit Merrifield patrolling the outfield in the near future, the Royals will need to add a fourth outfielder following Hamilton’s and Gore’s departure. Employing three right-handed bats in the outfield (Merrifield, Starling, Jorge Soler), the decision may lead to bringing up a left-handed hitter. The player that fits the mold would be Brett Phillips, a prospect acquired in the Mike Moustakas trade last July from Milwaukee. Starting 2019 in Omaha after a poor spring training, Phillips continued his negative trend for the first few months of the season. But suddenly, the 25-year-old has caught fire.
Since bottoming out on May 24th (.165 BA, 38.4% K-rate) Brett Phillips has hit .302/.419/.623 with a 20.7% K-rate over a 35 game stretch.— Clint Scoles (@ClintScoles) July 7, 2019
Possible suitors for Hamilton: Cubs, Athletics, Brewers
Wily Peralta out, Josh Staumont up
Peralta has been serviceable of late, but not enough for teams to be dialing Dayton Moore. Throwing in the mid-90’s, the command isn’t quite there as he’s walking over four hitter per nine and striking out just over five. Although his ERA isn’t an eyesore, his numbers in high leverage situation are what might drive suitors away. In those situations, hitters’ averages on a ball in play is .324 and their slugging percentage is north of .800.
Once Peralta’s spot is vacant, the opportunity for the flame-throwing, Josh Staumont, may arise. Like Zimmer, Staumont has been very effective in the opener role. Notorious for his struggles of keeping his walk numbers low, the former second round draft pick hasn’t seen a drastic change, but a change for the better nonetheless. In 2019 in relief, Staumont posted a 3.38 ERA with hitters slashing .154/.336/.275. As an opener, those numbers have dwindled to .149/.284/.224 while he’s showcased a 1.83 ERA.
Lucas Duda out, Ryan O’Hearn up
Things didn’t make sense in March when the Royals designated Brian Goodwin for assignment and re-signed Lucas Duda to a minor league deal. It became more of a head scratcher when he made the big league roster with two other first basemen after a few spring training games. It’s now a lost cause that Duda continues to be a platoon first baseman with batting line of .157/.245/.292 on a major league team. Presenting virtually no trade value, the only option for the front office is cutting ties to create space on the roster.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is Ryan O’Hearn didn’t technically hold his own either before his demoting on June 13th. However, he’s found a little groove in Omaha since, posting an OBP of .344 while driving in 14 runs in 21 games. Oh, and Goodwin has hit .276 with seven home runs and 25 RBI’s in 72 games with the Angels this year. But Spring Training stats don’t matter right? *Facepalm
They’re not top 100 prospects, nor are they going to get the national recognition of a youth movement. But the fact of the matter is, the Royals are getting younger. Soon, they will be presenting lineup cards featuring players we have only speculated about playing in a Kansas City uniform. Some will falter, some will find some stability, but the most important tidbit is experience will come of it. Will any of the replacements be here on the next contender? Hopefully the Royals aren’t that far off and a few will be. However, that’s a story for another time. For now though, bask in what will surely be a plethora of long-awaited debuts by the end of next month.