Ever since the highly questionable attempt at being a 2017 playoff team instead of cashing in on Cain, Hosmer and Moose, 2021 has been a popular target for a Royals re-boot. Ned and Dayton have both referenced that season, although Dayton has and will continue to move those goalposts.
So, as things stand today, is 2021 a realistic time to expect the Royals to compete for a playoff spot? The answer, to me, is absolutely not.
Lets take a look at the BEST CASE SCENARIO for the 2021 roster and see if it holds up against the projections for other AL teams in roughly 220 games from now:
Projected Playoff starter good:
Keller- Back-end Starter
Duffy- Back-end Starter
Possibly Playoff starter good:
Dozier- 3B (will need to see how he reacts to teams having a better book vs him)
Lopez- 2B (don’t need much O if he brings defense and base running)
Thats 6 near certainties and 2 good possibilities out of a 25 man roster. For those that stopped learning math after kindergarten and any local MLB GMs doing some light reading while taking a dump, that leaves 17 big-time question marks.
Now, on a positive note, a player or two from each team emerges as a good ML player each season, so let’s take that number down to 15. KC also has a lot of money (Gordon, Kennedy) coming off the books before 2021, and despite Dayton’s horrific free agent hit percentage during his tenure (the bigger the dollar amount, the bigger the backfire), let’s say he hits on a decent bullpen arm and decent outfielder (maybe swing a trade for Brian Goodwin?), which brings the holes to 13. To get on the right side of the 50%, let’s also say one of the 2018 SP is ready for the big-time and brings the number to 12.
Thats a total of 13 playoff level players and 12 massive question marks. All positions are not created equally, so I will say it’s a plus to have most of the infield covered and a huge plus to be getting offense from traditionally light hitting spots like C and SS. If used correctly, like finding and signing a cheap OF that can hit league average, is a great advantage in extending a line-up.
2021 is not happening. In 2022, a while heck of a lot would have to break right, specifically getting good production from Lee and 4-5 more recent draft picks. The problem is, it’s extremely likely that one of the wildcards will still be coming from the AL East and the Twins will have a firm grip on the Central. It’s also easy to see the White Sox taking off and really all but Detroit and a couple others being in worse shape than KC. I can see the Angels being real strong in 2021, for example.
Because of all these holes and KCs current place in future projections, one thing makes absolute sense: trading Whit for a package of the best prospects possible, regardless of their MLB ETA.