There are still three weeks left in the regular season, but the Royals have already been eliminated from post-season, and let’s face it, they were out of contention after the first week of the season. The club is very likely headed to their second consecutive 100-loss season, which means there is still a lot of work left to do in this rebuild.
With Salvador Perez returning in 2020 after Tommy John surgery, and young backstops Meibrys Viloria, Cam Gallagher, and Nick Dini getting a taste of big league action, the catching position looks set for next year. Adalberto Mondesi will anchor the infield at the shortstop position, and second base is probably set with either Whit Merrifield or Nicky Lopez or some combination playing there, although that could change if Merrifield is dealt. We know Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler will be in the lineup, although where exactly they will play is still a question mark.
The rest of the roster is pretty much in flux. What area of the roster needs the most attention? Where should new owner John Sherman be putting more of his resources this winter?
The million-dollar question is whether Alex Gordon returns in 2020. The Royals will decline his $23 million option and pay his $4 million buyout, but with his bat bouncing back a bit this year to nearly league-average, and with precious little outfield depth, Gordo could return on a cheap one-year deal. If he returns, it could be a situation where Gordo passes the baton to otufield prospect Khalil Lee mid-season once the young speedster is ready.
Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling have been amazing defenders, but neither has hit much in their brief Major League careers.
Brett Phillips and Bubba Starling are hitting .199/.257/.296 combined this year but on the other hand they have been worth 7 runs defensively already in just 454 innings, which is the equivalent of Lorenzo Cain's defense— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) September 7, 2019
There aren’t many other outfield prospects waiting in the wings aside from Lee. Jorge Bonifacio wasn’t called up this September which is a bad sign for his career, and while Nick Heath led all the minors in stolen bases, his bat profiles as more of a reserve role, at least initially.
Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, and Hunter Dozier could all end up in the outfield. Or maybe they don’t. Who knows? If only the Royals had a solid 2 WAR hitter with several controllable years to solidify the outfield situation a bit. The outfield has at least a dozen question marks, but at least the Royals do have several options here.
This position seemed more settled a year ago with Ryan O’Hearn raking, but a very disappointing 2019 season has opened up the position once again. O’Hearn has hit a lot better the last two weeks, and it seems he could explode if he could cut down on his 50 percent groundball rate, but there are enough questions about him that the Royals brought in another first baseman, acquiring Ryan McBroom from the Yankees. McBroom isn’t young - he’s 27 - but he has an intriguing track record with good power and improving plate discipline that could give him an extended look.
Cheslor Cuthbert’s second-half swoon has probably cost him whatever chance he had left to man the position. Hunter Dozier is still an option to move here eventually. There aren’t any good options in the minors, with Nick Pratto struggling and several years away, so the Royals may look outside the organization to address the position.
If the Royals decide to leave Hunter Dozier at third base, then the position is his, as the former first-round pick has emerged as one of the best hitters in baseball. However, the club has experimented by moving him to right field at times in the last few weeks, and it remains unsettled where Dozier will end up. Kelvin Gutierrez had a solid season in the minors, although he seemed a bit overwhelmed in a cup of coffee with the Royals. He could be the future at the position, but he’s also 25 years old and has only been solid, not spectacular, in the minor leagues. There is no third base tree, so perhaps bringing back Mike Moustakas will solve a lot of problems for the Royals.
The rotation has some stability with Jakob Junis and Brad Keller emerging as two solid starters. They won’t be confused for frontline starting pitchers, but they could be serviceable mid-rotation arms, valuable for a developing team. Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery are more seasoned veterans who you can probably pencil into the rotation, although a move to the bullpen isn’t out of the question.
The fifth spot is certainly up for grabs, with Glenn Sparkman fading down the stretch, and Eric Skoglund’s career hitting a roadbump with his PED suspension. Most likely we will see one of the club’s top pitching prospects in the rotation before long next season - Jackson Kowar, Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic could all be in the big leagues within a year, so any rotation addition this winter may not be anything more than a stopgap.
It has been easy to point the finger at the bullpen for a dreadful start in each of the last two seasons, although that may mask some other deficiencies on the roster. Veteran relievers like Brad Boxberger and Wily Peralta were brought in to stabilize an inexperienced pen, but it was the veterans who imploded more often than not. The Royals have jettisoned the underperformers, but questions remain. Ian Kennedy transitioned seamlessly to the closer’s role, although he has had some bumps in the road lately. The Royals may want him to help the young relief staff next year, although they could also trade him if the right offer comes along.
The rest of the bullpen is up for grabs with Scott Barlow, Tim Hill, Jorge Lopez, Kyle Zimmer, Josh Staumont, Kevin McCarthy, Jake Newberry, and Richard Lovelady among the names that will be considered. The dip into the bargain reliever free agent bin has not gone so well in each of the last two off-seasons, so the Royals may be hesitant to add veterans past their prime to the roster again. Still, the Royals may need to address the bullpen that has posted the sixth-worst ERA in baseball.
What area on the roster needs to be addressed the most this winter?
This poll is closed