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Lesky’s Notes: At least June is over?

Buddy Bell said it can always get worse, but sometimes it’s kind of hard to see how that could even happen.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals talking about this season as a year they could compete always seemed far-fetched to me when it started. But then they went out and started 16-9 and you could start to wonder if they could piece their way to staying afloat until Adalberto Mondesi could come back and the young pitching prospects could find their way to the big leagues. Of course, we’ve seen how that went. Mondesi has played 10 games, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar are toiling in AAA again and the team has hit rock bottom with no proof that this actually is the bottom. People can blame some injuries, and they’d be right. But teams have to fight through injuries. The real issue is that there simply wasn’t the depth to cover them and to cover the players who simply have no business playing regularly but the Royals don’t have a better option. And so, here we are, watching a team in a familiar place while the other team in the division, the Tigers, in the midst of their rebuild, seem to be taking some steps right now. It’s disappointing and disheartening.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the trade deadline. Of course, I was in this very space just a few weeks ago talking about the relievers the Royals could pursue to help shore up a bullpen when they were sitting at 28-26. It made sense then. Mondesi had come back and while he was just sitting a couple days for a hamstring issue, he’d surely be back in the lineup soon. Between that and Danny Duffy’s return to the rotation, they needed to be prepared to have their team at full strength. Again, we know what happened there. So where do they turn now? Are they sellers? They obviously should be, but what are they going to sell? First of all, they need to be shopping Whit Merrifield, just like they needed to be last year and the year before and the year before. I understand they haven’t gotten the offers they want for him and he’s been one of, if not the, best players on the team for awhile, but he’s 32 and he’s obviously no longer slump-proof as we maybe thought before. Will they do it? I doubt it.

They could shop Andrew Benintendi, but I’m not sure how easy that’ll be with him on the shelf. Hopefully he can come back after the break, but we haven’t heard a peep on him. I think teams might have interest in Jarrod Dyson and Michael A. Taylor as fourth outfielders. They won’t bring back much, but they could be useful. I think teams would have some interest in Duffy, though whether he’d approve a deal (and he can veto now with 10/5 rights) is another question. And whether they’d even move him is another question too. I’m not sure they can trade Mike Minor right now, so he’s probably out. I’ve seen some talk about moving the bullpen arms like Scott Barlow and Kyle Zimmer. I would add Josh Staumont to this list, but he’s pretty clearly not right and I think they’d be selling low. On Zimmer, I don’t think a team will give up much given his injury history. Barlow is the trickier question. In general, relievers don’t bring back much, but he has so much team control that they can maybe find a deal like the Padres did when they dealt Brad Hand to Cleveland for Francisco Mejia. I’d be on board. And the other big option is Carlos Santana, who is signed through next season and could provide a really professional bat to a lineup in need of it, like, oh, I don’t know, Milwaukee. Just a thought there.

It was both very cool and not at all surprising to see that Bobby Witt, Jr. and Nick Pratto were selected to the Futures Game. I’m pretty pumped to see if Witt can actually hit one to the concourse at Coors Field. With his power, you never know. The promotion of Emmanuel Rivera to the big leagues and the paired move of designating Kelvin Gutierrez for assignment opened up the door for both Witt and Pratto to get to Omaha, which is a move that needs to come soon. I think with the Futures Game assignment, that’ll likely now come after that game, so I’d expect to see them both head from Colorado to Indianapolis to meet their new teammates.

I’ve seen plenty just wanting them brought up now. It makes sense. They’re top prospects hitting well in the minors and the big league club is, well, not. But I’m good with this trajectory. I don’t care so much about service time and right now it doesn’t matter anyway because it’s so late in the season, but I want to get Witt some time against some breaking pitches that are closer to big league breaking pitches. I want Pratto to see the same. Witt has essentially no experience other than his time at AA and Pratto had to rebuild his game so much that it’s almost like this is his first year. If they both get to AAA in a couple weeks, we’ll see how things go, but I wouldn’t expect to see either until mid-August at the earliest, and I think that’s probably smart.

Something rubbed me the wrong way on a Royals broadcast a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Okay, their broadcasts often rub me the wrong way, so I suppose I’ll be more specific. Rex Hudler was talking about the pitching coach when the Royals were facing the Tigers and mentioned how he wouldn’t want a college coach to come in and how he’d rather hear from someone who had done it before. Maybe if you asked Rex about it, he’d say he chose his words poorly, but he said what he said and I absolutely hated the message he was sending. This isn’t so much about my disdain for Cal Eldred as pitching coach as it is about the antiquated thought process there. If you look at the teams who are finding success, many of them have dipped into the college ranks.

Soren Petro opened up my segment with him last week talking about the Brewers and their sustained success. Their pitching coach is from college. The Reds pitching staff hasn’t had a great season this year, but they’re headed in the right direction in a big way. Their pitching coach is from college. And a team that was supposed to be so much worse than the Royals, the Tigers, have seen their pitching improve significantly this season. Their pitching coach is from college. I’m not saying you have to have a college coach come in to find success. There are plenty of guys who are hanging around the minors and big leagues who can also be successful. I named some of them last week, but the point here is that the closed off ideas about what does and doesn’t work are a big reason why things aren’t working in Kansas City. I don’t think the broadcast crew necessarily has input or anything but I do think meetings are had with talking points discussed and if that was something the organization wanted out there, that really bothers me. I don’t care where the coach comes from if he can get the most out of the players. If they need to run out to JoCo 3&2 and find Timmy’s dad to make the team better, go do it.

Finding the positives in a season that has gone off the rails like this is one that is really difficult, especially after a 15-1 loss. If you’re looking for something reassuring here, I don’t have it. Right now, it kind of feels like everything is an absolute disaster and they’ll never win again. Even when they do pick up that monumental victory, we’ll be looking for the next one because they’ve dug so much of a hole. Can they even get back to my prediction before the season of 76-86. After these last few weeks, it’s hard to believe that’s possible. Losing like this just wears on everyone.

Even the most steadfast of fans find themselves questioning everything. Literally every game feels like it’s the same, and it just gets really old. Doing the same thing every single day just gets extremely old. Right now, you’re probably wondering where this is going, but I promise I have a point. Especially now, this probably seems like I’m just rambling to fill space. Don’t doubt me; just go back and read the first letter of every sentence (including this one) to see my message that I wanted to present in a different way.