The 2020 season was one we will never forget due to its odd nature, but on the field, baseball was still baseball. The Royals had some ups and downs, but overall had their best season in three years. We got our writers together to discuss the retirement of Alex Gordon, and recap the Royals’ 2020 season.
What is your favorite Alex Gordon memory?
Hokius: I know it’s cliché, but it’s gotta be the home run off of Jeurys Familia in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series. It changed everything, right? If the Royals lose that game then the whole feel of the World Series is different than it ended up being. And it likely played a part in how Familia was used for the rest of the series which ultimately helped the Royals win a couple other games.
Josh Keiser: I mean it’s the 2015 World Series home run and it’s not close. Gordo has had a great career in KC and I’m not trying to sell that short. But he set the tone for the first World Series title in 30 years and that has been my only Royals title. So that will always have a special place in my fandom.
Ryan Heffernon: His World Series homer is too obvious. I’ll go with something that didn’t happen on the field. My favorite memory of Alex is when he told Bob Dutton that he was going to dominate in 2011. And then he went on to dominate the next four seasons.
Bradford Lee: I loved seeing Alex make a great catch or throw out a runner, but the best has to be the home run off Familia. Familia had kind of a cocky attitude that rubbed me the wrong way (I suppose that attitude helps if you’re a closer?) and I would have enjoyed this HR immensely even if it had been in an unimportant regular season game. Given the context, it is one of the most important home runs in Royal history, right up there with George Brett taking Gossage into the upper deck in 1980.
Jesse Anderson: Probably him diving into the stands to catch that ball in 2015 against the White Sox. There’s so many other good memories (I expect many will choose his game 1 home run), but that was the one that to me sticks out. The man was a beast.
David Lesky: There are so many to choose from here. Many will say the World Series home run, and that’s probably honestly it for me, but I’m going to say a different one just because my second favorite is his home run in the 10th inning in game two of the 2014 ALCS. The game was tied and while the Royals were assured of going home having claimed the home field advantage in that series, getting that win in game two seemed super important. When he hit that home run, I knew they were going to win that game and the series. That was the first moment during that magical 2014 run that it hit me that the Royals were (probably) going to go to the World freaking Series. Moose followed it up with a two-run shot in that game to really clinch that win, but that home run was the beginning of the magic. A close non-World Series home run second for me, though, actually came on August 26th of that season. With the Royals down 1-0 to the Twins in the bottom of the ninth, lefty closer Glen Perkins came in and he was having a really good year. I think it was the second pitch of the at bat, Gordon hit a walkoff bomb. After that, it felt like they could really do this and there was even MVP talk for Gordon even though he fell off a bit toward the end of the season.
Max Rieper: Glove hat! Glove hat!
What was the biggest positive from the season for the Royals? The biggest negative?
David Lesky: The biggest positive for the Royals is probably the development of their young pitching at the big league level. In the rotation, their three best starters were in their age 22, 23 and 24 seasons. Brady Singer and Kris Bubic making their debuts and finding success, especially with how they finished the season was huge for them and Brad Keller followed up two solid big league seasons with another one that wasn’t great by the peripherals, but he continued to be elite at keeping the ball in the park, which means something. In the bullpen, the guys are older than what we saw from the starters, but Josh Staumont, Scott Barlow, Kyle Zimmer and Tyler Zuber showed they could get big league outs in big situations. They all have stuff to work on this offseason, but that’s a really nice start to building a pitching staff that can win some games down the road.
The biggest negative is probably that guys like Ryan O’Hearn and Nicky Lopez didn’t show them enough to make the organization trust in them moving forward, which would have been nice. Adalberto Mondesi finishing on a ridiculously hot streak kept him out of that part, but he’s going to need to show that he can be more consistent moving forward to be as big a part of the Royals future plans as they need him to be.
Jesse Anderson: I think the biggest positive is simply Brady Singer. He’s shown that he belongs in the majors and if he can just work on developing a true third pitch (go get that changeup in winter ball!) he could be a very good piece for the Royals moving forward. For the worst, I’m slowly losing faith in Mondesi’s skillset. I see all the tools, but how many “toolsy” guys have we seen who just never put it together? I don’t know if it’s a mental thing or if he just isn’t that good of a hitter naturally, but I’m feeling far less set at shortstop and would be pretty happy with peak Alcides Escobar from him now (Esky was like a 3 win player at his peak, so that’s not a bad outcome actually) rather than Francisco Lindor.
Ryan Heffernon: My biggest positive was the pitching staff. Over the last two seasons, the Royals bullpen had been one of the worst in baseball. This season, they finished 8th in the league in ERA and 12th in fWAR. And while the starting rotation didn’t fare as well, it’s hard to not be excited by what we saw out of Brady Singer and Kris Bubic down the stretch.
Max Rieper: Reliever performance can be volatile, but this bullpen looks legit for the next few seasons with a lot of guys that can miss bats. I really liked what I saw out of Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. Edward Olivares and Franchy Cordero are at least an intriguing set of new toys to play with in the outfield. The biggest negative was the lost minor league season, a major detriment to an organization looking to rebuild.
Josh Keiser: The biggest negative has to be the lack of offensive production from the middle of the infield. Adalberto Mondesi continues to flash superstardom but is disappointing WAY more consistently while Nicky Lopez produces meager on base skills and no power. Both do things outside of offense that makes them the obvious every day player respectively, but they both need to step it up offensively in order to move this team forward, especially Mondi. He’s another year older and another year closer to free agency and we’re still left with the same questions we have every year.
The biggest positive is seeing Singer and Bubic have the success they’ve had so far. This year was all about cutting their teeth and, if that’s what we’re seeing, I think that’s a helluva good indicator on them being as promised. Singer flirted with a no-no while carrying an ERA around 4.00 while Bubic showed how his stuff can play at this level while having thrown no pitches above High A ball. With so much riding on the arms in the system, it’s good to see them both have success out of the gate.
Bradford Lee: Most important? Loved the comeback by Salvy. Loved the late season surge by Mondesi, but the biggest development would be the young pitchers. I thought Singer had a great year. Despite his record, I love watching Bubic and think he has a bright future. Carlos Hernandez? Looks to me like a young version of Felix Hernandez. I enjoyed watching Jesse Hahn’s filthy curveball and of course, who didn’t enjoy seeing Josh Staumont blowing people away?
Biggest Negative? Two. The outfield’s lack of development. Gordon was playing on fumes. Phillips and Starling didn’t take the next step. I love watching Nick Heath. He looks like he could be a player. The second would be DM’s inability or refusal to trade Whit for prospects. Whit has been a great Royal but I doubt he’ll be around the next time this team contends. After his 2020, I’d guess the window for trading him has closed.
Hokius: The biggest positive was the fact that Kris Bubic and especially Brady Singer look like legitimate big-league starting pitchers. The biggest negative was that not a single hitter took a step forward except the now over-30 Salvador Perez. Maybe he’s one of those guys that figures things out late in his career and plays another productive decade but they are gonna need some position player farm hands to put things together or they’re going to waste Singer and Bubic’s rookie contracts.
Give me one prediction for the Royals’ off-season this year.
David Lesky: I don’t know if they’ll be successful, but the Royals will be in on a big name bat. Maybe it’s Marcell Ozuna, maybe it’s Michael Brantley or maybe it’s a trade using some of their prospect capital on the mound, but there will be rumors that they are trying to bring in someone who both had a good 2020 and most people have heard of. I think the organization sees all the one-run losses even with a good bullpen and the pitching coming down the pipeline and sees a team that needs two or three bats to win and that’s it. I’d tend to disagree that they don’t need more than that, but they’ll do what they can to bring in that big bat.
Ryan Heffernon: Salvador Perez gets a contract extension.
Jesse Anderson: The Royals will probably be pretty quiet, but I could see them picking up a veteran piece for the rotation. I think they’ll want to give the likes of Jackson Kowar and Asa Lacy more time to mature in the AA/AAA level next season (hopefully they have a minor league season next year) and also not run into a situation where all of their players are set for free agency the same year. An Alex Wood type pickup would not surprise me.
Josh Keiser: The Royals are 100% signing Jackie Bradley Jr. It’ll be for 4 years at $13M AAV. And we’re going to hate every year of that deal. He’ll make some great plays in center while hitting just below average and we’ll squint through the first year of it hoping we see Lorenzo Cain and we will not see Lorenzo Cain. We will see the latter half of the Alex Gordon deal. And that will be the biggest splash they’ll make this offseason outside of the reclamation projects Dayton loves to try.
Max Rieper: Seems likely they’d go after Jackie Bradley, Jr. hard. He is definitely their kind of player, would probably fit in their payroll, and they have a need for a true centerfielder. Hopefully they don’t overpay on him though, I have heard Boston is fairly high on bringing him back. If they don’t get him, I can see Kevin Pillar coming in on a one-year deal.
Bradford Lee: Dayton Moore has a quiet off-season and doesn’t make any moves.
Hokius: They sign Hunter Dozier and/or Jorge Soler to a contract extension.
What is your World Series pick?
Hokius: Dodgers over Athletics in 6.
David Lesky: This is such a hard question with the wild card round being only three games and such random stuff can happen. That said, I picked the Reds to win it all back in mid-July and they’re in the playoffs and hot, so why not stick with them? I mean yeah, the Dodgers are better in every way, but what’s the fun of picking the favorite? In the American League, I’ll say that the Twins somehow weather the storm that is the postseason and finally get the monkey off their back but lose to Moose and the Reds. I mean, maybe that’s all stupid, but again, where’s the fun in going chalk?
Ryan Heffernon: Dodgers over Athletics
Jesse Anderson: How can you bet against the Dodgers winning? I’ll go Dodgers over White Sox though I don’t really want the White Sox in the WS.
Josh Keiser: As much as I want it to be the Baby Braves vs. the Baby White Sox, I don’t get what I want a lot of the time. I’d put my money on it being the Dodgers-Twins with the Dodgers finally getting their title in 5 games. And at that time I’m gonna need all those Dodgers “fans” who have wandered through the desert clinging to their NL pennants for so long to celebrate without mentioning their hardship. If they fail to do so they will be placed into the same category as I’ve placed Yankees, Cardinals, and Red Sox fans: insufferable.
Max Rieper: Dodgers over Yankees in 5.
Bradford Lee: White Sox vs. Dodgers with Chicago winning in 6.