I don’t know if you remember the summer of 2013. I barely do. The technological and political changes since then have made it seem roughly five forevers ago. President Obama had just been elected for a second term. The iPhone 5 was the newest thing on the block. Mythbusters was still going strong. Netflix still sent you DVDs if you wanted. I had just graduated from college. It was a time.
However, I do remember some very serious angst surrounding one Mike Moustakas. The former top prospect had debuted in 2011, only to not hit very well in 2011 and 2012. Then 2013 came along and, whooooo boy, Moose was bad. On July 5, Moustakas went 0 for 4 against the Oakland Athletics to lower his triple slash to .211/.270/.316. He wasn’t getting on base. He wasn’t hitting for power. He was a mess, and the Royals were a mess at 40-43 despite real expectations for the first time in forever.
Today, Obama hasn’t been president in four years, there have been too many iPhones to count, I am closer to 10 years away from my college graduation than the graduation itself, and Mythbusters is no more. And yet, just like the lingering DVD service that Netflix offers and no one uses, there are disappointments in the Kansas City Royals position player ranks.
As a whole, the Royals have been awful at the plate. This mostly stems from a team .280 on base percentage that is precisely as awful as you think it is. Sure, they’ve been a little unlucky, but they have a team walk rate of 4.3%, which is so bad that it is honestly impressive. You can’t score if you don’t get on base.
So, yes, the Royals offense is a problem. Obviously. They have scored three or fewer runs in seven of their 11 games so far. They have a bunch of bad hitters. But we all know this, and I’ve written about it, and we won’t rehash what doesn’t need rehashing.
But I think that it’s worth pointing out that this year’s offense isn’t really a problem the Royals need to worry about in the long term. Yes, it’s a problem, but it isn’t a problem.
Just think back to Moose: in 2013 and 2014 when Moose was sucking it up and looking more and more like a bust, that was a gigantic problem because Moustakas was supposed to be a cornerstone of the Great New Royals and he just wasn’t. And when Eric Hosmer went through his struggles in 2012 and 2014, well, everyone wrung their hands. And when Lorenzo Cain couldn’t stay on the field in 2012 and 2013 and wasn’t a good hitter, well, that was disappointing.
What’s not really disappointing is seeing Bubba Starling, Brett Phillips, Franchy Cordero, Maikel Franco, and Alex Gordon flail around at the plate. Well, it is somewhat disappointing, of course. I really want to see Phillips or Starling succeed, for instance, and watching Gordon waste away at the end of his career isn’t fun.
However, it’s just really not the same. The 2020 Royals probably only have one or two position players who will still be on the team when they next make the playoffs: Adalberto Mondesi and maybe Nicky Lopez. Everyone else is, well, a placeholder. Other than Mondesi, there’s not a single position player on the roster who is a blue-chip prospect whose success or failures really matters to the long-term health of the franchise.
To put it another way: in 2009, when Mike Jacobs, Yuniesky Betancourt, Mark Teahen, Jose Guillen, and Willie Bloomquist were wildly stabbing at pitches and doing poorly on defense, it didn’t really matter to how the Royals were able to put together a playoff team.
The same is true now with the stopgap players they have now. Some might succeed to become surprising contributors or trade chips! But most won’t. And so while watching bad offense every night isn’t fun, we’re at least not watching a beloved prospect light his future in flames in front of our very eyes. In 100-loss seasons, that counts for something.