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Royals Review Roundtable: The season is here and it looks different

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Baseball is back, so we assembled our writers to talk about it!

MLB: JUL 20 Astros at Royals Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After what seems like the longest rain delay in baseball history, the game returned this week. While things may look a lot different on the field, the game is essentially the same. We gathered our writers to discuss the 60-games season.

How do you feel about baseball returning for a shortened season?

David Lesky: I’m still not sure they should even be playing, but they are and it’s what we have for as long as we have it, so it’s just sort of what we have to deal with this season. I’m not sure how many people will ever recognize this year as anything more than a glorified scrimmage season, but the winner of the World Series will still hang a flag in their stadium next year and they’ll still get rings and they’ll still be in the record books. It’ll count, for better or for worse.

Shaun Newkirk: It doesn’t bother me, even if the season is a bit cheapened. I have no issue calling the eventual World Series champion the champion because everyone gets the same opportunity and the playoffs are unchanged. I’m obviously glad there will be baseball and that players will get paid but more importantly team front office staff won’t be at a risk of further layoffs/pay cuts. I just hope they can get the testing right and not have to shutdown because they didn’t have their act together.

Bradford Lee: Given the circumstances, I think the 60 game season is a good idea. I still have questions about what MLB is going to do if one or more teams has a Covid outbreak. It’ll be nice to have something “normal” in our lives again and baseball has often filled that void. I’m disappointed that there is no minor league baseball, even a shortened season of 45-60 games. I say, play ball, I’m getting tired of seeing the same game re-runs on ESPN.

Minda Haas Kuhlmann: Playing sports right now is not inherently wrong, necessarily. But playing sports without any real attempt at reining in a raging global pandemic is. The NBA is going to be a fascinating comparison, as it has differentiated from how MLB and the NFL have bulldozed forward in so many ways. Isolating players from the outside world may be a social difficulty, but it is already showing results - as in, negative test results for everyone - in the NBA. If other sports could tighten things up and be good models for effective Stay Home/Wear a Mask/Wash Your Hands habits, some social good might come out of the season. I will watch, and I will hope the worst somehow manages to not happen. But it’s 2020. If we’ve learned any one single thing, it’s that the worst always finds a way.

Hokius: I’ve written pretty extensively about my feelings on the subject. I think it’s a mistake but it’s happening with or without my approval so I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as possible, root for as much wackiness as possible (especially if it gets the Royals into playoff contention) and hope I never find any reason to say, “I told you so” about any of this.

Max Rieper: I’m still in wait-and-see mode. I’m glad to see the game back, and I think baseball has taken about as many precautions as you can reasonably expect. There were some early snafus, but there don’t seem to be any outbreaks yet. Hopefully it stays that way because I have a feeling baseball will do whatever it can to finish the season. I hate expanding the playoffs, but I’m basically treating this year like that season of Dallas where it turns out it was all a dream.

Ryan Landreth: Love the short season. I love chaos in sports, and this should yield plenty of it. Plus it helps the Royals immensely.

Josh Keiser: I’m pumped. I tried to watch golf last weekend and decided to change out a toilet in my house because it seemed more interesting than golf. Spoiler alert: It was. I am ecstatic that we get baseball.

The short season is going to be really weird for sure but I’m excited to see how team’s adapt. I think this will be a lot like March Madness in its sprint-ness as opposed to the marathon we’re used to seeing. And that is exciting because my team is the underdog. If the Royals were expected to contend this year, I’d probably be in the “sure go ahead and play 60 games but if my team doesn’t win there will be an asterisk on that trophy” crowd. But this format is a garden for underdog stories and I think we’ll see at least a few this year, which will be cool even if one of them is not our Boys in Blue.

Obviously the circumstances that it’s happening are not good, but at the end of the day, it’s a bit of joy/normalcy that we get to experience in a year where those are in short supply. If we go into November and the only action we’ve got is the election, I will be a very sad human being.

Jesse Anderson: I feel incredibly mixed on the subject. On the one hand, I’ve missed baseball. Like, really, really missed baseball. It’s the only sport I follow with any form of regularity and the lack of baseball the past few months has really hurt, so I’m super excited. On the other hand, I’m afraid that it’s just not going to work, and is almost futile to attempt to do a season with the pandemic still ongoing. I don’t believe the season can be done safely, and if even one player/coach/umpire/player’s family member falls severely ill or worse, it will have not been worth it.

What will it take for the Royals to have a successful season this year?

Hokius: First and foremost, no deaths or long-term ill effects from the virus. And that’s basically it. It would be cool if they got hot and snuck into the playoffs but after the drubbing they received during the exhibition games I’m not counting on it. Ordinarily, I’d be looking for progress with prospects but with the sample size being so small it’s impossible to say anything definitive about them regardless of how well they play.

Matthew LaMar: The Royals simply need better pitching. It’s safe to say that their defense will be good, and while the offense isn’t likely to be particularly good, having Salvador Perez is a pretty huge offensive upgrade over what they’ve had at catcher last year. But over the last two years, the Royals have had the second-worst pitching ERA (5.07) and the fourth-worst FIP (4.81) in all of baseball. In practice, this rests on the shoulders of Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Tyler Zuber, and whichever other prospects make their debuts this year, because Lord knows that the likes of Jorge Lopez, Glenn Sparkman, and Heath Fillmyer are not the answer.

Jesse Anderson: How do we define “successful”? I’d say this year it’s more about health and progress of some of the younger players on the roster than anything. Sure, I’d love to see them win 31 games and squeak into a playoff spot, but I don’t see it happening. Seeing one or two of Bubba Starling, Richard Lovelady, Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan McBroom, Nicky Lopez, Jorge Lopez and Josh Staumont take a step forward and look more like competent core pieces and less like DFA material would be wonderful. Seeing some innings from Brady Singer or Jackson Kowar or some of the others that are competitive and non-injury filled would also be nice. Seeing Franchy Cordero become an every day player would also be amazing for what they gave up, but that’s asking a lot.

Bradford Lee: I’d be ecstatic if they ended with a .500 record or better. My expectations bar is pretty low.

Craig Brown: They really need to stop having so many guys test positive for Covid. So if they could end the year without anyone on the IL due to the virus, that feels like a victory. Otherwise, staying ahead of the Tigers in the Central would signify success. The bar is low.

Max Rieper: They have better pitching depth this year, and they’ll need improvements there to avoid getting buried in the standings early as they have the last two seasons. There could be some reinforcements by mid-season if Jackson Kowar and/or Daniel Lynch get some big league action. But I have zero expectations on this year, it’s such a weird season.

Josh Keiser: From a playoff contender perspective, I think the pitching has to be much improved while the offense experiences little to no regression. And I’m not really sure which one of those is less likely. It seems like the rotation will largely be the same so the progress there will need to come from player progression. Keller, Junis, and Singer need to take steps forward while Duffy and Montgomery have solid seasons for the rotation to even live up to other contenders. That seems pretty unlikely at this point. The catalyst to all of this might be Mike Matheny. The Royals starting pitchers pitched the 15th-most innings in 2019 while having the 8th-highest ERA. That tells me that Ned left them out there to “figure it out” way more than he should. If Matheny gives them less of a leash, I have to think the cumulative ERA comes down. I think this offense will largely be about the same as 2019, which scored the fifth-lowest runs in the league. That hurts to type.

From an overall successful season perspective, I think they need to start trimming the fat. Guys on the bubble of the roster need to prove they are part of the future by taking a step forward, or taking a step out the door. If the Royals are able to make some cuts, find some guys to stick, and move forward with them to be the veterans for the incoming prospect wave, then I’ll call this a success.

If we’re at the eve of Opening Day next season and there are multiple skill positions that we aren’t able to say what the obvious plan is moving forward like we are now, this season should be considered a failure.

Which prospects should get called up for big league action this year?

Matthew LaMar: I have my doubts that Brady Singer should start in the big leagues, but I guess it’s not like the Royals have a lot of depth right now. Otherwise, I’d like to see Tyler Zuber, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Foster Griffin, and Nick Heath. It’s not the worst thing in the world to get everyone some playing time this year so we can dispense with the service time nonsense and see the best team come out of the gate right away in 2021.

Josh Keiser: Contention is the variable here. If we enter September within five games of the playoffs, I’m not super interested in messing with the roster as they’d obviously be doing something right already. At that point I’d expect Brady Singer, Tyler Zuber, Gabe Speier, and Richard Lovelady to have contributed at some point. If the Royals are not contending by then, screw it, send ‘em all. Let’s get this party started and by party I mean teeth grinding (which sounds like a pretty terrible party, to be honest). Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Asa Lacy, Franchy Cordero, Kris Bubic, Austin Cox, Ronald Bolaños, Nick Heath, Khalil Lee, Kyle Isbel. Complete overhaul of the roster. My body is ready.

Jesse Anderson: With how short the season is I’m not really big on the idea of calling guys up just to call guys up. I wrote about Bobby Witt, Jr. the other day, but him seeing playing time this year that isn’t forced by injuries/illness and isn’t just a cup-of-coffee non-relevant to his service time (September callup) would just be absurd. It’s 60 games, the Royals aren’t going to compete. Let’s let those guys stew another season honing their skills against one another and (maybe?) a fall league later this year if things calm down.

Max Rieper: Brady Singer is ready. I’d like to see a bit of Kowar and Lynch, and maybe Bubic. Khalil Lee gets a bit overlooked now, but I think he could be starting by the end of the year. I’m a hard no on Bobby Witt, Jr. for now, but I am encouraged by how he looked in camp. I wouldn’t mind if they found a way to get Asa Lacy on the mound this year.

Craig Brown: Since Brady Singer is already scheduled to make his debut on Saturday, I’ll resist the lure of Bobby Witt, Jr. and say other player who is considered a true prospect will be up. It just doesn’t make sense to start the service clock on all of the prospects in a shortened season where a fourth place finish will be considered a success.

Bradford Lee: Singer, Bubic, Austin Cox. Maybe give Witt a few games late in the year.

Hokius: I’m opposed to artificial crowd noise. Let the players do something creative or let them do nothing. No amount of artificial noise is going to make this all seem “normal” and I’d rather get to experience something unique.

Bradford Lee: I’m all for some artificial noise. I even like the idea of putting inflatable dolls in the stands.

Josh Keiser: After watching the silent intrasquad games and the artificial noise exhibitions, I am a big time artificial noise guy. I hate silence and the noises of baseball are not going to be enough to distract me from my inner thoughts like the familiar hum of the crowd can. I also enjoy the new element of appreciating how quick on the draw the person controlling the noise is and I would like StatCast numbers on that by the end of the week please. These heroes need to be recognized and appreciated.

Matthew LaMar: Yes on artificial crowd noise, but only ambient noise. It is flat-out weird to hear a nonexistent crowd cheer a double or a good defensive play or whatever. It will never not be weird.

Craig Brown: Yes to artificial crowd noise. Yes to the ballpark organ. Yes to walkup music. No to every other obnoxious sound played out of the speakers at The K.

Max Rieper: Yes, but be creative. I want to hear audio unique to each stadium. I know Chewy hasn’t been at the K in years, but let’s hear his “Lemonade, Lemonade, Lemonaaaaaaaaade!” again.

Poll

Artificial crowd noise or no artificial crowd noise?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Artificial crowd noise
    (59 votes)
  • 38%
    No artificial crowd noise
    (37 votes)
96 votes total Vote Now