While I really don’t like the idea of eight postseason teams in each league, especially when there’s only 15 total teams in each league, I have to say that I’ve really enjoyed the playoffs so far. Maybe that’s just because I enjoy baseball and I’d watch just about anything after only getting two months worth of it, but here I am, liking the games. But let’s be real here, the ball is juiced more than it was during the regular season. I think we can all agree on that at least. Still, there have been compelling matchups and even though nobody wants to see the Astros winning (honestly, I’m not even sure Astros fans really want to see it this year), the series between the Yankees and Rays has been an awful lot of fun and Dodgers/Padres was somehow really compelling even in a sweep by the Dodgers. Watching these playoffs makes me realize that the Royals aren’t on the level of really any of these teams just yet. With the way the ball is flying, it makes me think about how annoying it would be to see the Royals bunting in the third with a runner on second because they’ve got Nicky Lopez coming up. Okay, my jealousy is over. I’ll get back to the playoffs at the end here.
- Dayton Moore spoke with the media in his year-end press conference and one talking point stood out to me as it has many others, I think, and that was his desire to add more on base percentage to the Royals lineup. And he is, of course, right. As a team, they had the fourth lowest OBP in baseball, which was largely due to having the fifth lowest walk rate. That’s not to say that we didn’t see improvement on that front. Their walk rate was actually middle of the pack at 8.8 percent from August 6th on. That’s an arbitrary date, of course, so do what you will with that information, but that’s at least encouraging. It’s the same walk rate from August 9th on, which is the day Hunter Dozier debuted for the season and he led the Royals in walks and walk rate, so maybe that’s a better spot to go from, but either way, it did get better after a historically slow start working walks. And even using that August 9th date, they still had the sixth worst OBP from that point forward, so it didn’t make much of a difference. So if the Royals want more OBP, we have to look to see what’s out there and, friends, it ain’t much. I mentioned Michael Brantley and Jurickson Profar last week. I think either would be excellent adds. I would hesitate to go more than two years on Brantley and he’ll likely have some other offers that will likely be more attractive, but I might consider really going hard on Profar. He played a really good left field for the Padres. If we leave those two aside for a minute, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Tommy LaStella are the other two guys who make some sense for this team. I’d be hesitant to go too long on either and both should have a robust enough market that the Royals might have to extend a bit for them. Outside of those four, on the free agent market, you’re looking at guys who the Royals don’t have much of a chance on even if they try. Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz, DJ LeMahieu and George Springer (though I’m told some in the ownership group are enamored with the idea of bringing him on) just don’t seem terribly likely. So those four guys I mentioned are likely it, which means a trade is a very real possibility if they’re serious about adding to this offensive group.
- We obviously established that the Royals have some issues with working counts, walks and ultimately getting on base, but I actually sort of wonder how different things would be with a free agent acquisition. The reason I say that is the roster is pretty well divided between players who chase and players who don’t, at least not that often. Based on the numbers on Baseball Savant, Whit Merrifield, Nicky Lopez, Jorge Soler, Hunter Dozier, Franchy Cordero and Nick Heath all chase at a rate below the league average. Salvador Perez, Maikel Franco and Adalberto Mondesi are all well above. Edward Olivares is up there too, but he doesn’t help make my point exactly, though it’s still only fair to mention him. The point here is that the players the Royals would likely be replacing in the theoretical 2021 lineup with free agent OBP additions would replace some combination of Nicky Lopez, Franchy Cordero and Nick Heath. Lopez hasn’t hit enough for average to have a playable OBP, so I get that maybe it wouldn’t matter with him, but still, the areas where the Royals need help as far as more patient players are guys who don’t seem likely to be replaced in 2021 while the guys who would be replaced are the ones who really don’t chase much. We obviously have no idea if that’s true talent level for guys like Cordero and Heath, so maybe they’d regress and there would be upgraded, but I just found that sort of interesting.
- I know I’ve talked about this quite a few times, but one of the craziest things to me about the Royals pitching in the farm system is the truly insane depth we see in it. I talk a lot about how Jonathan Bowlan would have been talked about in some Royals systems of the very recent past and he’s a guy we barely mention today as he finds himself behind at least five or six arms. One other pitcher who doesn’t get mentioned very often is Alec Marsh. He’s ranked number 26 on the MLB Pipeline list, number 17 on Fangraphs and number 23 on Baseball America. MLB Pipeline recently ran down the Royals summer camp and mentioned Marsh as one of the pleasant developments with the team, noting he struck out 19 batters in two outings after joining the 60-man player pool. He’s a guy I’d heard quite a bit about over the last few months with a big jump in velocity and we might be looking at another high end pitching prospect for this organization to dream on. Clint Scoles mentioned last week (or maybe the week before) that the Braves didn’t trade many, if any, of their young pitching depth and that’s allowed them to stay competitive and maybe that’s the path here, but I really believe all these arms give them a chance to trade one or two to help to fill in the gaps in the organization. At some point, there’s only so many roster spots. If Marsh is ready to make a big jump, maybe Jackson Kowar is expendable. Or maybe it’s someone else, but the point is that the Royals minor league pitching depth right now is fantastic and it’s really fun to see all those arms and dream on that moving forward.
- We’re almost down to our final four in baseball with just one series not yet decided, and one thing that the expanded postseason has done without off days is it’s given teams very difficult choices if they do get to a game five. We’re only seeing that in one series, but the Yankees and Rays both have the unenviable task of having to find a way to win their series while also being cognizant of their next potential series because one of these teams is going to win. So the Rays look like they’re going with Tyler Glasnow on two days rest while the Yankees are going with their $300+ million man in Gerrit Cole to try to lock up the series. But here’s the rub. The ALCS against the Astros starts on Sunday, which means that neither of these pitchers can go until game three at the earliest in all likelihood and even that’s on short rest. Of course you have to get there, but this lack of off days can make a difference here. As I mentioned above, nobody wants to see the Astros winning anything, so the winner of tonight’s game will be America’s favorite, even if it’s the Yankees. Looking at the teams remaining, I think I’m strangely rooting for the Dodgers to win it all, though I wouldn’t mind the Braves either. The reason I’m on the Dodgers is because after getting so close so many times, it’d be nice to see them win in spite of them having so much money that they can theoretically get any player they want. I also think I want to see Clayton Kershaw finally get a ring. I don’t know, I don’t completely understand it myself.