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Lesky’s Notes: It’s finally Opening Day!

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It’s almost 10 months from the last time they played and four months after this should have happened. So yeah, I’d say we’re ready.

MLB: Kansas City Royals-Workouts Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When the Royals walked off the Twins on September 29, 2019 to give Ned Yost one last managerial victory, we had no idea we’d have to wait nearly 10 months to see them play a meaningful game again. Of course, all of *gestures wildly* this is going on and we have had to wait, but after whetting our palate last night with a rain shortened game and a West Coast opener, it’s time for the rest to take center stage. We saw it with the exhibition games, but it all feels very weird. It’s somehow both extremely familiar and also completely brand new, which I guess isn’t all that dissimilar from the start of every season with new faces in new places. What I love about Opening Day is the whole slate is wiped clean. Had a bad year last year? It’s over. You’re back to zero. Had a good year last year? Time to do it again because you’re back to zero. Opening Day is magical, and while I find myself conflicted with how to approach topics given the world’s events, I am also beyond excited to watch some Royals baseball for a couple months.

  • While he’s not on the original 30-man roster (I’ll get to that), Brady Singer is going to make the start tomorrow against the Indians. I thought he was going to make the rotation before we found out that the season was going to start without Brad Keller and Jakob Junis. Once we learned those two were going to start on the IL, it was a foregone conclusion. I am a little surprised he’s getting the start in game two, but it was either that or game three, and there isn’t a huge difference there. Even before the announcement, many wondered if it was smart to start his service clock when they just need to wait a few days in this short season to gain a full extra year of control over him. I get it, I do. But I worry about service time a lot less with pitchers and especially so with someone like Singer. For one thing, he’s almost 24. That’s not to say he’s old, but the Royals will control him through 2025 as things stand right now. That’s his age-28 season. If all goes well, that’s likely 170+ starts and 1,000+ innings. I’m just not that worried about losing out on his age-29 season after all of that. But, maybe more importantly, it’s not like they can’t just extend him anyway. Look at the deal Aaron Nola signed. He just happens to be a pitcher frequently comped to Singer and he signed a four year deal for $45 million with a team option after a season in which he finished third in the Cy Young vote. Luis Severino signed a four year, $40 million deal coming off consecutive seasons with top-10 Cy Young finishes. The point is that these guys can be signed long-term for a very affordable rate, even for a team like the Royals. Yeah, it would be easier if they’d just skip that one start and get him up late in the Detroit series or in the White Sox series back in Kansas City, but I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal.
  • I wrote last week about how inventory just doesn’t seem that important this season. Since I’ve written that, Junis and Hunter Dozier were placed on the IL and Keller was determined to not be ready to go to start. Good one, baseball gods. You got me. Still, though, two of the players who made the big league roster likely solely because they were out of options might be on their way out relatively soon. Of course I’m talking about both players received in return for Mike Moustakas, Jorge Lopez and Brett Phillips. Heck, I think there’s at least a small chance that Lopez is in his last day on the 40-man roster. While I believe the move for Singer will be to drop Oscar Hernandez as the third catcher, I half wonder if the Royals left him off the roster with the idea that they might be able to sneak Lopez through waivers after rosters were set and play had begun. Either way, I have a hard time seeing either of them making it to the 26-man roster, and both might be in trouble even before the 28-man roster. One of the oddities of this season is that players who are on the COVID IL can be replaced on the 40-man. That’s at least part of how the Royals were able to find space for Greg Holland, Erick Mejia, Tyler Zuber and Oscar Hernandez. In the case of both Keller and Junis, they’re cleared to return as far as their negative tests are concerned. We know they’re coming back. Dozier is no lock obviously, but it’s going to be a season-long juggling act with that roster, and I feel like that inventory that they’ve coveted for so long might end up being a casualty of the roster.
  • The Royals played three exhibition games, and let’s just say they didn’t exactly inspire much confidence. They walked the yard in the final two games, which is a familiar sight on this team since Cal Eldred took over (oh yes, don’t forget about my disdain for him). This is the biggest story I’m going to be watching over the first few games of the season. They simply have to throw strikes, at least in Cleveland. If they don’t, the games are going to be blowouts and unwatchable within an inning or two. With so many pitchers on the staff, I think Mike Matheny will take a little bit of time to determine who his go-to arms are. We have a pretty good idea that it’ll be Ian Kennedy, Trevor Rosenthal, Scott Barlow and maybe Josh Staumont and Tyler Zuber, but while he’s sorting through the options, I really hope it doesn’t get too ugly, I’m very excited that Ronald Bolaños made the big league roster because the stuff is definitely big league bullpen stuff. He looked nasty at times against the Cardinals on Wednesday in that exhibition game, so maybe he could be a guy to step forward. I’m also looking very closely at Richard Lovelady to bounce back from a tough big league debut that was partially marred by bad luck. I think there’s a solid bullpen in this group. It’s just a matter of finding it and quick.
  • It’s beyond ridiculous to me that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA took until about three hours ahead of first pitch yesterday to determine the postseason structure, but I kind of like it. For this season only. I hate the idea of more than half the league making the postseason in a 162-game season. I get it to some extent because there is just so much bad baseball late in the season when teams have pretty much given up and if you expand the playoffs, more teams will be contenders. For this season, it allows the best teams to maybe have a tough stretch that they just don’t have time to recover from and still make the playoffs. And this year is weird and all that, so whatever. But I really, really don’t want to see this structure moving forward even though I’m pretty confident we will. It may not be in 2021, but probably in the new CBA after 2021. Now, for the good news. The Royals have about a one in three chance to make the postseason now, which is significantly higher than the 14 percent or so chance they had before. I know that they’re not very good and if they did somehow make it, it would be on the back of a totally fluke run early or late, but come on, who doesn’t want to watch the Royals in the playoffs this year? Lloyd Christmas would be very excited that they just have a chance.