The Royals “expect to win”, according to General Manager Dayton Moore, but according to the most recent ZIPS projections, they still have work to do on the roster. Dan Szymborski at Fangraphs released his 2021 ZIPS projections for the Royals this week, and as you might expect, the pitching looks pretty solid going forward, but the hitting lacks the kind of depth the Royals will need to truly be a winning team.
Dan begins by noting the Royals aren’t terrible, but they don’t appear to be on their way to contending any time soon.
The Royals are not a dreadful team. They likely won’t lose 100 games or find themselves setting any horrifying, ineptitude-based records like when the 2019 Orioles allowed 75% of the home runs hit in baseball history. But they’re a phenomenally uninspiring club and like most Royals squads since owner Ewing Kauffman passed away in 1993, one that looks forever stuck in the limbo between not really being close to contending and only half-heartedly rebuilding.
Let’s start with the pitching, which Dan describes as “goodish? Goodishish?” He doesn’t think they have a ton of upside, but have a high floor with a good chance to be solid. He highlights Carlos Hernandez as a guy that may exceed the numbers due to holding his own after a big jump up from A-ball last year.
ZIPS projects many of the young college pitchers from the 2018 draft to have solid careers, although Brad Keller is the only Royals starting pitcher projected to have an ERA below 4.50 next year. ZIPS projects Brady Singer to be a 1.7 WAR pitcher, very solid for a second season, but lefty Kris Bubic actually slightly outperforms him with a lower ERA and 1.9 WAR (when adjusted for playing time). ZIPS projects the Royals to get a very solid return from the Tim Hill deal, with ZIPS fairly high on Ronald Bolaños long-term.
2021 ZiPS Projections: Kansas City Royals https://t.co/wREQb7GizP— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) November 24, 2020
The hitting, well that’s a different story. Dan notes that is not a good sign for a rebuilding time when the best ZIPS projections are for the oldest hitters in the lineup - Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler, and Salvador Perez. Adalberto Mondesi is the exception, as the most valuable Royals hitter overall at a projected 2.7 WAR (when adjusted for playing time). Mondesi had a tough season in 2019, although he finished on a tear, but ZIPS projects him to hit about his career numbers - .254/.289/.431 with 15 home runs and 46 steals. His top comp is former Royals shortstop Kurt Stillwell, which points to him more being a useful starter at shortstop than a future superstar as some have predicted.
Only four hitters - Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, and Hunter Dozier - project to be league average, according to OPS+. And there doesn’t seem to be much help on the way. Bobby Witt, Jr. is the only other young hitter projected to put up more than 5 WAR in his career. Nick Pratto’s top comp is former minor leaguer and NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.
ZIPS is a computer projection system using multi-year statistics based on historical aging curves to project future performance. You can read more about what goes into ZIPS here.
What ZIPS projections stand out to you?