The Royals were mathematically eliminated from post-season contention back in August, so I would understand a bit if you haven’t been keeping up with our boys in blue on a regular basis. Apparently there is another sports team that has captivated the city with a young man that throws an egg-shaped ball. He’s the son of former Twins pitcher Pat Mahomes, but I’m afraid I can’t remember his name off the top of my head.
But there are still reasons to watch the Royals! Honest! Let’s run down a few.
Jorge Soler could become the first home run champ in Royals history
Soler is having a career season and he has already set, no, demolished the single-season club home run record of 38 set by Mike Moustakas in 2017. Soler is already at 44 home runs with two weeks to go, one behind leader Mike Trout. And with Trout out for the season with a foot injury, and Nelson Cruz and Gleyber Torres the next closest home run hitters with 37, Soler seems like a solid bet to become the first Royals hitter ever to lead the American League in home runs.
In fact, very few Royals hitters have ever really come close to claiming a home run crown. Here is a list of all the Royals hitters with top ten finishes in the AL in home runs, and how close they were to the home run champ.
Highest AL rank in home runs, Royals hitters
|Hitter||Year||HR||Rank||Leader HR||HR behind|
|Hitter||Year||HR||Rank||Leader HR||HR behind|
In addition to Soler, the Royals could have league leaders in several other categories. Whit Merrifield has 193 hits, eight more than any other hitter in the league as he tries to lead the league in that category for the second year in a row. Adalberto Mondesi has 39 steals, just five behind Seattle’s Mallex Smith. And Mondesi, Merrifield, Smith, and Hunter Dozier are all tied for the league lead in triples with nine. Would it be worth tuning in to see these player reach some cool individual accomplishments? To quote Ned Yost, “The answer is not just yes, it’s ‘Hell, yes!’”
Positional battles for next year
When you’re careening towards another 100-loss season that probably means your roster is in a bit of a state of flux. The Royals did find some really bright spots this year, such as Hunter Dozier, but other areas are still questions marks going into the off-season. The last two weeks won’t give us complete answers, but we can know a bit more about the club’s young players.
First base has been a black hole this year, with the Royals ranking dead last in all of baseball in OPS from that position. Ryan McBroom has shown a few things in limited action, and Ryan O’Hearn has come on lately, hitting .294/.400/.686 with six home runs in his last 18 games. The Royals will be looking for any signs of offensive life from Nicky Lopez, Bubba Starling, and Brett Phillips to determine what their role is in the future. Dozier’s bat has been one of the best in the league, but is he a third baseman or a rightfielder?
And has Jorge Lopez turned the proverbial corner? Eh, it is just two starts, but Lopez has given up just two runs over his last 11 2⁄3 innings and has pitched his way back into the rotation conversation for next year. Young relievers will be jockeying for position for next year’s roster as well, with Tim Hill (opponents hitting just .218 against him since the All-Star break) and Scott Barlow (2.33 ERA since the All-Star break) in particular pitching well down the stretch.
We could be seeing the last games of Alex Gordon in a Royals uniform
Royals fans have said their goodbyes to many beloved players over the last few years, and this year it may be Alex Gordon’s turn. The Royals have been the only organization Gordo has ever known in his 13-year MLB career, but at age 35, it may be time for him to hang up the cleats. Gordon has a $23 million mutual option for next year that will certainly be declined, but the Royals could bring him back on a one-year deal if the two sides can come to agreement.
Gordon told Jeffery Flanagan back in May that he was leaning towards coming back, saying he had a 60 percent chance of playing in 2020 and that he wants to retire as a Royal. But more recently he told Flanagan that he goes back and forth on a decision, and will make a final decision in the off-season.
Also, Alex Gordon tells me he is sticking to his plan of making his decision about next year sometime in the off-season after he discusses it with his family. He said mentally he is still going back and forth - one day he is certain he’s coming back, the next day he’s not.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) September 13, 2019
If Gordo decides to hang ‘em up this winter, you may want to get out one last time and see one of the greatest Royals in club history, a man who is sixth in club history in hits, fourth in home runs, fourth among position players in WAR, whose six Gold Gloves are behind only Frank White in defensive prowess, and who is remembered for his iconic game-winning home run in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series.
Well kinda. The Royals are likely headed for the fourth pick in next June’s draft, although they are 2 1⁄2 games behind the Marlins for the third pick, and the Blue Jays are four games behind the Royals. Keeping an eye on draft position is always a weird position since you don’t want to actively root for the team to lose, but the truth is, losing is rewarded in baseball. The 2020 MLB draft class is considered to be pretty strong, so the Royals should have an opportunity to add a good player regardless, but you may want to keep tabs on their position, and maybe root for the Marlins to go on a hot streak.
You can watch lots of great teams
If you want a preview of the playoffs, just tune in to Royals games. Sure, the Royals won’t be there, but all of their opponents will be. The schedule-makers did not favors for the Royals, stacking the end of the season schedule with some of the best teams in baseball. The Royals are already fresh from a series sweep at the hands of the Astros, and will next take on the Athletics, Twins, Braves, and Twins again. That probably means a lot of losses for the Royals, but you can see some really good baseball teams up close and get a better idea of the talent gulf between the Royals and where they want to be.
What are you tuning in to see the last two weeks?