Before we start, we have to get one very important thing out of the way.
The Royals are not going to make the playoffs.
I mean, there are other sources of playoff odds out there, so you’re welcome to veer off to different websites if the above odds aren’t to your tastes. Or you could let me save you a click. FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus... no chance. Even the odds makers in Vegas have taken the Royals off the board. That’s $20 you put down in the sports book on your annual spring trip to Sin City? The one that got you the betting slip that you just couldn’t wait to tweet out in September because you were certain… certain! that this was the year. You could’ve used that money for an actual good time. Sucker.
Don’t despair. Don’t abandon this team. There are still a few reasons to keep watching.
It feels appropriate to start here and to include the exclamation point. After injuries short-circuited his 2018 season and long after he disappeared from top prospect lists, Starling is set to make his major league debut on Friday against the Tigers. Starling arrives in Kansas City following a detour to the Triple-A All-Star game after a first half where he hit .310/.358/.448.
It’s probably useful to remember the ball in Triple-A is beyond juiced this summer, so those numbers, while the best of Starling’s Storm Chaser career, are only good for a wRC+ of 98. So while he’s just a notch below league average offensively, he does get credit for the improvements he’s made since the 2016 season, the first he spent in Omaha.
Still, his defense is—and has been—big league ready. The Royals aren’t calling him up to sit on the bench, so he figures to get the lion’s share of innings in center field.
It wouldn’t be surprising if he struggles as he adjusts to his new surroundings. And who knows what the longterm brings. Regardless, it’s the continuation of a great story.
Jorge Soler and his assault on the Royals single season franchise home run record
Who knew we would be talking about this so soon after Mike Moustakas set the standard? I mean, when you go three decades, the steroid era and the opening of the launch angle revolution before someone hammers more than 36 home runs, you figure the new mark could last at least a few years.
Jorge Soler has no time for such foolishness. He has appeared in every game this season and currently sits at 23 home runs. Extrapolate that number to a full year and he’s on pace for 41 dingers. That would beat Moustakas’s record by three and would obviously make him the first member of the 40 home run club in franchise history. The Royals remain the only team in major league baseball that has never had a 40 home run hitter.
Soler having a helluva season. He’s approaching career highs in games played and plate appearances. His current rates of a .257 ISO and .497 SLG are his best since his 24 game debut for the Cubs in 2014. This is the Soler the Royals were hoping for ever since they traded for him in the winter of 2016.
The electrical surge provided by Adalberto Mondesi
Mondesi is a special player. One who can seemingly do it all.
It would be nice if he would improve his plate discipline and throw in a walk from time to time. His OBP right now is .298 and entirely dependent upon his BABIP, which is not the way you want it to go. But despite seeming like he’s been around forever, it’s important to remember he’s turning 24 at the end of this month. There’s still some development left in the bat.
What we have right now is a player who can thrill at the dish. Mondesi has cooled off from his torrid start, but he’s still on pace to hit 30 doubles, 16 triples and 12 home runs. And provided his OBP doesn’t completely crater, he’s on target for 50 steals.
That’s a helluva first full season and quite a breakout after being yo-yo’d between Kansas City and the minors for the better part of the three previous seasons.
And he can shine with the glove, too. Currently, he and Whit Merrifield are the only Royals with an fWAR greater than 2—Merrifield is at 2.4 fWAR while Mondesi is at 2.1. Merrifield is steadier at the dish, but if Mondesi goes on a late season tear, the race for the Royals MVP could go down to the wire.
The (potential) swan song of Alex Gordon
We could very well be counting down the end of Gordon’s time with the Royals. Like Mondesi, his offensive production has slipped following a quick start to the season, but at .275/.352/.447 with a wRC+ of 110, he’s still having the finest year of his post-World Series career in Kansas City.
Gordon, as you are obviously aware, would be an ideal trade candidate for a contending team down the stretch. With Gordon holding veto rights as a 10-5 player, among other reasons, it seems unlikely he would depart in the next couple of weeks.
That means Gordon will play out his contract with the Royals. After that, who knows if he will be back in a reduced role at a reduced rate, or will he decide after a 13 year major league career with two AL pennants and a World Championship that it’s time to hang up the spikes. As one of the best defensive outfielders of his era, one of the all-around elites in his prime, and as the author of the dramatic game-tying home run in Game One of the 2015 World Series, his status as an all-time Royals great has already been set in stone. He will go straight into the franchise Hall of Fame and it’s quite likely his number will be retired.
That could make September an emotional time at The K.
The kids are playing
You asked for it. Now it’s happening. When the Royals post their lineup card for the first game of the second half, it figures to feature Starling along with Nicky Lopez, Hunter Dozier and Mondesi. All four are under team control through the 2025 season. And while he’s not exactly a kid, Whit Merrifield is locked in through 2023. It’s a nice offensive nucleus that figures to be around for awhile.