I’ll get to that question posited in the title of this week’s column in a second, but first I’d like to point out that we are a mere week and a half from the winter meetings beginning (virtually) and we still have no earthly idea if there’s going to be a designated hitter in the National League. I talked about this last week with the Royals and Jorge Soler’s situation, and it remains true. And it’s playing at least some part of holding up the free agent market, which has pretty much just been the Braves signing pitchers to a one-year deal and the Blue Jays seemingly in on every player in the world. I feel like this is becoming a repeat, but at some point you’d assume that things will pick up. Theoretically at least. The rumor around some people in the game I’ve talked to is that a decision is coming soon and it’ll be with the universal DH, but it’s seriously ridiculous that they haven’t made that decision yet.
- Okay, so who is Angel Zerpa? Well the easy answer is that he’s one of the newest pitchers on the Royals 40-man roster, but you knew that. Dayton Moore mentioned his name with some of the team’s best pitching prospects, which seems like...a reach. I’m not a prospect guru the way someone like Clint Scoles is, but I do my Royals prospects pretty well and I’d honestly just heard of Zerpa before without a whole lot beyond that. The general idea that I knew is that he was a pitchability lefty, but I guess the stuff has played up? I still don’t really know. Almost every year, the Royals seem to protect at least one player who is a huge surprise and seemingly makes no sense. I’d kind of convinced myself that this year’s would be Jake Brentz, the lefty who can hit the upper-90s out of the bullpen, but it wasn’t to be. The one thing about the Royals that I think is in their favor is that they do seem to have a very good handle on guys who are going to get selected in the Rule 5 and guys who won’t. That’s how they didn’t protect Whit Merrifield multiple times but also didn’t lose him. There are many others that seemed odd at the time but didn’t come back to hurt them. Some might argue Elvis Luciano was a big miss, but I’d argue it was a miss in a big-time different way, which actually does make it different for the relevance of the argument that they know what they’re doing here. And with Zerpa, my guess is that they really were in danger of losing him and didn’t have much fear that they’d lose guys like Brentz or Seuly Matias, who I thought would get protected this season. Anyway, Zerpa does have a chance to pitch in full season ball in 2021, so we’ll hopefully get an idea of what he can be pretty quickly. I will say that if he really has developed into that big of a prospect, that’s a huge testament to the updates the organization has made with their development.
- As I mentioned above, the market has yet to really materialize, but one thing we’ve seen with three big signings is that the one-year deal might actually be market value or even a bit above. The Blue Jays retaining Robbie Ray for $8 million for one year and the Braves giving $11 million and $15 million to Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton respectively are both larger sums than I think anyone expected. That might change the calculus on Maikel Franco. I wrote back in September that he could command a salary in arbitration of $8 million or so and maybe even a bit higher. Because of that, it might make sense to non-tender him in spite of his solid season in Kansas City. And as more and more thoughts came out about the market this winter, that seemed to be the most likely path with him. I still think it is, but the reason I was so on board with non-tendering him was that I thought the one-year deal for some guys might be cheap enough that they’d be able to replace Franco for far less or even retain Franco for far less. And I do think they still can, but if these one-year deals continue to be for more than expected, I do sort of wonder if that’ll change their decision making process on him. Personally, given what the Royals have on the horizon, I’d maybe try get Franco on something like a two-year deal for $12 million or so, but I’m not really sure if the Royals are on board with that idea.
- Projection season is always fun for a couple reasons. For one, I really like projections. It’s fun to see what the algorithms say about the team moving forward and I just like stuff like that because I’m a massive nerd, which I think many or even most of you can relate to. For another, though, I love the overreaction about what an algorithm thinks about people’s favorite team as if it means literally anything more than a data point in analysis. Anyway, the Royals version of ZiPS from Dan Szymborski came out this week, and, well, it’s not horrible. The projection kind of shows what I think most believe. The 2021 Royals could be far worse, but everyone has to hope that better times are ahead or else it’s going to be a long few years. The projections really show what we already know about the offense. They need a bat or two or maybe three. The top of the offensive roster is solid as far as role players go, but they really need Salvador Perez to not be one of their two or three best hitters. Where I struggle to find much meaning in any projection this season is with the minor leaguers who didn’t get any or much big league time in 2020. You’re talking about a system that is based on numbers not having any data on guys for more than a year. That’s not to say that someone like Daniel Lynch wouldn’t post a 5.30 ERA in his rookie season in 2021 if he were called up, but it is to say that if he had been able to pitch in the minors at all this season that the projections would have that much more information to work with. Personally, I’d take the under on Brad Keller’s ERA, the over on Jakob Junis and I’d argue that the bullpen looks better on paper than the projections, but either way, it’s fun to see them come out for the reasons I mentioned above.
- There’s not really much else to talk about right now with the Royals, so I just want to take this Thanksgiving week opportunity to thank everyone for following along and reading. Maybe you found me when I started writing for Royals Review over the last couple of years or you remember my original blog that I started back like a decade ago (yeesh, feeling old with that), but however you found me, I really do thank you for keeping up with me and all that good stuff. Here’s hoping we’re about to get to watch some better Royals baseball again over the next year or two and I get to write about fun stuff like winning again soon enough.