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Lesky’s Notes: Competitive-ish baseball has been played

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The Royals have won every single intrasquad game they’ve played so far. Might be time to crown them champions of the Royals Summer League.

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Workouts
Jul 7, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, United States; Kansas City Royals shortstop Humberto Arteaga (2) tags out infielder Bobby Witt Jr. (90) during workouts at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In two weeks, the Royals are scheduled to take on the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game that counts in the Major League Baseball standings. I’ll write a series preview for that and everything. Of course, they have to find a way to get there first. This past week’s issues with both testing and with positive cases potentially piling up quickly make people rightfully wonder whether or not they’ll even start the season. I’ve said this all along, and I’ll stand by this that they will start the season, but I have my doubts that they’ll find a way to finish it. And again, I’ll remind you that me saying they will start the season is not me saying they should start the season. I’m honestly not sure if they should or shouldn’t, but they’ve come this far and there’s pretty much no way they’re turning back now with less than two weeks before the Yankees take on the Nationals and the Dodgers take on the Giants on July 23. Hopefully by the time we meet back here next Friday, all of the Royals positive tests will have their requisite negatives to be able to return to Summer Camp and the team will be virus-free.

  • He’s really only in camp for development purposes, but man if Bobby Witt, Jr. didn’t make a splash in his first couple days of intrasquad games. He found himself playing third base next to Adalberto Mondesi quite a bit and had some really good looking swings and solid hits during intrasquad games when things started up this week. Sometime last year, I was talking to a scout who had been watching the Royals team down in Arizona and he told me that Witt looked so good at shortstop that if he and Mondesi were on the same team in the future that Mondesi would be the one who would need to move. So far, that hasn’t been the case, but of course Mondesi is the big leaguer and Witt is the prospect who is a fair ways away from the big leagues, but seeing those two on the left side together got me thinking about the possibilities there, and from a defensive perspective, that would be a left-handed pitcher’s dream. Really it would be any pitcher’s dream to have a couple of vacuums covering the left side of the infield. And you can sort of dream a little when you see Witt’s swing and him hitting the ball hard in Kauffman Stadium that he could turn out to be an Alex Bregman-type third baseman as a guy who really could and maybe should be playing shortstop, but hits enough to handle third and handle it well. Look, it’s not even really a week of workouts and intrasquad games, but it’s fun to be able to dream a little bit on the future in a season where we’ve lost almost all of the minor league fun. I will say that if whatever fall league they have in mind happens that Witt would be a heck of a candidate to be a part of it just to get some competitive plate appearances.
  • It doesn’t feel right to discuss a positive COVID-19 test with baseball implications, but that’s the reality we live in right now and after both Brad Keller and Ryan O’Hearn tested positive, it does have an impact on the roster for Opening Day. With just two weeks to go, it’s hard to envision Keller being ready to throw more than 50-60 pitches and that’s if he gets back in the next few days. That probably elevates Danny Duffy to get the nod on July 24th, but also might have an impact down the staff. It makes Brady Singer’s bid for a rotation spot a little easier. It might mean we haven’t seen the end of Jorge Lopez as a starter just yet. And it might mean Foster Griffin will get a big league opportunity since he’s on the 40-man roster already. Or maybe the Royals decide to carry 17 pitchers to start and work with openers and long relievers in Keller’s rotation spot. It’s hard to say just yet what it means, but it does have real implications moving forward. With O’Hearn, I mentioned last week about the lack of left-handed starters the team would face. This actually provides a heck of an opportunity for Ryan McBroom. Even if it’s just a few days, he has a chance to take advantage of an Indians staff before the starters are built up and a Tigers staff that isn’t likely to be very good in that first week of the season. With every game meaning so much more, maybe he finds a way to stay in the lineup beyond O’Hearn’s absence. Of course all of this is assuming that they’re out of camp for a relatively short period of time, which is also no guarantee.
  • Let’s look at that schedule a little closer and pretend like they’re going to play all 60 games because, hey, it could happen. The key in a 60-game season is a fast start, though I’m not entirely sure how many games constitutes the start of the season. Maybe 15 games? Dayton Moore always talks about not making any decisions until the 40 game mark, and that would be after about 15 games this year. The Indians are still starting pitching rich, even after dealing both Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer from last year’s team, so starting with them might be a benefit to the Royals as starters won’t be fully built up. The Tigers should be better, but nobody would confuse them for good. Then they have three against the White Sox and four against the Cubs. The White Sox have accumulated quite a bit of talent, including quite a few new faces including Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion. Are they good? Maybe. A lot of teams with new pieces take a little while to figure things out. That’s time they don’t have this year, so if the Royals are lucky, they’re still trying to find their chemistry. Maybe that’s a series win (though I don’t think I’ll be predicting that when the preview comes out). And then the four against the Cubs brings us through 14 games, which we’ll call close enough. That’s a stretch where the Royals could easily go 3-11 or maybe something like 8-6 or 9-5. Not to cheat here, but after that, the Royals play the Reds and Twins over their next 14 games. If they can start 8-6 and come out of that next 14-game stretch at something like 15-13, they might have a shot to do some damage. I’d bet on them being something like 11-17, but hey, we can dream, right?
  • This is kind of a general “state of baseball television” rant here, but Major League Baseball continues to shoot itself in the foot with the way they handle their streaming. It’s bad enough that people in certain states are blacked out from watching multiple teams even though they’re literally hours away from a big league ballpark. But this year, when they don’t even have the option to go to that ballpark, they’ll continue to be blacked out on MLB.tv. What a joke. And don’t even get me started on the pricing, which is roughly half the cost of a full season. You might not be great at math, but even so, you know that half of 162 is 81, which is more than 60, which is the number of games they’re playing. I don’t know how much of the issue is incompetence and how much is greed, but I suspect it’s more of the former than people want to realize even though the latter plays a big role. The other thing that’s been bothering me, and this might be another issue entirely that they don’t have control over, is why Fox Sports Kansas City isn’t taking the opportunity to televise the intrasquad games. Look, I really enjoy watching some old Royals postseason wins. It’s fun to have seen them finally topple the Yankees and now they’re on to the 1985 ALCS, but the video quality isn’t great and I’d honestly rather be watching Bobby Witt, Jr. look great on the big league field or Adalberto Mondesi glide into second with a double off Scott Barlow. Just missed opportunities all around it’s very frustrating.