Watching the playoffs clearly has people thinking about how the Royals match up and what they need to do to go from a distant fourth in the AL Central to in the conversation in the next couple years. Obviously it would help them if MLB continued to allow eight teams per league to make it, but the reality is the eighth seed isn’t likely to really be able to compete for a championship. Obviously a lot depends on the arms the Royals are developing as to when they can compete for that championship, but I really believe that the fate of the organization lies in their hitting development. They’ve thrown so much spaghetti against the wall with their literally dozens of pitching prospects that you have to assume they’ll find some arms there. If they can find some bats from a farm system largely believed to be devoid of them, that’s where the difference will lie. Can Kyle Isbel and Khalil Lee be big league contributors? Will Nick Pratto, Seuly Matias and/or MJ Melendez ever hit enough to be key cogs in a lineup? Can they find a diamond in the rough to break through and be a quality big league hitter? Maybe that’s Brewer Hicklen or someone even more random like Jimmy Govern. I don’t know, I’m literally just naming guys to come to mind, but that’s where the difference will be. And of course, there’s guys like Bobby Witt, Jr. and Erick Pena who could be the stars they’ll need. If that new offensive development in the organization can work, they’ll be just fine. If it doesn’t, well they better figure out which pitchers to trade for guys who don’t need development.
- It’s tough to come by first hand information from anything outside of the big leagues this season, so we sort of have to rely on people two or three levels removed for any real insight. One scout I spoke with, and this is why I’m not worried about the pitching in the least, told me that the Royals pitching at the alternate site was being talked about all around baseball. Daniel Lynch looks like the real deal with the floor of a top tier closer and the ceiling of a legit ace. Jackson Kowar has improved his curve to the point that it’s not only a usable pitch, but above average, which is scary when you think about the fact that his changeup is probably the best in the organization. He had heard great things about Jonathan Bowlan and Alec Marsh who are hardly even mentioned in this crop of players. The one concern, and this isn’t even really a concern, is that there are quite a few redundancies. Kris Bubic and Austin Cox are vaguely similar pitchers. Kowar and Zach Haake are vaguely similar pitchers. But when you have more than a dozen legitimate starting pitching prospects, you’re going to find redundancies. That just gives them an opportunity to use some of them in a trade. I know I mentioned Kowar last week, but it doesn’t have to be him necessarily. He’s just the kind of high octane arm with the draft pedigree that gets attention. There are times when it’s easy to get bogged down following the one team you follow and think they’re special for this reason or that reason only to find out that every team has a prospect like the one you’re so high on, but this Royals organization truly is at the top in terms of pitching and that’s from around baseball, so take comfort in that, Royals fans.
- I’m pretty sure this is a topic every offseason, but I really wonder if 2021 is the year the Royals move Danny Duffy back to the bullpen. I’m not sure how many people even remember this, but I asked Duffy back in spring 2014 where he preferred to pitch and he told me he liked the bullpen better and the Royals knew that. Obviously things can change, but that’s always stuck me through every good start and bad that he’s had since then and now I’m wondering if it’s not the convergence of the perfect storm for it to finally happen. For one, he’s now coming off three straight 4+ ERA seasons with two of them much closer to 5.00 than 4.00. For another, it’s the last year of his contract so if they have thoughts of trading him in July, being a potentially elite or at least very good reliever would likely make more movable. For a third point, they actually have rotation options that they can feel good about in Brad Keller, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic with the aforementioned bunch on the way. And for a third, with all those young pitchers, I could see them wanting to bring in a veteran to kind of guide the young arms and maybe they don’t see Duffy in that way, so they actually need the rotation spot for someone else. The issue with that from a free agent standpoint is the starting pitching market is thin to say the least. But there are options. Mike Minor is a guy who had a tough year, but they could bring him back. Rick Porcello had a down year with the Mets but the peripherals were very good and he’d be another guy who limits home runs extremely well. Or maybe they go with a higher upside guy like Garrett Richards. The options aren’t great, but the Duffy question is one we’ll likely be talking about the rest of the offseason and into spring.
- I know that Max touched on the yearly arbitration estimates that were put out by MLB Trade Rumors yesterday, but I wanted to get into that a bit myself. First of all, I love these estimates because I like to do my own estimates and I like to see how close I get to these, which tend to be very accurate. Knowing the Royals likely need to protect Khalil Lee, Seuly Matias and maybe Yefri Del Rosario while needing to reinstate Foster Griffin and Kyle Zimmer from the 60-day IL (or 45-day or whatever the hell it is this year) and only really losing Ian Kennedy and Greg Holland from the 40-man roster, I think they’ll have to non-tender a couple guys. I agree Glenn Sparkman (who I didn’t mention as needing to be added from the 60-day because of this) and Mike Montgomery are likely gone. I think Kevin McCarthy might be on his last legs with the organization as well. The Royals could have called him up quite a few times toward the end of the year and he just never got that call, so even though he’s cheap, he’ll no longer be versatile in 2021 as he’ll be out of options, so I could see him getting the heave ho as well. So that part is pretty straight forward, but I also like to pick out a few guys who might get non-tendered by other teams who the Royals could pick up. It’s a little tougher this year to pick out the possibilities because we really don’t know how cheap teams are going to go after losing the revenue they did, but I see guys like Kyle Schwarber (he’d be traded before non-tendered probably), Mitch Haniger, Tommy Pham, Danny Santana (no thanks), Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and maybe Eddie Rosario are varying levels of interesting potential non-tenders around baseball.
- I just want to end on something that’s sort of anecdotal, but does go back to the potential addition of Seuly Matias to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline. I don’t know if you guys saw, but Brewer HIcklen did a day in the life video of fall camp and it was a pretty fun watch. I enjoyed all of it, but two things stuck out to me. One is that he and Matias seem to be pretty close, which maybe isn’t fair of me, but I don’t think I’d have expected that. The second thing came at about the six minute mark in the video. Matias hit an opposite field home run at Kauffman Stadium on a pitch that he appeared to flick his wrists and hit what looked like a popup or a medium depth fly ball. That dude has some insane power. From watching videos and seeing some pictures, it looks like he’s changed his body a bit and he’s really starting to look like he could be an absolute monster. Of course, his ability to make contact will really dictate if he is a monster or not, but with how he progressed during the summer camp and now how he’s looking in the fall, things like that swing in the video are why I think the Royals choose to protect him and honestly could impact how they approach the long-term future of Jorge Soler. That part is a little bit off in the future, so for now, just watch a Royals prospect go oppo in a big ballpark.