It’s projection season and the latest is hitting right now. This one is only for the Royals and is derived from a complex algorithm of whatever I feel like putting down and then adjusting based loosely on reality. I guess you could say they’re pulled out my ass. And so, let it be written, let it be said, the POMA projections are born. Now, let’s take a look at what has come out of my ass. Wait. No. But yes.
Offense as a Whole
I’ll give the offensive numbers first and note that there’s some improvement here over last season. They’re just better across the board in all three slash stats to the point that their projected average would have ranked in the top 10 in 2019. Of course, the OBP is still in the bottom of the middle third, which seems decent until you realize how close it is to the batting average. The SLG looks okay enough, but again, not compared to the average. The ISO of .166 would have ranked 25th, which is just one spot higher than the 2019 Royals did rank. It’s just enough to make people who weren’t paying attention to believe the offense isn’t an issue, but not enough to actually not be an issue.
This is a fairly productive group from a power perspective with 28 home runs, but poor on base percentages and low averages leave people wanting more. Without a WAR system in place (aWAR calculations are in the works, but haven’t squeezed them out just yet), you can’t see in these numbers that Salvy has some defensive struggles in his return from Tommy John. The bat doesn’t really miss a beat, though, which has its positives and negatives. All in all, this is actually a relatively strong unit offensively compared to the rest of the league where catchers, well, can’t hit.
There isn’t much power in this unit with Franco supplying pretty much all of the boom, but there are some bright spots. I see Nicky Lopez figuring it out a bit and hitting for a solid average and OBP, though he still needs to add about 30 points to his SLG to be viable beyond his cheap years. And the Royals really see something from both Ryan McBroom and Kelvin Gutierrez, which is big moving forward for them while they wait and hope on the next wave. You’d like to see more pop from both of those two as corner infielders, but they hold it down pretty well. Ryan O’Hearn starts last year like he spent most of 2019, though, which is a bit of a bummer and Franco is just good enough to keep his job most of the year but not good enough to get traded or tendered a contract after the season.
The starting outfield at the start of the year is pretty darn solid in two spots. Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield will spend some time on the infield and Dozier on the IL, but they’re mostly utilized in the outfield here and put together very solid seasons. And Jorge Soler just keeps on keepin’ on with a whole lot of power. Alex Gordon is fine in his final season, but not good enough to hold off Khalil Lee late in the year who shows plus defense, a little extra base pop and a bunch of speed. When he comes up, he pushes Whit to left field and plays center mostly. Dozier’s IL stint opens up some time for Heath to play center and push Lee to right field, so it’s a bit of a revolving door. You might notice no Brett Phillips here, and that’s sadly not an oversight. The POMA projections just don’t see it happening. All in all, the outfield is a definite bright spot for the team in 2020.
There are some other offensive performers throughout the season, but POMA doesn’t like to single out the smaller PA and pitcher plate appearances throughout the season. But it does project a robust .114/.131/.161 line for those additional 200 or so plate appearances. Woof indeed.
Pitching Staff as a Whole
The POMA projections see some legitimate progress on the pitching staff, led by two young starters. More strikeouts, fewer walks and a big time drop in ERA down to a closer to respectable 4.66. It’s not all amazing for the pitchers and the win-loss record isn’t what you’d call good or great or average or below average or even bad, but there’s certainly progress and that’s what matters, especially when it’s the young guys leading the way.
These seven are the main pitchers who see action in the rotation with a few others getting spot starts here and there. Overall, it’s not too shabby. POMA projects Foster Griffin to win the fifth starter job and ultimately lose it to Brady Singer, but he’ll continue to pick up starts on the I-29 shuttle when Danny Duffy misses a few starts in the middle of the year. Brad Keller continues his FIP-beating pitching with a few more strikeouts and a few fewer walks, but still not enough improvement to be concerned a top two or probably even three pitcher. The big news is obviously that POMA sees Singer and Kowar as above average starters from the get-go. Kowar flashes the strikeouts while both show good enough control to make it and limit hits pretty well. Mike Montgomery is probably the big disappointment here while Jakob Junis rebounds nicely from a very rough 2019 season.
By the end of the year, POMA sees an above average to maybe even a good bullpen. Projections can’t predict trades, so Ian Kennedy gets a full season in Royals blue even if that isn’t likely if he’s putting up these numbers. But Scott Barlow continues to show he belongs and then is joined by Daniel Tillo and Tyler Zuber mid-season to replace a struggling Trevor Rosenthal and Greg Holland. Add in some solid middle relief work from Glenn Sparkman with numbers torpedoed by some bad starts and this is a bullpen that can go five or six deep, which is a welcome change from the past couple seasons. And, of course, there’s Eric Skoglund getting lit up because it’s not Royals baseball without that.
The Pythagorean Record for this group is a very nice 69-93, but you can see that they underperform by a touch to finish the year at 65-97 according to the POMA projections. But hey, a breakout here or there or an earlier turn to one of the young guys could turn this all on its head and lead to a 71 or even a 72-win season. Dare to dream.